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Linden pulls away from stubborn J.P. Stevens Home News Tribune Online

Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 by By JOHN HALEY Home News Tribune Online

Linden pulls away from stubborn J.P. Stevens
Home News Tribune Online 02/28/08
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By JOHN HALEY
STAFF WRITER
jhaley@thnt.com
EDISON — For 26 minutes, the J.P. Stevens High School boys basketball team matched mighty Linden in every facet of the game in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV Tournament on Wednesday night.

The fourth-seeded Hawks were running, dunking, hitting everything from near and far and pounding the glass, not paying any attention to Linden's No. 4 ranking in the Gannett New Jersey Top 20.

As a result, they found themselves trailing by a mere two points with six minutes remaining before a large, raucous home crowd.

But the fifth-seeded Tigers had two things going for them that J.P. Stevens just could not handle — relentless pressure defense which finally began to take its toll and a special player named Desmond Wade.

While Linden's suffocating defense began paying dividends, forcing the Hawks into tough shooting positions, Wade was taking the ball to the hole with a vengeance and playing a stellar all-around game as the Tigers pulled away for a 70-53 decision.

Linden (22-5) will host ninth-seeded Plainfield in the sectional semifinals 7 p.m. on Friday. Myles Reuben recorded 17 points, while Kenny Bland added 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks for Stevens, which ended its best season in 13 years at 20-6.

Wade, a 5-foot-9 1,000-point scorer heading to the University of Houston, finished with a career-high 35 points, while adding 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals.

Wade, who shot 10-for-20 from the field, made 15 of 17 foul shots, while the Tigers were 30 of 34 from the line as a team. In a highly-physical game which featured close to 50 fouls called when you added in four technicals, Stevens was 15 of 23 from the line.

"J.P. Stevens came right after us," Linden coach Phil Colicchio said. "It's the state tournament, they weren't wide-eyed or concerned about our high ranking, they came after us and give them a ton of credit for the way they played. But the game is 32 minutes and our defense just wore them down. And when you have a kid like Desmond Wade on your side, it makes it tough for the other team because the kid refuses to lose. If it's rebound we need, a defensive stop, a basket, Desmond will get it done. He's been doing it for four years. He's a 5-foot-9 warrior."

With 7:01 left to play, the Hawks were in good shape, trailing just 48-46 while Linden's 6-9 junior David Bruce (10 points, 8 rebounds) went to the bench for good with his fifth foul.

But the wheels came off at that point for the home team as Linden went on a 13-2 run, which included a four-point possession and a six-point possession. After Linden went ahead 51-46 on three foul shots, Stevens was called for an intentional foul. Xavier Freeman made two foul shots, then Wade made two more after the Tigers retained possession.

Wade and Thair Swinton of Stevens each made two foul shots as Linden led 55-48 with 3:44 remaining, then the Hawks were hit with a technical foul after being charged with a personal foul.

Jerelle Louis wound up making all four foul shots, then Wade hit on a drive when the Tigers retained possession again. All of a sudden, Linden led 61-48 with 3:16 to go and that was it.

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