Rutgers-Newark’s men’s basketball team had just lost in the New Jersey Athletic Conference semifinals to Richard Stockton, and Rutgers head coach Joe Loughran had to wonder whether his Scarlet Raiders, enjoying their best season ever, would still be rewarded with the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Division III tourney.
“I thought we had a chance, but I thought it was a small chance,” Loughran said.
The Scarlet Raiders had a 20-7 record. In years past, that would have been more than enough for an NJAC team to make it to the national tourney, considering that the NJAC has always been recognized as the toughest D-III league in the country.
However, the NCAA committee decided to take more league champs and less at-large squads a few years ago, limiting the amount of NJAC teams getting NCAA tourney berths. The loss to Stockton more than likely doomed the Scarlet Raiders’ chances.
Or so it seemed.
On Monday, Loughran received a call from the NCAA Tournament committee. The Scarlet Raiders received an at-large bid and will face Rhode Island College in the first round of the tourney at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Rhode Island College, also owning a 20-7 record, was the champion of the Little East Conference.
“I think it legitimizes the program,” said Loughran, who is in his ninth year at R-N. “I think getting to the NJAC final last year helped. It shows that we’re pretty good and doing things the right way. It’s a great honor for the program.”
Loughran’s team features five Hudson County kids and one local assistant coach.
The Scarlet Raiders’ roster features Jeremiah Rivers and Noah McCoy from St. Anthony, Greg Moore from Bayonne, Mark Moorman from Hoboken, and Hussein Abdelmaksoud from Memorial.
It means that just a little less than half of their roster comes from Hudson County.
“There’s no question that Hudson County kids are tough,” Loughran said. “There’s a toughness that I’m attracted to. They’re butting heads with some of the best players and they’re fighting for playing time. I think we have a good mix of kids from Hudson County. They play hard and some of them have fallen under the radar. If you get kids from that environment, it makes your team better.”
All five are young players, either freshmen or sophomores, so Loughran likes what they’ll bring to the program over the years to come.
“They’re going to get bigger and stronger,” Loughran said. “They’re going to play more over the next few years.”
Another big help is that associate head coach Bill Zasowski is a Bayonne native.
“I can’t be everywhere in recruiting,” Loughran said. “It helps that Billy knows the area well and when it comes to making a decision on a kid, I can rely on him.”
It’s certainly a winning combination, proven by the Scarlet Raiders’ first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament…
Congratulations to St. Peter’s Prep’s boys and Bayonne’s girls for winning the first-ever Hudson County Tournament championships last Sunday at St. Peter’s College. Both teams were the respective top seeds and the pre-tourney favorites to win.
However, both programs are citing the wins as repeat championships. While both teams did in fact win the HCIAA Coviello titles last year – the Marauders won the last two HCIAA Coviello titles – this was a brand new tourney and not a repeat of anything…
St. Peter’s Prep talented sophomore sprinter Najee Glass tried valiantly to run at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions with a severely injured hip and competed pretty well, finishing second in the 400-meter dash.
But Glass’ time of 49.45 was two seconds slower than the 47.77 he ran earlier in the week at the Eastern States Invitational. The hip injury was so severe that Glass collapsed after reaching the finish line and had a very tough time getting to his feet.
Snyder’s Zamir Thomas was fourth in the same race, so Hudson County had two of the top four finishers in the event, which is nothing to sneeze at…
The most unlikely of regional wrestling champs, Chris Duran of North Bergen, is this week’s Athlete of the Week, but Hudson County crowned two other champions at Region 4 last Saturday, namely St. Peter’s Prep’s Alexander Richardson at 125 pounds and Kevin Innis at 215. It was the second straight Region 4 crown for Innis, who is ranked as the No. 1 wrestler in New Jersey at 215 pounds and heads to Atlantic City and the state championships this weekend as a solid chance to become Hudson County’s first state champion since Kearny’s David Cordoba in 1999.
North Bergen will send four wrestlers to Atlantic City. Prep will send five (Innis, Richardson, Devin Ruiz, Tony Pafumi and James Fox). Hudson Catholic’s 215-pounder Rashid Moore will also wrestle in Atlantic City…
Great win for St. Mary’s over Marist in the first round of the NJSIAA Non-Public B state tourney Tuesday night. Never fails that Tom Lalicato gets his Ramblers to play their best come state tournament time…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (24-2). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (22-3). 3. North Bergen (21-4). 4. High Tech (18-7). 5. Marist (16-8).
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (20-5). 2. Secaucus (20-3). 3. Lincoln (15-8). 4. Holy Family Academy (18-3). 5. St. Anthony (19-4)….
Latest on the football coaching front: Memorial alum Oscar Guerrero, who was the head coach at Kearny the last two seasons, is returning home to coach with the Tigers. More than likely, former Dickinson coach Rich Glover will move to Ferris to replace Wilbur Valdez. Hudson Catholic is still looking… -- Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.