Raven Owen's layup as time expires lifts St. Joseph over East Brunswick

Raven Owen's layup as time expires lifts St. Joseph over East Brunswick

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Raven Owen's layup as time expires lifts St. Joseph over East Brunswick

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EAST BRUNSWICK

With all the hype and pre-season expectations surrounding the St. Joseph boys basketball team, they got a mighty scare on Friday on opening night against archrival East Brunswick and it took some late game heroics for it to come out alive.

It took a pair of 3-pointers from Wade Baldwin and Karl Towns and a Marques Townes strip steal and drive down the length of the court handoff to Raven Owen for the game-winning layup, his only bucket of the game, as time expired as St. Joseph survived 46-44.

“We’re dealing with East Brunswick again, but we put ourselves in the situation a lot of times, more than needed,” Towns said. “But I felt confident in our seniors – me, Wade, Marques, and Raven. We felt that we could really handle (East Brunswick) and we could take us to a ‘W’ under any circumstance.”

St. Joseph looked to be in a world of trouble after East Brunswick’s Alex Fitzgerald drove the length of the court for an easy layup to give the Bears their biggest lead of the night, 44-38, with 51 seconds remaining following a Baldwin miss on the front end of a 1-and-1.

But Baldwin knocked down a 3 off an offensive rebound with 35 seconds to cut the Bears lead to 44-41 as St. Joseph immediately called timeout.

“When we took the timeout I said to Wade, ‘Wade, anything’s possible when you see N.C. State with Jim Valvano play,’ so I said we could win this game and we came out and got the ‘W,’ ” Towns said.

East Brunswick immediately turned the ball over on the in-bounds pass and Towns then hit a game-tying 3 with 22 seconds remaining, as the score was 44-44.

East Brunswick would get the ball into the front court and call timeout with eight seconds, with overtime appearing to be the worst-case scenario, but Towns came up with the strip steal off the inbounds and the rest was history.

Towns led all scorers with 21 points to go with 10 rebounds while Baldwin added 17 for St. Joseph.

But perhaps the best player on the court was East Brunswick’s Princeton-bound Bell, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds and willed the Bears.

“Amir was head and shoulders the best player on the court tonight,” first-year East Brunswick head coach Mark Motusesky said. “He defended, he blocked shots, he had to handle the ball the whole game – I couldn’t rest him the whole game. He showed more guts than I’ve ever seen from any player in my 20 years of coaching.”

Garry Baumer added 13 points for the Bears, who put up a valiant effort against the consensus No. 1 team in the state.

“If we got beat comfortably, this game wasn’t gonna define us, but I’ll tell you what, that game defines us big-time,” Motusesky said. “It shows the heart of the kids we got, so I’m excited about the rest of the year.”

St. Joseph held a 27-19 lead at halftime, but East Brunswick scored the first seven points of the third quarter and took their first lead of the night, 30-29, on Owen Summerer’s put back with 2:57 in the third.

With the teams tied 33-33 heading to the fourth quarter, East Brunswick surged to a 40-35 lead with 2:40 left after Bell finished a strong take and Baumer sunk a 3 from the top of the key beyond NBA range.

“It’s a rivalry,” St. Joseph coach Dave Turco said. “It’s nice to get the win but don’t forget about the first 31 minutes and 55 seconds because that’s going to make or break our season.”

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