By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- That wasn't Gateway or Lindenwold or Haddon Township on the other side of the court.
No disprespect to the Gators, Lions or Hawks, but this wasn't a Colonial Conference Patriot Division game.
This was the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions.
That was Bergenfield, the Group 3 champion, on the opposing bench.
"I didn't think it would be that easy," Paulsboro senior guard Brandon Hamilton said after the Red Raiders' 90-65 victory on Wednesday night at the Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School. "This was the T of C."
Paulsboro (31-2) took apart the Group 3 state champions with the same relentless style that has marked this program for the last four years: Pressure defense, transition offense, waves and waves of red-clad athletes jumping off the bench and into the breech.
"They are outstanding," Bergenfield coach Marty Rivard of Paulsboro. "Exceptionally well-coached, athletic, long wingspan, long foot-span."
Seniors Saleem Little (29), Theo Holloway (18), De'Shaun Burgess (12) and Brandon Hamilton (10) all scored in double figures for 5th-seeded Paulsboro, which advanced to meet No. 1 seed Roselle Catholic in Friday's semifinals.
"It's a cliche but we have nothing to lose," Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said of the matchup with Roselle Catholic, which is No. 1 in the state in the nj.com rankings and features Kentucky-bound guard Isaiah Briscoe.
Paulsboro players says they were motivated by perceived disprespect as representatives of a small Group 1 school from South Jersey.
Bergenfield also brought a large and loud student contingent, which Collins said served as further fuel for his players.
"I saw these guys' eyes when they saw that student section," Collins said. "They are the type that don't run away from the fire. They run into the fire."
Holloway, who also dished four assists with four rebounds, said the Red Raiders wanted to prove they can "play with anybody."
Hamilton said the Red Raiders regarded themselves as "underdogs" because they were the No. 5 seed, while Bergenfield was the No. 4.
"We're a small school but we play hard," Hamilton said. "People overlook us and that motivates us."
Paulsboro overwhelmed Bergenfield in the second quarter, outscoring the team that beat highly-touted Ewing in the Group 3 state finals by 36-11.
The Red Raiders generated turnover after turnover off their full- and half-court pressure, and got big lifts off the bench from sophomore Kyles Jones and Dehron Holloway.
"We thought we could pressure them," Collins said. "We didn't really press the way we normally press against Shore (in the state semifinals) and University (in the state finals) because it was a big game on a big court.
"But yesterday in practice, I told the kids, 'We're letting it all out.'"
It was the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions but it looked like a Colonial Patriot game, with the Red Raiders dominating play with their pressure defense, depth and ability to run the floor.
It was 64-39 in the middle of the third quarter and 87-60 when another Paulsboro reserve, Shawn Ferrell, buried a three-pointer and the team's regulars leaped off the bench in celebration.
"We're a Group 1 school but we don't look at ourselves like that," Burgess said. "We think we can play with anybody. We know we can play with anybody."
Paulsboro 10 36 20 24 -- 90
Bergenfield 15 11 17 22 -- 65
P: Brandon Hamilton 10, Theo Holloway 18, Saleem Little 29, De'Shaun Burgess 12, Kyle Jones 8, Dehron Holloway 2, Steve Priest 3, Shawn Ferrell 3, DeVon Williams 3, Nate DuBois 2.
B: Jovani Haskins 26, D.J. Haskins 18, Herbie Cabral 8, James Hamilton 6, Phil Cham 2, Holienne Transporte 2, Titus Varughese 3.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org