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Basketball: Paulsboro wins Group 1 state title

By Phil Anastasia

Inquirer Staff Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- It was 32 minutes that validated four years.

Paulsboro's seniors didn't put a cherry on the top of their careers in Sunday's state championship game.

They emptied the whole jar, squirted the entire can of whipped cream and poured out the complete case of sprinkles.

"It's like a dream," senior Saleem Little said after Paulsboro's 78-48 victory over University in the Group 1 state title game Sunday at Rutgers University.

Little generated 13 points and 12 rebounds and seniors Theo Holloway and Brandon Hamilton each scored 20 for Paulsboro (30-2).

The victory secure Paulsboro's first state title since 1996 and sent the Red Raiders into the Tournament of Champions.

Paulsboro will play in the opening round of the T of C Wednesday night at Toms River North against an opponent to be detrermined by the seeding committee later Sunday night.

Most significantly, the victory cemented the legacy of Paulsboro's senior class, especially four-year varsity players such as Little and Holloway.

"This is what we wanted all four years," Holloway said. "It finally happened."

Said Little: "We worked all summer for this. We believed we could do it. It's unbelievable."

Paulsboro's seniors walked into the Rutgers Athletic Center on Sunday as part of a program that had collected 111 victories, three South Jersey Group 1 titles and four conference titles in the last four seasons.

The only thing the Red Raiders lacked was a state title.

They took care of business quickly and efficiently, overwhelming University with the same kind of pressure defense and transition offense that has dominated many Colonial Conference foes for much of the recent past.

Paulsboro broke the game open with a 19-9 surge in the second quarter, with strong work from Hamilton (six points on a pair of three-pointers), Holloway (four points, two assists) and senior guards De'Shaun Burgess (six of his seven points) and Cherron Quarles (three-pointer).

Fittingly, all 19 points were scored by 12th graders.

"These guys have done so much," Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said. "I know Atlantic City won two in a row (in Group 4 in 2012 and 2013) but it's hard for me to imagine a group that's done more than these guys in four years.

"This is a great cap to their careers."

Paulsboro left no doubt in the second half, stetching its lead to as much as 32 points against a battle-tested North Jersey Group 1 champion that had lost to Group 2 state champion Newark Tech by just two points on Feb. 20.

"This was our goal, to go to the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center) and we finally got it done," Hamtilon said.

With Paulsboro holding a 35-21 lead at the break, Collins said he told his players in the locker room that their legacy in their sports-crazy town was on the line in the second half.

"I told them, 'You've got 16 minutes and you can walk like legends in that town for the rest of your lives,'" Collins said.

Paulsboro 16 19 23 20 -- 78

University 12 9 18 9 -- 48

P: Theo Holloway 20, John Pellegrini 7, Brandon Hamilton 20, Saleem Little 13, DeShaun Burgess 7, Dehron Holloway 3, Cherron Quarles 5, Tyrique King 3.

U: Abdul Adams 7, Kyle Wright 4, Tariq McKenith 11, Mazaya Young 3, Zamir Wright 13, Shaquan Mickens 5, Dashon Jones 3, Alijabize Tomlin 2.

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