South Plainfield, NJ.
The 5th/6th grade Holy Savior Academy Storm basketball team of South Plainfield captured the Metuchen Diocese Parish League Green Division championship with a thrilling 56-53 victory over Immaculate Conception of Clinton in a game played Saturday, March 18th at Our Lady of Fatima Gymnasium in Piscataway. HSA’s Zoe Brooks of Plainfield was named MVP for her performance, which included scoring 37 points and blocking a potential game-tying shot in the final ten seconds of play.
The title game was a much-anticipated rematch featuring the number 1 seeded team from Immaculate Conception against the second-seeded Holy Savior Academy Storm. Their early season meeting in Clinton resulted in a memorable 81-77 shootout victory for Immaculate Conception. It would be Holy Savior Academy’s only loss of the season after falling behind by 20 points.
This time around the Storm got off to a much faster start, jumping out to a 10-4 lead and never trailed from there. Still, Immaculate Conception proved why they earned the top seed. The Knights charged back every time Holy Savior extended the lead, pulling to within a point on multiple occasions. But Holy Savior Academy always had an answer. Usually, it was Zoe Brooks scoring on fearless drives to the basket. When it wasn’t Brooks, then teammate Derrick Melvin was there to drop in smooth mid-range jumpers.
Holy Savior Academy had to overcome major foul trouble to its two-star players when Brooks picked up her third foul early in the second half and Melvin was charged with his fourth foul. Things got even hairier for the Storm when center Adrien Ortega picked up his third foul and forward Matthew Lowe had to exit the game briefly with an elbow injury.
The Storm got big performances from Sukhraj Goraya and Zachary Nassy who played solid defense and came up with big rebounds to keep the ball away from the Immaculate Conception sharp shooters. Guards Rainart Chioco and Brandon Fuentes pressured the shooters, preventing Immaculate Conception from hurting the Storm with three point bombs as they had in their first encounter. Guard Jett Phillips held down the fort by directing the offense without incident until head coach Artie Wright returned his foul-plagued players to the game in the fourth quarter.
With the outcome hanging in the balance and Holy Savior Academy leading by 3 at 56-53, it required a huge defensive play by Brooks to secure the victory. As the clock ticked under 10 seconds remaining, IC passed the ball crisply around the perimeter looking for a clear three-point attempt. An extra pass put the ball in the hands of their top best shooter on the left side of the court. He set up and delivered a quick release three-point attempt only to see it swatted into the stands by Zoe Brooks rotating up from the baseline.
IC set up for one last frantic shot that missed the mark and was rebounded by Matthew Lowe as time expired. Derrick Melvin scored 11 points for the Storm. Adrien Ortega and Jett Phillips had 4 points each while Matthew Lowe scored 1 point.