PRINCETON: Packer Hall surprises Majeski to capture hoops title

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Pictured are members of the Packer Hall All-Stars team that captured the best-of-three playoff championship in the Princeton Recreation Men's Summer Basketball League with a 46-43 victory over Majeski Foundation on Wednesday.

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
This time around, it was the veterans who got the better of the young guns.
The seventh-seeded Packer Hall All-Stars, a team made up partly of former players from The College of New Jersey, completed an improbable sweep of the Princeton Recreation Men’s Summer Basketball League’s best-of-three championship series to top the defending champion, Majeski Foundation, a team made up of current players from TCNJ.
After winning the opening game of the championship series, 30-29, in overtime on Monday, Packer Hall clinched the title with a 46-43 victory on Wednesday night at Community Park in Princeton. After going 2-6 in the regular season to finish seventh in the eight-team league, Packer Hall rattled off four straight victories in the playoffs to earn the title. The final two triumphs came against a Majeski Foundation team that had been undefeated in the regular season, including a pair of victories over Packer Hall.
“I know a lot of games early in the season we were playing with five and six people,” said Khalid Lewis of Packer Hall, who finished with 11 points and earned the Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP Award. “With everybody coming to the games in the playoffs it rallied everybody together. Everybody stepped up in their own way.”
Reggie Coleman finished with 11 points, sinking all eight of his foul shots, in addition to hitting a three-point shot that gave Packer Hall its first lead. Lewis also had 11 points, while Zavon Johnson and Dave Haytaian each recorded nine points. Sean Kelly contributed with six points.
Packer Hall fell behind, 9-0, to start the game but chipped away and got to within a 26-22 deficit at halftime. Packer Hall eventually took the lead for the first time when Coleman’s three-point shot gave the unit a a 40-39 lead late in the game.
“That has been an issue for us this whole league, we always start out slow,” said Lewis, who now joins his father (Khalid) with having won a league championship. “Just getting everybody to come together. We strung together a couple stops after they came out hot. Defense has been our staple all year and that was what we stepped up and brought.
“All of our games have been close all year. As long as we’re in the game we know we have a chance.”
The Packer Hall team included former TCNJ players Nick Brackett, Kevin Johnson and Sean Kelly. The addition of players like Lewis, Coleman and Zavon Johnson made the team a formidable one that was able to capture the league title.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Zavon Johnson, who plays at Stockton University, a New Jersey Athletic Conference for of TCNJ. “It was good to see how you can overcome adversity when you struggle to win games in the regular season. It was a good experience and a challenge I am glad we took on together.
“We were 2-6. Regular season matters because that is how you build chemistry and I think that is what we did. Each game we got better. We fought together.”
Lewis joined the team in its third game and helped make an impact on the court. In the playoffs, he scored the game-winning points in both the semifinals and the opening game of the final round.
“I try to keep everybody together and on the same page,” Lewis said of his role. “We have a lot of young guys on our team. When things get tight and the game got close we had to have everybody stay tight and stay together.”
For Zavon Johnson, playing on a team with players from TCNJ against a team of players from TCNJ made the championship series a unique opportunity.
“I am very competitive so I want to show them that just because I go to Stockton doesn’t mean we’re different players,” said Zavon Johnson, who played his high school basketball at West Windsor-Plainsboro South. “It was good for me because they get to see what kind of player I am. I get to challenge them and they get to challenge me in different ways.
“It was a grind but we did it.”
The improbable run to the title was one of the bigger upsets in the 29-year history of the league, drawing comparisons to the unlikely title of wheretoball.com in 2006.
“I know nobody expected it,” Lewis said. “We brought everybody together and everybody played their role.”
Eric Murdock, the regular season league MVP, scored 13 points to lead the offense for Majeski. Elias Bermudez registered 10 points in the loss.