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Bloomfield's Michael Ramos (3) puts up jump shot vs. Bloomfield Tech during Monday's SEC crossover contest at BT's West Caldwell Center gymnasium. The Bengals' junior point guard scoreda team-high 15 points in 52-47 win over the Spartans. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Bloomfield Tech junior Kyle Beckford (3), who was star inside all game long for Spartans, extends his arm to try and get control of ball in front of Bloomfield's Isiah McCallum (15).

BT's acrobatic 6-foot junior Kyle Beckford lived above the rim in Monday's game vs. Bloomfield

Bloomfield veteran coach Pat Brunner is still putting together the pieces for another strong run by Bengals this 2017-2018 season with a nice mix of veterans and first-year varsity performers.

Bloomfield's Michael Ramos (3) twists his way to the basket as he prepares to release a shot vs. Bloomfield Tech as the visiting Bengals were on their way to solid 52-47 SEC crossover triumph.

Bloomfield Tech's Daniel Oravbiere swats away shot taken by Bloomfield's Kyle Barrow (4)

Bloomfield Tech's junior guard Kyle Beckford (3) begins fast break for Spartans vs. Bloomfield

Two Potential Sectional Title Contenders
Battle In One Energized SEC Crossover
By Steve Tober

WEST CALDWELL- We’re about midway through the regular season and it’s still too early to project exactly what might happen come NJSIAA state tournament time in late February; however, if recent history and the very evident landscape of two state sections is any indicator, then one can feel fairly comfortable to project both Bloomfield (defending sectional champion in North 1, Group 4) and Bloomfield Tech (the favorite in North 2, Group 1) as very legitimate sectional title threats come March.

In a Martin Luther King Monday Super Essex Conference crossover matinee at BT’s West Caldwell Center, which is part of the Essex County Vo-Tech campus system, Bloomfield (9-3) rode a strong third quarter fueled by a combined nine points from senior guard Richie Guillaume and junior forward Will Robinson en route to a 52-47 triumph over the Spartans (7-3), who had led by seven points (31-24) with 6:41 left in the stanza before the Bengals took control of the contest for good.

“This is a really good win for us to show what we’re made of,” said Bloomfield’s outstanding junior point guard Michael Ramos, who finished with a team-high 15 points to go along with 4 assists and 5 steals. “We played a little soft in the first half (trailing 25-24 at the break), but we played with a lot of heart in the third and fourth quarters and came out with the ‘W.’

“We’re still trying to come together like we did at the end of last season, but I like this team and we could be even better if we continue to work hard and execute like we did at times today.”

While Bloomfield won its first state sectional title in 40 years last March, or since former star Kelly Tripucka’s senior season, Bloomfield Tech is trying to revive some of the great memories of more than a decade ago when the Spartans were annually one of the top teams in the state under former coach Nick Mariniello.

Pat Brunner, the veteran Bloomfield head coach, was an assistant for three years on Mariniello’s staff at BT for a trio of the best Spartan teams (2004-2006) including a Tournament of Champions runner-up squad in ’04.

“Mike Aldiero (a current Bengals assistant and former BT assistant as well) and I were looking at the banners on the walls when we came in here today and we recalled some of those great games and terrific teams here,” said Brunner. “There are some great memories for both of us from our days here and we also know that whenever we come back here to play Bloomfield Tech it’s always going to be a tough game, just like today.”

In Monday’s meeting the pure athleticism of the current Spartans was fully evident, especially in the presence of 6-foot junior Kyle Beckford, who not only produced a game-high 22 points, but included in his arsenal of twisting drives and fast break attacks to the rim an assortment of electrifying slam dunks, including a couple of the whirlwind, tomahawk variety.

“I was asking (BT head coach) Brad Howard if Beckford played football because he could be an NFL defensive back,” said Brunner. “He’s a professional athlete athletically and he’s only going to get better.”

Beckford had eight points as BT outscored the Bengals, 13-10, to take a 25-24 halftime lead, but the Spartans lead evaporated in the third quarter thanks to the work on the boards by the Bengals’ 6-6 senior center Mayowa Akindebe (14 rebounds, 3 assists) and great work by a supporting cast aiding on the glass including the muscular 6-foot, 185-pound Guillaume (7 rebounds) and the athletic 6-3 Robinson (8 rebounds).

“I play football (wide receiver) and I try to translate that athleticism to getting up on the boards as much as possible,” said Robinson, who is a first-year varsity hoopster. “We have good chemistry on this team and we also rebound well as a unit and I think you saw that today.”

Guillaume, who along with Ramos and senior co-captain Kyle Barrow (6 points) also started last year, has become bigger and stronger and is a more versatile performer this season.

“I spent a lot of times on the weights and worked on getting stronger, but also improving my passing and shooting skills,” said the senior backcourt performer who played his first two seasons at Orange before transferring to Bloomfield during his sophomore year. “I just try to do my part, but we have a nice mix of guys, some of whom played last year and others who are new to the varsity and blending in well, which is why I think we’ll be even better as this season goes on.”

BT trailed Bloomfield, 44-43, on a beautiful Beckford floater with 5:43 remaining in the fourth quarter and then tied the contest, 47-all with 4:03 left on a Kyle Chapman bucket.

However, the Bengals then made the big plays down the stretch as Ramos hit a runner to give them the lead for good, 49-47, with 3:27 remaining, and then he hit a pair of free throws after going hard down the lane to make it 51-47 with 1:55 still showing.

BT, which had serious problems hitting perimeter shots against Bloomfield’s very effective and alternating 1-2-2 and 3-2 zone defensive looks, then made a costly errant pass out of bounds with 1:23 left down 4 and the Bengals were ready to seal the deal with a Robinson free throw with 25.8 seconds left.

“Our zone slowed them down a bit and we had to try and prevent any more of those fast break dunks by No. 3 (Beckford) who is just crazy athletic,” said Ramos. “We rebound the ball well as a team and that definitely helps us plus we’ve been in tight games like this a lot together since last year and we’re confident that we can do what we need to do to come out on top.

“We’ve had a couple of very tough losses, like when we played our worst game of the season at Central (61-43, Dec. 21) and then lost a tough one at home against West Orange (62-59, Jan. 9), but if we can come together like we did at the end of the season last year I like our chances to have another good run this time around with this group of players.”

For BT, with its array of athletes, also including 6-1 sophomore Ibn Everett (9 points), the 6-0 junior Chapman and 5-10 junior guard Dashaun Galloway (5 assists, 3 steals), plus the irrepressible and electrifying Beckford, could be a very tough handle for anyone in N2G1 come state tourney time.

“One media outlet said we’re supposed to make it to the Group 1 state final and then lose to Point Pleasant Beach,” said Howard. “We all know how tough it is to get through a state tournament in any season and we’ll just take things one game and one week at a time right now, but I do like the potential of this team and Beckford, who was a forward in middle school and was thrown into action as a guard last year, has really started to become quite a force.

We need to shoot the ball better, but we’ll get better and I know the kids are determined to make this a special season.”

GAME NOTES- One of Howard’s BT assistants this season is former Orange High School and LIU star Robert Cole, who is the team’s jayvee coach plus a varsity assistant. “Robert works in the Essex County school system (as a substitute teacher) and I said to him, ‘Listen, your son (former St. Anthony all-stater RJ) is playing in college now (at Howard University) and, if you want to, we would love to have you come on with us as an assistant coach; and he’s been a great addition,” said Howard. “He brings a lot to the table with his knowledge and experience and it’s great to have him on board this season.”…Among the people in the West Caldwell Center Monday afternoon taking in the SEC hoops action was Caldwell Athletic Director Dan Romano, who used to be the AD at Bloomfield Tech, along with Bloomfield baseball coach Mike Policastro and former, longtime Essex County coach Mike Tierney (Bloomfield and West Essex among his stops as a head coach)…Howard, in his sixth season guiding BT, is a former athletic director at University and still teaches in the Newark public school system….The Spartans lost to Millburn, 46-45, this past Saturday, in a key SEC-Colonial Division showdown in Millburn….BT is scheduled to host Newark Collegiate 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Irvington, 4 p.m. Thursday….Bloomfield’s next game is back in SEC-Liberty action at Newark Tech Thursday at 4….The Bengals lost to Ramapo, 46-43, in this past Sunday’s Dan Finn Classic at the Jersey City Armory.

BLOOMFIELD (9-3) 14 10 18 10 -52

BLOOMFIELD TECH (7-3) 12 13 12 10 -47

Bloomfield: Michael Ramos 5-0-5-15, Richie Guillaume 4-0-3-11, Mayowa Akindebe 2-0-1-5, Kyle Barrow 0-2-0-6, Will Robinson 5-0-3-13, Isiah McCallum 1-0-0-2, Aaron Henry 0-0-0-0, Kevin Mitchell 0-0-0-0, Vinny Torrisi 0-0-0-0. Totals: 17-2-12-52

Bloomfield Tech: Kyle Beckford 11-0-0-22, KyYon Chapman 3-0-2-8, Ibn Everett 4-0-1-9, Tyrese Johnson 0-0-1-1, Dashawn Galloway 0-0-0-0, NyCeir Pettiford 1-0-1-3, Daniel Oravbiere 2-0-0-4. Totals: 21-0-5-47

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Bloomfield's Richie Guillaume (1) looks to gain control of the ball as Bloomfield Tech's Dashawun Gallowy (0) defends in Monday's Super Essex Conference crossover contest.

Bloomfield Tech assistant coaches, including Robert Cole (right) intently take in action on court during Monday's contest against Bloomfield at the West Caldwell Center.

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