It would have been easy for Teaneck’s confidence to be on shaky ground entering overtime after having an eight-point lead vanish in the final minutes of regulation.
But the message of head coach Jerome Smart to his team was clear – everything from the previous 32 minutes didn’t matter and that they were the better team on the floor.
The Highwaymen proved they were the better team as they held off Don Bosco Prep 72-67 in overtime to win the Bergen County Jamboree Thursday night at the Rothman Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“I just told them it was 0-0 and we were the better team,” Smart said. “So just go out and win it on the court.”
“They just told us to settle down,” junior guard Chris Jones said. “That we’re the better team and we know we can win this game. We believed it and we did.”
Tied at 59-all heading into the extra period, senior Danta Davis put top-seeded Teaneck (23-2) in front to stay with a pair of free throws to make it 63-61 with 2:49 left. Davis’ foul shots sparked a 6-0 Highwaymen run as DeQuan Russ followed with a put-back and Shaakir Lindsey drained a pair of crucial free throws.
The third-seeded Ironmen (18-6) seemed poised for their second last-minute comeback on the game when Jemal Mosely buried a 3-pointer and Tim Hamlett added a free throw to make it a one-point game.
But Lindsey sunk a pair of free throws with 29.3 seconds left and Davis stole an errant Don Bosco pass to help seal the victory. Davis and Jones would combine for three free throws to put the finishing touches on Teaneck’s second Jamboree title in the past three years and ninth in school history.
“Coming in we knew we were the best team in the county, but we just wanted to prove it,” said Jones, who finished with 13 points. “I think we did that tonight.”
Davis finished with a team-high 18 points for Teaneck, 16 of them coming in the second half and overtime. Lindsey, a sophomore, had 17 points. Despite standing at just 5-foot-7, Lindsey was fearless attacking the basket, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter and overtime, with seven coming on free throws.
“I have all the faith in the world in him,” Smart said. “He can make free throws and he can finish even though he’s diminutive. He makes all the right passes. You’ve got to love having a kid like that regardless of his size.”
“All I was going to do was drive and kick because they were playing man-to-man (defense),” Lindsey said. “If I had the lane I’d go for the layup. If I didn’t I’d just kick it out.”
Mosely led all scorers with 24 points for Don Bosco Prep.
Leonte Carroo scored the final six points of regulation for the Ironmen. He gave Don Bosco the lead at 58-57 on a transition layup with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter. After Teaneck regained the lead on a Davis layup, Carroo forced overtime when he converted a free throw with 1:34 remaining in regulation. Carroo finished with 15 points.
Teaneck enters next week’s NJSIAA North 1, Group 3 tournament as one of the state’s hottest teams. But even with a 23-game winning streak and another Jamboree title, they know their work is far from finished.
“Our goal is to win the state title,” Smart said. “We said that from day one. People thought it was cocky, but I think now people realize that we’ve got a legitimate shot to do that.”
The Highwaymen, who are the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, open up at home against No. 15 seed Indian Hills on Tuesday at 8 p.m.