St. Patrick H.S., which claimed the first crown in 2002, and St. Anthony, which won it all in 2003, provided stiff competition for the Pirates.
Seton Hall Prep eked out a 61-60 victory over St. Anthony and then bumped off St. Patrick, 57-49, in the finale to earn a slot in the HBC in Philadelphia this weekend. If that wasn't enough, the Pirates toughed out a quarterfinal round win over a Paul Harris led Niagara Falls contingent.
To say that Seton Hall Prep is battle tested would be an understatement. The big question for Seton Hall Prep is whether star forward Brandon Costner will be available. Costner, currently on his way to the USA trials in Colorado Springs, was trying to figure out whether he would be able to play with his high school team this weekend.
Costner, who has already taken an unofficial visit to Connecticut and lists the National Champions as very high on his list, was hoping to be with his team this Saturday in Philadelphia for the National Championship for high schools.
"I hope to be there Saturday," Costner said. "I have to see if there is a way to do it."
If Costner were to be with his team, it would mean leaving the USA basketball event a little bit early. A tough decision is ahead for Costner, whose Seton Hall teammates are taking on John Marshall High School at 12 noon on Saturday.
Here is a look at how the semis and quarters played out, with a closer look at the brackets that fed into the final four:
St. Patrick (NJ) 55 Linden (NJ) 35
Seton Hall Prep (NJ) 61 St. Anthony (NJ) 60
QUARTERFINALS: Seton Hall Prep defeated Niagara Falls (NY)
St. Anthony defeated Charlestown (MA)
St. Patrick defeated St. Raymond's (NY)
Linden defeated Grady (NY)
SETON HALL PREP bracket:
Considered the top seed in its bracket by the Hoop Group, Seton Hall prep wasn't severely tested until the quarterfinal round, defeating Passaic Valley, a depleted Neptune (NJ) squad (which dressed just five players) and an Andrew Bynum-less St. Joseph Metuchen team in the Sweet 16. On the bottom half of the bracket, Niagara Falls dumped Garden State high schools Marist, Teaneck and Raritan before pushing Seton Hall Prep to the limit.
Niagara Falls' Paul Harris, who has some scholarship offers already despite being a member of the 2006 class, was terrific again. Harris, a warrior like forward who can also dribble drive past most defenders, has an offer from Pittsburgh and has had recent serious interest from other high major schools such as Syracuse. Connecticut has also been mentioned by Harris as a school of interest. The Connecticut staff will likely evaluate Harris but also remain cautious as to who they recruit over the next year. In the event of players leaving early, Harris then becomes a more serious priority.
ST. ANTHONY bracket:
St. Anthony's, which got some solid play from point guard Sean McCurdy, coasted through the top half of its bracket, beating Central H.S. and White Plains (NY) H.S. before getting a battle from St. Joe's Montvale in the Sweet 16. Charlestown H.S., which fell to St. Anthony's in the quarters, defeated Red Bank (NJ) Regional and Englewood (NJ). Pocono Mountain East H.S. of Pennsylvania was one of the sleeper teams at the event, knocking off South Jersey stalwart Middle Township and North Jersey power Bloomfield Tech before losing to Charlestown.
ST. PATRICK bracket:
After subduing Trinidad and University H.S., St. Pat's had to dust off a pair of CHSAA programs (All Hallows and St. Raymond's) to reach the semis. St. Raymond's took care of North Plainfield H.S. and Shawnee H.S. before soundly defeating an underrated St. Luke's (CT) squad in the Sweet 16. Two Bergen County programs of note, Paramus Catholic and Bergen Catholic, bowed out in the round of 32 after opening round victories.
Phil Colichio's Linden program was probably the most unlikely team to reach the Final Four, but the Tigers relied on strong play from rising senior swingman Michael Henderson to carry them to the semis. Some of the more notable Garden State heavyweights to fall before reaching the quarters in this bracket were Don Bosco Prep (beaten by Grady in the round of 32), Paterson Catholic (lost to Grady in the Sweet 16) and St. Benedict's (lost to Christian Brothers Academy in the round of 32).
Grady's undersized guard tandem of Kevin White and Wayne Turner gave people fits until Linden cooled them off in the quarters. The Gray Bees early exit was a surprise to many, since St. Benedict's was regarded as one of the HSB's top four seeds in the event. It looks like Danny Hurley's crew will need some time to recuperate from the losses of NBA bound J.R. Smith and Kansas signee Alex Galindo.