You can only put five players on the court at a time, but it seemed like the Bound Brook High School boys basketball team had 10 pairs of hands defending Burlington City Saturday.
The omnipresent Crusaders recorded 19 steals and dozens of deflections, fueling an 85-62 victory in the NJSIAA Central Group I semifinals. They will visit powerhouse Point Pleasant Beach Tuesday, 6 p.m. in the sectional title game, Bound Brook’s first on the hardwood since 1979.
“Our guards dictated the entire game—pressured them and made them feel uncomfortable,” Bound Brook coach Anthony Melesurgo said. “The first half was the best defense we’ve played in the nine years I’ve been the coach.”
Senior guard J.D. Rodriguez led the way with 23 points, nine steals and six assists. His two steals in the opening minutes set the tone as third-seeded Bound Brook (26-2) jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
“The first three minutes, that’s what makes or breaks a team,” said Bound Brook senior guard Ricky Holliday, who finished with 16 points and five steals. “Coach told us to be active on defense and keep our hands up. That’s where all the deflections and steals came from.”
Senior guard Hamilton Capellan hit two 3-pointers in the first 4:40 to stake the Crusaders to a 15-2 lead. He tallied 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter, which ended with Bound Brook ahead 21-7. Capellan also ended up with six steals.
“He was our spark. He got us started,” Rodriguez said of Capellan.
Bound Brook’s bench played a key role too. There was no drop-off when Isaiah Williams and Ricky Hayes came in. Melesurgo went eight deep in the first half to keep everyone fresh.
“Isiah Williams to me is a starter,” Melesurgo said. “When he comes in it’s a continuation; in fact it gives even more energy to us. Ricky Hayes comes off the bench and does all the little things, drawing charges and diving for loose balls.”
Williams scored four points and senior center Leon Johnson netted eight.
“We’ve done a good job this whole year of playing together and knowing what the roles are,” Melesurgo said. “A lot of guys have sacrificed a lot for this team.”
Second-seeded Burlington City (25-3) never had a chance. Rodriguez opened the second quarter with a 4-point play — he got fouled while draining a 3 in the left corner and then made the free throw. It was 42-19 at halftime and 64-38 after three quarters.
The only hiccup for Bound Brook took place off the court. Burlington City has no visitors’ locker room. Melesurgo said his request to use a nearby classroom as a staging area was rejected. The teams shared the lone lockerroom beforehand, and afterward Melesurgo said he was told by security officials to head directly to the bus as Burlington City occupied the lockerroom. Several Crusaders ended up changing into their sweats outside in the cold.
Given the way they performed, nobody seemed to mind.
“This has been a memorable, unbelievable season for us,” Melesurgo said. “And I think we’re peaking right now, at the best time.”