Immaculate Conception boys hoops turns back West Side in county tourney first round
The Immaculate Conception boys basketball team has lost some tough games this season.
Six of the squad’s eight losses have been by six or fewer points. Half of the six were by a three-point bucket or less.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, Immaculate (11-8) did not let that happen again, as the fourth-seeded Lions took care of 13th-seeded West Side, 89-65, at home in the first round of the Essex County Tournament.
Immaculate hosts fifth-seeded East Orange in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 4, at home. The Jaguars knocked off 21st-seeded West Orange, 39-32, to reach the quarterfinals.
The Lions previously defeated East Orange, 67-61, on Jan. 24 at home. Lions junior T.J. Robinson had a team-high 23 points, while senior Tavian Pullock added 16.
Robinson said that part of the problem in losing close games is that the Lions do not finish the job. Immaculate led Essex rival Seton Hall Prep, 42-26, at halftime before the Pirates came back in the second half and stunned the Lions, 61-60, at the buzzer.
"I feel that we have to go out and keep our feet on their neck and close it out," Robinson said about putting away opponents, especially Seton Hall Prep, which won the Essex County Tournament last season. "I think sometimes we let teams hang around."
He added that the close defeats will benefit Immaculate in the long run, in the county tournament and then the state tournament. "We have definitely learned a lot from it," he said.
In the victory over West Side, Robinson led the Lions with a game-high 34 points. Sophomore Akeem Langevine and junior Manny Smith chipped in 14 and 10, respectively.
Robinson said that Immaculate's small gym wasn’t necessarily an advantage for the home team. West Side is “more of a scrappy team, and our gym sort of benefits them," he said.
It was Immaculate's three-point shooting that countered West Side's driving to the basket. The Lions made 11 three-point buckets, while the Roughriders shot 36 free throws, from which they collected 18 points, as they drove to the basket and forced Immaculate to foul.
"We would drive to the basket and they would rotate defenders," Robinson said about draining the three-pointers. "We would then pass out to the player on the perimeter."
Robinson scored 21 of his 34 points in the first half as the Lions took a 50-28 lead at halftime after Langevine dropped in a shot before the buzzer. It was the biggest lead of the first half.
In the second half, West Side sliced the Immaculate lead to 15, 72-57, with a little less than five minutes left in the game.
But the Lions scored seven straight points, including five by Robinson, to put away the Roughriders.
The game was a comeback for Immaculate, which had just lost one of those tough games, 81-76 to Teaneck on Jan. 25.
Before the county quarterfinals game with East Orange, the Lions had two tough games this week that could decide the Super Essex Conference American Division title.
Immaculate traveled to Arts and Seton Hall Prep on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, respectively, with results coming after press deadline. Before the start of this week, Immaculate and Seton Hall Prep were tied with one loss each in the American title race.
Immaculate Conception Boys basketball schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
Feb. 2 at Seton Hall Prep, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 East Orange, Essex County Tournament quarterfinals, TBA
Feb. 5 Brooklyn Collegiate at Atlantic City, Noon
Feb. 7 Newark Central
Feb. 9 at West Side, 7 p.m.
Feb. 11 Essex County Tournament semifinals at West Orange, TBD
Feb. 18 Essex County Tournament finals, Essex County Community College, 1 p.m.