The Irvington High School boys basketball team had one upset already in the NJSIAA Tournament, and the 15th-seeded Blue Knights were looking for a second upset against seventh-seeded Colonia on Wednesday nighht.
But some key minutes from the bench players and a staunch defense led the Patriots to a 55-50 win in the North 2 Group III second round.
“We came out wanting to play hard,” said Patriots’ guard James Corbett. “Our coach preaches defense, so we just had to play defense and stop them from scoring.”
Corbett, along with Brandon Haines, led the Patriots, scoring 13 points each. Chase Barneys chipped in 12 points, and Charlie Caver netted eight points.
Haines started the game off the bench, but he was able to give the Patriots key minutes, something his head coach has come to expect of the energetic guard.
“We don’t have any set plays for anybody,” said head coach Chris Chiera. “We noticed him early on this year … for him to come off the bench like that he’s been a huge spark for us, especially offensively.”
The two teams went back and forth all game long, as the Blue Knights did not play like a team with a 9-15 record.
Ramon Wright and Nyjai Edmund were the bright spots for the Blue Knights, scoring 15 points each in a losing effort.
Down by two points with 30 seconds left, Irvington had the opportunity to inbound the ball under Colonia’s basket three straight times.
The defensive preaching from Chiera worked for the Patriots, as they stopped the Blue Knights every time, shooting free throws to secure the victory.
“I think those guys were just out there being relentless,” said Chiera. “They wanted it, and we talked before the game about taking the next step … we’re looking to win this game and the next game in hopes of getting to a championship game, so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
For Corbett, the game marks the second time in the tournament he’s led his team in scoring. Playing in a back-to-back, Corbett was able to score 16 points in a win against Passaic Valley, and another spectacular effort has his Patriots moving on to the next round.
“I came out wanting to score a lot,” said Corbett. “I knew they were going to pressure me hard so I just did what I had to do to get open in order to take the open shots they give me.”
The Patriots have another tough test, facing a Summit team coming off a 21-point win against Barringer.
Corbett and his team is hungry for more, and in order for the Patriots to achieve their coach’s goal of getting to the next level, the team will need to continue to stay confident.
“We just need to keep practicing hard,” said Corbett. “We just need to go out and practice hard and focus on our opponent.”