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Marlboro’s historic 2021-22 campaign ends in Group IV final defeat to Elizabeth

STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
Marlboro High School boys basketball player Jonathan Spatola is congratulated by teammate Zack Molod after hitting a three-pointer during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game on March 13 in Piscataway. Marlboro lost to Elizabeth 70-63.

A season to remember. A season that will live forever in school history. That is what the Marlboro High School boys basketball team provided the community and many more people during the winter of 2021-22.

From winning the program’s first Shore Conference Tournament championship and its first state sectional tournament title, to reaching the championship game of the NJSIAA Group IV state tournament, this team’s accomplishments will always be remembered.

“This is history,” Coach Michael Nausedas said. “You have to step back and take a breath and really look at what you did. There is nothing like this in Marlboro. These kids are legends in Marlboro. Every guy on this team is amazing.”

The Mustangs’ quest to win a state sectional tournament title came to fruition on March 7 in Marlboro in the Central Jersey Group IV championship game against Trenton Central High School. The Mustangs won the school’s first sectional crown after almost 55 years with a 75-67 victory over the Tornadoes.

Following that historic moment was a trip to the Group IV state tournament semifinals, where the Mustangs kept their run going against South Jersey Group IV champion Lenape High School on March 9 in Egg Harbor Township.

Trailing by 11 points with less than 3:00 to play in the second quarter, the Mustangs engineered an 8-0 run to cut the Lenape lead to 25-22 at halftime.

The Mustangs were rejuvenated by that run and continued their comeback in the second half to score a 49-47 victory.

The victory over Lenape sent Marlboro to the Group IV state tournament championship game on March 13 against North Jersey Group IV champion Elizabeth High School at Jersey Mike’s Area in Piscataway on the campus of Rutgers University.

“All season we have had the motto to fight until it’s over,” senior Jack Seidler said. “We know the game ain’t over until the final whistle blows.”

Seidler led the Mustangs with 24 of his team’s 49 points in the Group IV semifinal victory over Lenape. In the sectional final against Trenton Central, Seidler poured in 22 points.

It was always a goal of Seidler’s when he came to high school to put Marlboro on the basketball map in the Shore Conference and in the state.

Over the past three years, Seidler has lived up to that goal and has helped the Mustangs reach two conference championship games and two state sectional finals.

Seidler averaged just under 20 points per game during the past three seasons. He saved his best year for 2021-22 when he scored 649 points (20.9 ppg) and pulled down 156 rebounds.

“I have worked so hard since my sophomore year to really develop my game,” Seidler said. “All those late nights and early mornings working out, working on my shot and handling the basketball, really allowed me to become a focal point of the offense. It helped me become more of a guard and to be able to bring up the ball more. It really helped me and it will help me in the future.”

Seidler and the rest of the all-senior starting five – Jay Ratner, Zack Molod, Jonathan Spatola and Vincent Spatola – knew they had something special together on the court.

They began playing basketball together in third grade and their chemistry continued to develop over the years until it culminated in the best three-year period ever in Marlboro boys basketball history.

The five seniors helped Marlboro win 60 games across 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22, compiling a mark of 60-14.

The seniors made their last season together a “legendary one, as Seidler would say, winning a conference tournament title, a state sectional tournament championship, the WOBM Christmas Classic and the Shore Conference A North Division crown.

“It was a really amazing career for all of us,” Seidler said. “We really feel like we did something special.”

Marlboro has had a winning season in each of the last four years. In that span, the Mustangs are 74-27.

The Mustangs’ historic 2021-22 season came to an end against Elizabeth High School in the Group IV state championship game. Marlboro led 28-27 as the third quarter began.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the hot shooting of London Carson and Etienne Richelieu came alive in the second half and the Mustangs could not slow down the Minutemen.

Carson scored all 21 of his points in the second half and helped the Minutemen pull away in the fourth quarter for a 70-63 victory to win the Group IV state championship.

Richelieu scored 17 points and Sebastian Robinson led the way for Elizabeth with 22 points. The victory sent the Minutemen on to this week’s NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

“They made some big shots,” Nausedas said of Elizabeth. “I thought we did a good job on them. We fought to the end. They just kept making shots.”

Seidler scored 19 points in the state final and finished his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,504 points.

Jonathan Spatola scored 17 points in the Group IV final, while Molod and Ratner each scored 10 points. Vincent Spatola rounded out the starting five with seven points.

“Every single one of us had a good game,” said Ratner. “The bench had a great game. Those guys work us so hard in practice every day.”

It was not the ending this group of Mustangs was hoping for, but when the final buzzer sounded each player held his head high, knowing that what they accomplished this season will be remembered forever and how proud they should be of those achievements.

A decade after Marlboro was a 1-19 team, the Mustangs are the reigning champions of the Shore Conference.

“To look at where we were then to where we are now, it feels good,” said Nausedas, who guided the Mustangs to a 28-3 campaign in 2021-22.

Marlboro High School boys basketball player Zack Molod drives past Elizabeth's Elijah Bruno to the basket for a layup during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game on March 13 in Piscataway. Molod scored 10 points in the contest.
Marlboro High School boys basketball player Jack Seidler hits a step-back jumper over Elizabeth's Justin Agyare during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game on March 13 in Piscataway. Seidler scored a team-high 19 points in the contest.
Marlboro High School boys basketball coach Michael Nausedas calls out instructions to his defense during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game against Elizabeth on March 13 in Piscataway. Nausedas has led the Mustangs to four straight winning seasons.
Marlboro High School boys basketball player Jonathan Spatola drives all the way to the hoop during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game against Elizabeth on March 13 in Piscataway. Spatola scored 17 points in the contest.
Marlboro High School boys basketball player Jack Seidler is fouled by a host of Elizabeth defenders on his way to the basket during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game on March 13 in Piscataway.
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