Playing outside of the Garden State, the Cougars were beset by foul shooting woes and untimely turnovers, dropping a 79-77 decision to William Allen H.S. of Allentown, Penn., on Saturday afternoon at the Lehigh Valley Hoop Fest.
As much as Paterson Catholic shot itself in the foot, the Cougars still had a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But Nicodemus Eaton's pirouette turned three-point attempt missed badly, dropping PC to 3-6 on the season and in danger of not qualifying for the New Jersey State playoffs.
"I was debating whether or not to call time out," said Paterson Catholic Head Coach Tommie Patterson. "If I knew he was going to take that shot, I would have called time out."
The Cougars trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, but rallied behind the strong interior play of LaSalle bound forward Kimani Barrett (30 points, 13 rebounds) and husky framed center Ramarr Pannell (21 points, nine boards).
"This was one of Kimani's best games of the year," Patterson said. "He played a complete game today."
An inside basket by Barrett trimmed the deficit to 78-77 with 12.4 seconds remaining, and PC immediately fouled Canaries' junior guard Adrian Brown. Brown hit one of two free throws, pushing the Allen lead to 79-77 with 10.7 seconds left.
Paterson Catholic could have gone for the tie, and Coach Patterson said he hoped to work the ball inside to Barrett. But Eaton, the Cougars' top perimeter scoring threat, decided to take matters into his own hands.
Needing daylight to get his shot off, he wiggled around an Allen defender, pirouetting and spinning into an awkward and errant three-point attempt just before the final buzzer sounded. Eaton was held to 12 points on the day.
Allen 6-5 senior small forward Terrence Roderick was magnificent, earning game MVP honors after compiling 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Brown (17 points, four treys) and 6-1 senior Darnell Braswell (15 points, five assists) also came up big for the Canaries.
Allen steadily built a 42-35 first half lead, but Paterson Catholic used a 6-3 run to climb within 45-41 early in the third quarter.
The Canaries responded with a 10-0 burst, capped by 6-3 senior forward Tony Hernandez (17 points), who converted a lay-in off a nifty feed from Braswell to make it 55-41 midway through the third period.
The Cougars consistently whittled away at the lead, drawing to within two points (62-60) early in the fourth quarter on a basket by Barrett. Each time PC pulled close, however, Allen responded with a big basket or steal to squelch the momentum.
The Cougars also missed two big free throws in the final minute, which could have possibly extended the game to overtime.
"We've lost all year that way -- missed free throws," Patterson said. "We have three games left and we have to win all three to make the playoffs."
It doesn't get any easier for Paterson Catholic, as they face a rematch today with fellow North Jersey parochial power St. Patrick H.S. at the Hope Thru Hoops 3rd Annual Crotty Classic. Earlier this month at the New Jersey Scholarship Fund event, the Celtics upended the Cougars, 72-57.