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Tigers Sports

Linden Picks Up A Much-Needed Win By JR Parachini

Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2009 by By JR Parachini For sidelinechatter.com

Linden Picks Up A Much-Needed Win
As State Tourney Cut-Off Gets Closer
By JR Parachini
For sidelinechatter.com

IRVINGTON - If the Linden boys' basketball team wants to qualify for the North 2, Group 4 playoffs - a section that it reached the final in during the last four years - the Tigers need to show a sense of urgency, with the Feb. 7 cutoff date two and a half weeks away.

Tuesday afternoon's Watchung Conference-interdivision clash at Irvington was a good place for the Tigers to start. It was the first of nine scheduled games they still had remaining through Feb. 7.

After a first half that saw Linden and Irvington both take the lead six times - with the score also tied on six other occasions - one player made his presence felt in a big way when the third quarter commenced.

After getting two quick fouls in the first half and being relegated to the bench for most of the first 16 minutes, senior forward Romell Bateman might have turned Linden's season around in the third quarter with a dominating eight-minute performance.

He scored 13 of Linden's 18 points, made his first five field goals - all from inside - and keyed a 15-0 run that ultimately led the Tigers to a 53-42 triumph. Bateman made six-of-seven field goal attempts in the quarter and six-of-10 total in the second half.

Linden snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 5-6, while Irvington lost for the third straight time and slipped to 5-7. The Blue Knights, who defeated Linden 59-49 in Linden back on Dec. 23, are also in danger of not qualifying in North 2, Group 4.

Bateman and fellow starter - senior forward Tevin Calhoun - both scored 15 points as did junior forward Qadeer Lewis, who provided a big-time lift off the bench. Those three players accounted for 45 of Linden's 53 points.

After Irvington senior guard Al-Musal Carter, who paced the Blue Knights with 10 points, began the third quarter scoring with a 3-point basket to give the Blue Knights their seventh and what turned out to be final lead of 26-24. Bateman quickly - with his muscular football build - took passes inside and went to the basket strong.

He tied the game for the seventh and final time at 26-26 and then gave Linden the lead for good at 28-26. He made two more baskets to put Linden up 32-26, scoring eight straight points before Calhoun scored inside for a 34-26 Linden advantage.

Bateman then made two more inside baskets to put Linden up 38-26, the latter of the two coming after he grabbed an offensive rebound.

Bateman grabbed three boards in the third quarter and five for the game - in a contest that he hardly played at all in the first half because of foul trouble.

"Actually, I was sitting on the bench and seeing my team struggle, so I felt like I had to do something for my team," Bateman said. "I felt like I've been carrying them on my back the whole season, so why stop now.

"I usually always pick up two quick fouls in the beginning and then I start to get the ball and start to roll along with it."

"Romell has been playing like this all year," Linden head coach Phil Colicchio said. "He got two quick fouls right in the beginning of the game and we took him out.

"Romell has been our one constant performer, night in and night out. He's had a game this year with 21 rebounds and he's had a game with 34 points.

"He's 6-foot-1 and he plays like he's 6-foot-7. I can't praise him enough about how far he's come as a player and how far he's come as a person and how much he has meant to our team."

Linden played a bit better in the second quarter to take a 24-23 lead at the half, outscoring Irvington 17-14 in the second eight minutes. It was a see-saw first half to say the least, with both teams struggling to get into any kind of offensive rhythm. Both defenses played a part in that.

That was until Linden got Bateman the ball in the third quarter.

"We actually ran a bunch of sets to get him (Romell) the ball," Colicchio said.

Linden's 15-0 third-quarter surge, which turned a 26-24 deficit into a 39-24 lead, might have been the Tigers' most important run of the season. It came between Irvington baskets that were scored following Linden turnovers.

"It might be the most important 15-0 run of my career," Colicchio said. "One of the things I just said to the kids in the lockerroom is that this has been a very trying year both on the court and off the court for me and for our team.

"I don't know with our academic policy who is going to be eligible and who's not. It's been a little helter skelter, but one of the things I can count on is these kids - night in and night out - giving me 100 percent effort.

"That's what they did today and that's what they do every single day. They worked their butts off."

Linden had to find a way to beat Irvington on the road minus five players that were out because of academic circumstances, including starters David Bruce, Elijah Hodge and Daniel Thompson. Bruce is Linden's heralded 6-10 senior forward who has committed to continuing on the collegiate level at St. Joseph's, Pa., while Hodge and Thompson are both up-and-coming sophomore guards. The other two players were reserves, including senior guard Walter Durham and sophomore forward Justin Philippe.

Colicchio said that Hodge was the player of the game in Linden's 53-40 loss to St. Benedict's in Saturday's Dan Finn Classic at the Jersey City Armory.

"All five of them are in our academic tutoring program," Colicchio said. "They have to make up so many days in tutoring and when they make up their days, if they are eligible to play, they can come back and play."

As far as them playing at Newark East Side Thursday afternoon, Colicchio doesn't think so.

"I think one of them may be back, I'm not positive," Colicchio said. "I can't say or not say.

"Our standards are a little above the NJSIAA standards. Linden is holding all of our extra-curricular activities to a higher standard and our kids are going to have to adjust."

With games scheduled at East Side Thursday, at Plainfield Saturday - a makup from Dec. 19 - and then at home against Shabazz and Plainfield next week, that's a pretty tough stretch to navigate through minus three starters.

"Forget our conference, it's as good as it's been with Plainfield and Elizabeth and it kind of reminds me of the Big East a little this year," Colicchio said. "Then you add all of our independents.

"One of the things I said to the kids before the game is just to show you how close we are yet so far away is that I pick up The Star-Ledger today and Science (Park) is ranked No. 2 in New Jersey and here's a team that beat us by two (actually the final score was 44-39, but point made). It shows you how close we are to being there, but yet so far away.

"We've lost some tough basketball games and I think every game we've lost we really dug a big hole for ourselves and we've had to come back and try to climb out of it.

"That's one of the things we stressed today, try not to dig a hole. We play Shabazz, we're down 12. We play Irvington the last time and we were down 16-2. We play Elizabeth and we dig a hole.

"Today we didn't dig a hole and we were able to play."

While Bruce was not there to go strong to the hoop and grab important rebounds, Irvington was without senior guard Kenyon Perry, who scored 15 points in the Dec. 23 win, and senior forward Akeem Terrell who added 12. Senior forward Aaron Yarbough was held to two points Tuesday after netting 11 in last month's triumph over the Tigers.

Getting the ball to Bateman in the third quarter was the difference.

"We realized without David (Bruce) playing today and some of our guards, that we had to get the ball to Romell," Colicchio said. "Even with David, Romell is a strong kid inside. We've been going high-low, with David high and Romell low.

"We ran certain sets to get him (Romell) the basketball and we got him the ball in the right position and he turned and he scored. Four times in a row we ran three different plays and we got him the basketball and he scored.

Linden began the fourth quarter with a 42-30 lead, but Irvington did pull to within 46-41 with 2:15 left on a layup by senior guard Yoshane Scott.

The Tigers managed to score the seven of the game's final nine points thereafter, with Lewis grabbing an offensive rebound and putting the ball back in to put Linden ahead 52-42.

NOTES: Halftime stats included Linden shooting 9-of-24 from the field and 6-of-13 from the free throw line and Irvington 7-of-21 from the field and 7-of-9 from the line.

With a 12-point lead to start the final eight minutes, Linden slowed the ball down on offense and took only five shots in the quarter, making three of them.

One Linden player who excelled off the bench, but didn't score was junior guard Bryan Glinsky, who came up with two steals and played heads up the entire time he was in.

The Essex County Tournament will be seeded Monday, Jan. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at Dorf Feature Service at 187 Mill Lane in Mountainside.

The Union County Tournament will not be seeded until the middle of the second week in February.


LINDEN (5-6) 7 17 18 11 - 53

IRVINGTON (5-7) 9 14 7 12 - 42


LINDEN: Romell Bateman 6-0-3-15, Qadeer Lewis 4-0-7-15, Tevin Calhoun 5-1-2-15, Andrae Pearson 2-0-1-5, Kevin Jackson 1-0-0-2, Bart Gallo 0-0-1-1, Bryan Glinsky 0-0-0-0. Totals: 18-1-14-53.

IRVINGTON: Al-Musal Carter 2-1-3-10, Yoshane Scott 1-1-1-6, Antwan Vines 2-1-0-7, Devante Chaing 0-0-6-6, Aaron Yarbough 1-0-0-2, Tevin Tucker 1-1-0-5, Kiwaan Muhamad 1-0-2-4, G. Monfluery 0-0-2-2. Totals: 8-4-14-42.

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