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Tigers Sports

Determined 'D' helps No. 17 team jolt No. 5 Linden

Posted Tuesday, March 04, 2008 by BY MIKE KINNEY For the Star-Ledger

Desmond Wade displayed his considerable smarts and ability by drawing quick fouls against the first two Piscataway guards to cover him. It was a situation that would have been disastrous for most teams in the state.

For Piscataway, it was merely a nice opportunity for some of its other guards to show off their defensive skills and fierce determination on a big stage.

The irrepressible Wade ended up with 19 points and five assists against a combination of Bryan Waluk, Thomas Bennett, Justin Blake and James White, but he may have had to work as hard to steer Linden's offense as he had all season.

Meanwhile, J.D. Griggs and his interior mates seized complete control of the paint to guide Piscataway, No. 17 in The Star-Ledger Top 20, to a 58-47 upset of No. 5 Linden last night for the NJSIAA/ShopRite North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 championship at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.

The 6-5 Griggs, headed to Iowa on a football scholarship, scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds while 6-3 senior swing Omar Smith added 15 points and 6-5 senior forward Tristian Benjamin contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds. They helped Piscataway win its first sectional crown since 1994 and end Linden's two-year reign in Group 4.

"We really felt like we could match up and beat them. We feel we can go up against any team," Griggs said. He had eight points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter when Piscataway sealed the victory with a 21-16 effort. "We don't shy away from talent or competition."

Next up for Piscataway is unranked Paterson Eastside in the Group 4 semifinals at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Dunn Center.

Griggs was anything but shy as he bodied up to 6-9 junior David Bruce in the opening seconds and made his presence known on each Linden possession. Bruce was limited to six points and nine rebounds -- six in the first quarter -- after scoring a combined 50 points in the first three state tournament games.

"J.D. could play Division 1 basketball if he wanted to. He could be a power forward for someone," fourth-year Piscataway coach Guy Jensen said. "And we weren't doubling down on Bruce. J.D. played him man-to-man, same thing he did against Union and Taylor."

That was 6-6 Travis Taylor, held to eight points against Griggs Saturday in a 54-51 Piscataway victory in the sectional semifinals.

But Bruce and senior guard Jerelle Louis (nine points) are smaller pieces of Linden's engine. The Houston-bound Wade is that engine's battery and carburetor. To beat Linden, Piscataway somehow had to neutralize one of the most successful guards any public school has had the past 25 years.

Waluk started on him, but was hit with two fouls in the first 4:09. Bennett followed and had two fouls in only 1:20. Then came Blake and then White, who each offered his own blend of speed and strength to challenge Wade.
"I knew he'd be looking for his spin, so I was faking like I was going for him, then I backed off and tried to beat him to the middle," White said. "And I know he can shoot, so I tried to keep up ball pressure."

Piscataway began to claim control with a 12-0 run late in the second quarter as Smith had five points for a 24-14 lead. Linden clawed its way back to within 34-31 on a 3-pointer by Louis with 2:42 to go in the third, but Piscataway once again clamped down on defense and took command inside.

"Maybe our magic ran out. They took control of the game early and they kept control of the game," Linden coach Phil Colicchio said. "I give them credit. They followed their game plan. They're strong kids. They're physical."

Smith hit a free throw with 1:13 left in the third and Griggs scored with a putback 37 seconds later for a 37-31 Piscataway lead. Aaron Hush, who was a factor underneath from off the bench, scored off a pass from Bennett to open the fourth quarter for a 39-31 advantage.

"I can't credit these 14 kids enough," Jensen said. "Those kids came out and played three games in the state tournament like I haven't seen. I haven't seen kids just get out and get after it like these kids."

Linden 47: Bateman 1-0-0-2, Bruce 3-0-0-6, Calhoun 0-0-0-0, Freeman 0-1-4-7, Hodge 0-0-0-0, Lewis 0-0-0-0, Louis 0-2-3-9, St. Germain 0-0-0-0, Wade 5-1-6-19, Wilson 2-0-0-4. Totals: 11-4-13-47.

Piscataway 58: Adkins 0-0-0-0, Benjamin 5-0-1-11, Thomas Bennett 0-0-1-1, Blake 1-0-0-2, J. Griggs 7-0-4-18, Hush 1-0-0-2, Newsome 0-0-0-0, Smith 4-1-4-15, Waluk 0-0-5-5, White 1-0-2-4. Totals: 19-1-17-58.

Linden (23-7)8 8 15 16 -- 47

Piscataway (23-4)8 16 13 21 -- 58

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