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Ranney boys fall just short in state basketball final

The Ranney School was about to deliver the knockout punch when it squared off with heavyweight Roselle Catholic High School in the NJSIAA Non-Public B boys’ basketball tournament championship game.

Ranney, which is ranked No. 3 in the state poll, held possession of the ball late in the game in its bid to break a tie and pull off the shocker against the top-ranked team in New Jersey on March 10 in the title game that was played before a packed gym of 3,208 at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North.

But Roselle Catholic’s star big man, the 6-foot-11 Naz Reid, came through with a blocked shot off a floater attempt by Bryan Antoine near the foul line and then raced down the court. Roselle Catholic’s Ithiel Horton gathered the ball after the blocked shot and then placed a perfect alley-oop pass that Reid slammed down for the winning basket with 6.3 seconds to play.

That dunk capped a furious rally and resulted in a thrilling 63-61 victory and the Non-Public B state tournament championship for Roselle Catholic.

Ranney, which ended its season with a 28-5 record, had held a 58-51 lead with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter in its pursuit of its first state championship.

Ranney was also out to avenge a 75-49 defeat that the Tinton Falls school suffered against Roselle Catholic on Jan. 31 in the Jersey Shore Challenge that was played at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. Ranney was without two key players who were sitting out due to injuries, juniors Scottie Lewis and Alex Klatsky, in that loss.

Both were healthy on March 10 and made Ranney a tougher nut for Roselle Catholic to crack, as the Union County school held on to win its fourth Non-Public B state title since 2013. Roselle Catholic had won three straight Non-Public B crowns from 2013 through 2015.

Reid made sure that his team, which went 27-4 this season, stayed alive and contended for the state Tournament of Champions title this week. Reid, who is headed to play at Louisiana State University, finished the game against Ranney with 22 points and nine rebounds, while his game-winning blocked shot gave him four rejections on the day.

Reid was also instrumental in Roselle Catholic’s late flurry that wiped out a seven-point Ranney lead with 2:39 remaining in regulation. He scored 10 points during Roselle Catholic’s closing 12-3 surge. The other two points in the crucial burst were scored when Kahlil Whitney sank two free throws with 29 seconds to play as Roselle Catholic tied the game at 61-61.

In what was the final game of a memorable season for Ranney, junior guard Ahmadu Sarnor was the top scorer for the Monmouth County school with 16 points. Fellow junior guard Antoine followed with 13 points, while Lewis and Klatsky finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Lewis also recorded nine rebounds and eight assists.

Ranney had advanced to meet Roselle Catholic when the team won the school’s first sectional state championship with its 71-56 victory over Trenton Catholic High School in the South Jersey, Non-Public B final on March 6 at Jackson Liberty High School.

Ranney’s season also featured¬† the Shore Conference Tournament title, which was also the first in the program’s history.

And with a junior class of Lewis, Antoine, Sarnor, Klatsky and Chris Autino, Ranney is expected to contend for local and state championships next winter.

Meanwhile, Roselle Catholic will be the favorite to win the Tournament of Champions that began on March 13. The semifinals are scheduled for March 15 and the championship game is March 18. Roselle Catholic seeks its third Tournament of Champions title and first since 2015.

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