JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Boasting two McDonald’s All-Americans and being the preseason Tournament of Champions favorite, it was Hudson Catholic’s chance to shine brightly in the Garden State.
However, someone forgot to tell them Montclair Immaculate was in control of the switch.
Sophomore Zion Bethea scored a game-high 21 points and senior guard and Syracuse-bound Jalen Carey added 18 points, highlighted by two huge shots in the fourth quarter, to propel fifth-seeded and No. 10 Montclair Immaculate to a 60-49 upset victory over fourth-seeded and host Hudson Catholic, No. 2 in the latest NJ.com Top 20 rankings, in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B tournament in front of a packed house at St. Peter’s Yanitelli Center in Jersey City.
Montclair Immaculate (20-8) has won two straight and 10 of its last 11 games and keeps hope alive for its first state championship since 1978 as it advances to Saturday’s semifinals and will face top-seeded and No. 1 Roselle Catholic, who routed ninth-seeded Christ the King, 101-48, in another quarterfinal.
Right from the opening tip-off, you knew Montclair Immaculate came to play and it looked like Hudson Catholic wasn’t ready for it. Trailing 3-2, the Lions went on an 11-6 run, highlighted by a buzzer-beating layup to end the quarter by the sophomore Bethea. Bethea ended the first half with 10 points, including seven in the first quarter.
However, Hudson Catholic got its legs back in the second quarter, as good defense and six points by senior forward and Ohio State-bound Luther Muhammad provided the Hawks with some much-needed energy. On a second-effort play, Muhammad picked up a loose ball in the paint for the put-back basket and was fouled, converting the old-fashioned 3-point play to pull the Hawks within seven at 21-14 with 3:02 left in the first half.
Muhammad capped off the run with a right-corner three with 1:26 left to pull within one point, and then Montclair Immaculate elected to hold the ball with the final shot for the remaining 86 seconds. The final shot was no good, and Hudson Catholic completed the mini-comeback to trail 21-20 at halftime.
“Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello said. “And when you have two scorers on the floor, I think we were 6-for-25 or 6-for-27, we did not shoot the ball from three well. Those guys did a really good job. Their length, their strength, their versatility was huge and they made shots. I was very, very impressed with how they played.”
Muhammad led the Hawks with 15 points, including nine in the first half, juniors Danny Rodriguez and Jonathan Delgado each had nine points apiece, and Villanova-bound Javon Quinerly posted nine points, finishing 16 points shy of 500 for the season.
Trailing 24-22 after a Quinerly basket to open the third quarter, Carey decided to take over.
In a span of two minutes, Carey hit a 3-pointer, converted a basket driving in the lane, and off a Lions’ miss, forced a steal from Hudson Catholic, and created a turnover for a basket to give Montclair Immaculate the lead at 34-26 with 1:26 left in the third quarter to not only give the Lions momentum but the belief that they could pull this off.
The Lions outscored the Hawks, 26-21, in the fourth quarter to advance and send a shocked Hudson Catholic team home.
“I think on any given day, anyone in Non-Public B can beat anybody and today was our day,” Montclair Immaculate coach Jimmy Salmon said. “Jalen’s spurt was definitely the turning point in this game. He stepped up and made shots in the game. I don’t think Bethea missed. Last night, he worked out with our assistant coach, Marcus Toney-El, and normally when he does that he shoots really well. So tomorrow he has to work out.”
Hudson Catholic (21-5) saw its 11-game win streak snapped and lost for just the second time in its last 19 games to end its season.
(Highlights courtesy of Mars Reel)