When Isaac Poueriet and his Secaucus teammates started setting goals for this season, the first one on the list was obvious — winning a NJIC Liberty Division title.
Last night, the Patriots took a massive step toward that mission.
Jamling Lama scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as Secaucus held off a late charge to knock off five-time defending division champions Dwight-Englewood, 54-50, in Englewood.
Senior Agon Ferati scored a career-high 15 points and added 15 rebounds for his first career double-double for Secaucus (5-2), which led for nearly the entirety of the contest.
“That was our goal for this year,” said Poueriet, a senior forward.” (Last year) we beat them at home, but we couldn’t beat them at their house. Now we beat them at their house.
“I feel like if we play like this every game, we’ll be the best in the league.”
Poueriet finished with 15 points, but, in the eyes of head coach Tom Curry Jr., it was the perimeter defense he and Isaac Conil provided that truly made the difference against a quick and athletic Dwight-Englewood (5-3) squad. They prevented the Bulldogs from getting to the basket in the half-court and as a result, forced the home team into settling for outside shots.
As a team, Secaucus’ defense limited Dwight-Englewood to just 3-for-21 on 3-point attempts, including 18 consecutive misses.
“When we want to pressure on the ball and when we want to defend, we can really do it. We have some really athletic kids on the inside and the outside,” Curry said. “Isaac Poueriet did a great job and Isaac Conil did a great job on both of their stud players. Hats off to them. Down the stretch, we did a great job defensively, trying to force them out of doing the things they like to do.”
Ferati put the Patriots ahead for good at 31-30 when he made two free throws with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
Secaucus seemed poised to pull away midway through the fourth with a 6-0 run capped off by Ferati’s basket to make it 47-38 with 3:10 remaining
Dwight-Englewood answered back with an 8-2 run, capped off by an Aidan Pink 3-pointer with 1:19 left, cutting the lead to 49-46.
Conil (six rebounds, six assists) got a pivotal offensive rebound, then scored his only basket of the night off a Lama feed with 43 seconds left.
Pink cut the deficit to two on a 3-pointer with 12.8 seconds left. But Lama, who made five free throws in the final 96 seconds, sunk both foul shots with 10.6 seconds left to finally put the game away for the Patriots.
As a result, both Secaucus and Dwight-Englewood are 3-1 in division play with Leonia, who beat the Patriots on Tuesday night, on top at 4-0.
“It’s a big one for us. We kinda circled this one on the calendar and I think we kinda looked ahead a little bit,” said Curry, who played at Dwight-Englewood. “But when we turn up the defense, we’re pretty good on the defensive end and we have some special players.
“Beating them here is a big accomplishment, especially with the years they’ve been having.”
Jayden Lemond paced Dwight-Englewood with 15 points in defeat. Pink and David Mager scored 10 points apiece and Noah Pean added eight off the bench.
Lama had eight rebounds and five assists.