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***Bloomfield's Pat Brunner has joined an exclusive club in hoops coaching circles after notching his 300th career victory in Saturday's independent triumph as the noted Essex County longtime mentor is busy guiding the defending N1G4 sectional champs in a new season!

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***Cranford and Roselle Catholic posted nice early-season victories as the Union County girls hoops campaign got into full swing with a couple of entertaining contests. Learn more in "Feature Articles"

***Third St. Jude Classic Benefit Games at Union High School were another rousing success as three entertaining contests were played with victories for Patrick School's girls and the Elizabeth & Linden boys to get the season off on high note. Learn more in "The Buzz"

Seton Hall Prep's Ashton Miller (3) is on drive vs. the tight defense of Immaculate's Jayden Brown in Friday night's season-opening action in Hoop Group's NJ Tip-Off Showcase action at Mount St. Dominic's Mary J. Codey Gym in Caldwell. Miller scored career-high 21 points to help lead SHP to exciting 61-58 win. (Photo by Richard Morrs/SHP)

SHP's Third Quarter Spurt & Rebounding
Key In Knocking Off IC In Season Opener
By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

CALDWELL- Junior Ashton Miller has sprouted two more inches to 6-foot-5 and highly-prized sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim is every bit of 6-7, and perhaps even taller than that; however, vs. a Montclair Immaculate team that has even more length and depth along the baseline and throughout its still evolving roster the rebounding edge should probably go to the Lions on most nights.

But, that was not the case in Friday night’s season opener as a third quarter burst spearheaded by Miller and 6-6 senior Alex Imegwu, who each scored 10 points in the quarter, plus ultra-strong work on the backboards throughout by the Pirates lifted the young SHP squad to a 61-58 triumph over IC in the 18th annual Hoop Group NJ Tip-Off Showcase at Mount St. Dominic’s Mary J. Codey Gymnasium.

SHP (1-0) entered last night knowing that it had four key players returning from last year’s rotation; however, with new faces filling other roles in the still-developing rotation, there are going to be some questions in the early going about just how far the Pirates can go when it comes to winning what should be a very competitive Super Essex Conference-American Division title chae and competing with the likes of Don Bosco Prep and others in an always rigorous Non-Public, North A state tournament field come March.

Although it’s still very early, the indications are that the Pirates may indeed be a team to be reckoned with throughout this season and that is because Miller (career-high 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals), Abdur-Rahim (15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) and Imegwu (14 points, 7 rebounds) are simply among the best players you are likely to find on any team this season; and, if they can rebound with authority against big and athletic teams like IC, it’s likely to be a very solid 2017-2018 campaign.

With all that being said, even though the Pirates moved from a 26-25 halftime lead to a 48-36 advantage early in the fourth quarter, they had trouble putting away the Lions (0-1), who recovered from a nearly six-minute drought without scoring in the third quarter to post a blistering turnover-inducing run in the last four minutes of regulation, taking a 58-57 lead on a Jalen Carey (team-high 22 points) layup following a steal with 2:20 still showing.

SHP committed six turnovers in the fourth quarter, but recovered in time, helped by two free throws from senior reserve guard Jonah Benitez with 1:22 left to regain the lead for good, 59-58.

Benitez was again fouled and made one of two from the stripe to give his team a 60-58 lead with 39.2 seconds remaining.

IC called two timeouts in the final 37 seconds, but made its biggest blunder when an errant pass in attempt to get the ball to Carey saw the ball sail out of bounds.

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