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***It was a big night for Roselle Catholic as boys squad captured first-ever UCT title and the Lion girls edged the top-seeded Patrick School to also win a county crown!

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***Chatham is quite comfortable on the County College of Morris court where its MVP Jack Rooney and the Cougars edged Delbarton in the successful defense of MCT crown. Read "Feature Articles"

***Newark Tech put forth superb showing in upsetting University in Saturday's ECT girls final as the Terriers answered each challenge Phoenix provided. See "The Buzz"

East Side senior backcourt leaders Shmair Johnson (left) and Jahid Jenkins proudly display the Essex County Tournament championship hardware earned with a 58-54 triumph over Immaculate Conception in Saturday's final at Essex County College. (Sideline Chatter photo)

Heart, Strength & Defense Lead East Side
In Successful Defense Of Its ECT Title
By Jason Bernstein

NEWARK - Jahid Jenkins, Shamir Johnson and Anas Amos have seen it all and faced every on-court challenge imaginable over the past three years starting together in the East Side backcourt.

So as the trio and the rest of the Red Raiders were once again locked into a tension filled nail-biter of an Essex County final, they knew they could turn to three principles, which have defined East Side during their time at the Ironbound school.

“Heart, strength and defense,” explained Jenkins. “Those are our three biggest weapons right there.”

All three weapons were utilized with every fearless trek towards the paint by Jenkins, every key baseline cut from Johnson, or with every big defensive stop from the 5-foot-6 Amos.

That, combined with two more weapons - resourcefulness and resolve - allowed the second-seeded Red Raiders repeat as Essex County champions, defeating fourth-seeded Immaculate Conception, 58-54, in the final before a full house at Essex County College.

Jenkins had 19 points and seven assists, while Johnson scored 10 of his 17 points in the final 4:35. Amos scored just three points, but had five of his assists and two critical steals in the fourth quarter to deliver East Side its third title in five years and fifth overall. Immaculate, seeking its first ECT championship, got 25 points and six steals from Syracuse-bound Jalen Carey, plus 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks from Justin Winston.

“We feel if you got the heart, we can beat those guys whenever we want,” said Amos. “It doesn't matter the size or how tall they are, if you have the heart, anything can happen.”

“We play with heart. The whole Ironbound's on our back and we play with heart,” Johnson said. “That's how we've played for the entire season and that's what we're going to continue to keep doing.”

Immaculate, which trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, tied the game on Carey’s 3-pointer with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter.

Two Johnson free throws were matched by two from Carey, and Johnson’s layup off a baseball pass was countered by a spin move and tying field goal from Amare Marshall. East Side regained the lead on a Deandre Speight baseline jumper and an Amos steal led to a transition layup from Jenkins to make it 50-46 with with 3:04 left.

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