It wasn’t easy, but on Tuesday night St. Anthony of Jersey City proved yet again that the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title runs through their tiny campus.
The unbeaten Friars captured their 12th TOC title in 24 seasons with a 66-62 victory over Plainfield (N.J.) at the Izod Center in East Rutherford. Jerome Frinck led the Friars with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
It was the 65th consecutive win for the No. 3 ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings. St. Anthony (32-0) captured its fourth national poll title last season with a 33-0 record. They now have recorded seven spotless seasons, all under National Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, who will take a 40-year record of 1,049-110 into next season.
In the Tournament of Champions, which features the six state champions -- four public and two non-public -- the Friars have compiled an amazing record since the event started in 1989.
St. Anthony has won its last 23 TOC games and is 26-1 overall in the event. The Friars also haven't lost in the TOC since 1990 when they bowed in the finals to Elizabeth 65-62.
FAB 50 Spotlight Player of the Week
Zak Showalter, Germantown (Wis.)
The 6-foot-3 senior guard and son of head coach Steve Showalter led the Warhawks to an unbeaten season and the school's first Division 1 state championship with a hard-fought 72-69 win over previous No. 36 FAB 50-ranked Rufus King (Milwaukee).
A four-year veteran who scored 1,686 career points, the Wisconsin recruit went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final minute to help his team hold off a relentless rally by the 24-2 Generals, who suffered their first loss to an in-state team.
Showalter, who sat out some first half play with foul problems, ended with a game-high 22 points, including 15-of-18 from the foul line.
For the season, Showalter led the 28-0 record ranked No. 25 in the FAB 50 with a per game average of 22.1 points.
Next In Waiting Room: John Curtis Christian (La.), Miller Grove (Ga.)
For the last two weeks, there has been one newcomer in the FAB 50 rankings that finished its season with a state championship and was waiting for an opening.
New No. 41 Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) was that team in this week’s rankings. The Vikings actually won their state title two weeks ago, but the opening for them didn’t come up until previous No. 37 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) was upset in the California playoffs.
Same was true in the rankings released on March 13 when Carver (Montgomery, Ala.) made the move two weeks after it won its state crown.
So which teams are next in line? The best bets are 30-3 John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.) and 24-9 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.).
Many will remember Miller Grove as the No. 2 team in the preseason. And while the team didn’t win often against a brutal schedule, it got back on track in the Georgia playoffs and wound up winning a fourth straight Class AAAA state title two weeks ago.
One of Miller Grove’s nine losses was to a team from Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.), which John Curtis Christian defeated to win the Class 2A state title in Louisiana. The Patriots also beat Riverside Academy earlier in the season and ended 30-3 overall. For those reasons, the Louisiana team is one spot in line closer to the door of breaking into the FAB 50 than the Georgia team. That door will be closed for good on April 2 when the final rankings are released.
Three from FAB 50 in California state finals
There are no showdowns between FAB 50 teams in this weekend’s California Interscholastic Federation championships at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.
Three FAB 50 teams, however, will be vying to win state titles.
In Division I, FAB 50 No. 8 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) attempts for a repeat when it plays 29-5 Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) in Saturday’s title game. If the Monarchs win, they also would be earning their ninth CIF state title for a new state record. Last year, Mater Dei tied the record of eight state crowns held by Crenshaw (Los Angeles).
In Division II, FAB 50 No. 35 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) also is going for a repeat and also is the Monarchs. Mitty’s opponent in Friday’s championship is 34-2 La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.).
FAB 50 No. 21 Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) rounds out the list. The Pride meet 26-8 Price (Los Angeles) in Friday’s Division IV title game. Salesian won the Division IV state title three years ago on a buzzer-beater. The team is facing an opponent that has won six CIF state titles in its history.