Paulsboro relishes underdog role against Roselle Catholic
Brandon Hamilton sees himself as an "underdog." His whole team will fit that description Friday night. Hamilton and his Paulsboro teammates know they are widely regarded as little more than a speed bump in top-ranked Roselle Catholic's anticipated drive to another Tournament of Champions title.
Brandon Hamilton sees himself as an "underdog."
His whole team will fit that description Friday night.
Hamilton and his Paulsboro teammates know they are widely regarded as little more than a speed bump in top-ranked Roselle Catholic's anticipated drive to another Tournament of Champions title.
But Hamilton, the Red Raiders' senior guard, has heard that kind of talk in the past.
"We were supposed to be underdogs in this game, right?" Hamilton said after Paulsboro's imposing 90-65 victory over Group 3 champion Bergenfield in the T of C quarterfinals Wednesday night.
Paulsboro (31-2), the Group 1 champion and No. 5 seed, will play top-seeded Roselle Catholic (26-4), the Non-Public B champion, at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School.
Roselle Catholic is the defending T of C champion and features senior guard Isaiah Briscoe, a Kentucky recruit.
Paulsboro is just the second South Jersey Group 1 team to win a game in the T of C. The other was Burlington Township in 1992.
"They've got a bunch of D-1 players and the No. 1 guard in the country," Paulsboro senior forward Theo Holloway said of Roselle Catholic. "But we feel like we can play with anybody."
Hamilton believes he personifies the Red Raiders' spirit.
The 6-foot-2 Hamilton sometimes seems to operate in the shadow of more accomplished seniors such as Holloway and forward Saleem Little.
Part of that is because Holloway and Little are the team's leading scorers and rebounders, and part of that is because those two athletes are four-year varsity players.
They've been regulars for a program that has compiled records of 30-1, 27-3, 23-5, and 31-2 for an astounding four-year mark of 111-11.
Hamilton, by contrast, attended Leap Academy in Camden as a freshman and was a reserve for Paulsboro as a sophomore.
"I don't mind - I feel like that makes me the underdog," Hamilton said. "I know that I'm a threat too. I do what I have to do to help the team."
Hamilton said he grew up in Camden. He said he moved in with his father in Paulsboro at the end of his freshman year.
He said he has been friendly with Paulsboro's players for years because he has a lot of family in the town - many of whom were known for their accomplishments on the wrestling mat.
"No wrestling for me," Hamilton said. "I always loved basketball."
Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said Hamilton has been a consistent "third guy" as a scoring option for the Red Raiders.
That balance, along with rare depth - it's not unusual for Paulsboro to play as many as 10 athletes on a regular basis - distinguishes the Red Raiders.
Hamilton is averaging 12.7 points. He went for 20 with five steals in Paulsboro's 78-48 win over University in the Group 1 state championship game and contributed 10, including seven in the decisive second quarter, in the victory over Bergenfield.
Hamilton knows Friday night represents a different kind of challenge.
He said the Red Raiders will be undaunted.
"We're going to play against the No. 1 player in the nation," Hamilton said of Briscoe. "We're going in and we're going to play it like it's our last game. We're going to give it everything we have and play to our ability."