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Paulsboro bows out of TOC against powerhouse Roselle Catholic

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - When Isaiah Briscoe stepped out of the locker room after the game, eager fans swarmed him in front of the door.

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - When Isaiah Briscoe stepped out of the locker room after the game, eager fans swarmed him in front of the door.

Mothers asked him to kiss their babies. He signed Roselle Catholic T-shirts, shook hands, and posed for pictures. A few informed fans asked him to autograph their Kentucky hoodies - a nod to the powerhouse college program Briscoe will play for next season.

On the other side of the wall and down the hallway a bit, Paulsboro's Saleem Little strapped on his backpack and zipped up his red warm-up jacket. He quietly led his teammates past Briscoe's groupies and onto a bus to take them back to the blue-collar town where they came from.

Little is a realist. And when he talked about the 103-34 loss to Roselle Catholic, he did so with a smile.

"At the end of the day, we're state champs," the 6-foot-4 senior guard said. "And we're walking out of here with our heads up."

Saturday afternoon, the Red Raiders' season - and the careers of an unforgettable senior class - came to en end in the Tournament of Champions semifinals at the Pine Belt Arena.

To be sure, Roselle Catholic is on another level from Paulsboro. The Lions could pass for a Division I college team - which is where most of their players are headed.

They are led by Briscoe, a 6-foot-3 point guard (18 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes, 26 seconds of play) and Chris Silva, a 6-foot-10 South Carolina recruit (11 points, 5 rebounds in 16:10).

Even by its own lofty standards, Roselle Catholic (27-4) came out on fire in a game that was never really a contest.

The Lions' full-court pressure stifled Paulsboro (31-3). The Red Raiders committed 16 first-half turnovers, while Roselle Catholic looked like the Harlem Globetrotters on offense - lobbing ally-oops, slamming thunderous dunks in transition, and draining nine three-pointers before halftime.

The Lions shot 63 percent from the field for the game. The Red Raiders shot 25 percent.

"Paulsboro is a great team, those kids have had so much success there," Lions coach Dave Boff said. "We just caught fire early, and when we get going like that, we're tough to stop. It was just one of those days for us."

For the Red Raiders, the game was merely a chance, almost out of curiosity, to see what they could do against such elite talent.

The outcome took nothing away from a season in which Paulsboro won its third sectional title in four seasons and took home the Group 1 state championship, its first state crown since 1996.

The team's five seniors ended their four-year run with a 112-12 record.

"That's something I can always be proud about," said Little, who paired a team-high 12 points with nine rebounds. "I had the opportunity to play with my brothers.

"This time last year, I was crying after the last game. I'm much more upbeat about it right now. We won the state championship - that was our goal."

Added coach Sean Collins: "These seniors took what we started a few years ago and finished it off."

Paulsboro 7 7 8 12 - 34

Roselle Catholic 28 35 20 20 - 103

P: Brandon Hamilton 8, Theo Holloway 4, Saleem Little 12, Steven Preist 1, Cherron Quarles 2, Shawn Ferrell 2, DeVon Williams 3, Nate DuBois 2.

RC: Isaiah Briscoe 18, Taahir Pretlow 8, Pierre Sarr 7, Chris Silva 11, Matt Bullock 17, Nazi Reid 10, Omar Hurston 3, Kameron David 8, Louis King 4, RJ Franklin 1, Aaron Clarke 7, Robert Miller 4, Yasin Pretlow 2, Peace Ilegomah 2, Ganlandou Cisse 1.