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West Caldwell Tech point guard Nasir Rauf looks to work off pick set by teammate Joel DeSuze (13) as Emerson Boro's Jeremy Lachman (2) defends during Thursday's North 1, Group 1 first round action as the Eagles earned 53-45 victory over the Cavos. WCT head coach Robert Cole talks to players during timeout and helping to spark an offensive surge for WCT were the senior teammates Jesus Koudou (0) and Zayd isa (12) who combined for 39 points, including Isa's game-high 22 points while he sank six 3-pointers. (SC photos)

West Caldwell Tech's Isa 3-Point Machine
As Eagles Soar By Emerson Boro In N1G1

By Steve Tober

WEST CALDWELL- Zayd Isa said he has had games like Thursday’s before; however, one has to wonder if he’s ever had an 8-minute stretch of perimeter prowess that he displayed in the third quarter as fifth-seeded West Caldwell Tech stormed back from a dismal stretch in the first half to earn a 53-45 victory over 12th-seeded Emerson Boro in a North 1, Group 1 first round game in the Eagles’ gymnasium.

Isa, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, who finished with a game-high 22 points, sank five of his six 3-pointers in rapid fashion to help West Caldwell Tech (13-12) turn a 24-17 halftime deficit into a 41-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter before nailing the victory against a persistent Cavos squad (11-14).

West Caldwell Tech will move on to meet fourth-seeded Park Ridge in Tuesday’s (Feb. 27) sectional quarterfinals.

While Isa definitely found a comfortable spot on the left wing just beyond the 3-point arc to launch his accurate string of ‘tri-fectas,’ it was the overall energy the Eagles displayed in the second half that served as the most encouragement to sixth-year head coach Robert Cole.

“We came out with a lot more passion in the third quarter, like we really wanted to win this game, which was not the case in the second quarter,” said Cole, the former Orange High School standout guard. “Isa has shot like that before, but it’s been a while; however, we all need to come out there from the start with passion if we’re going to make some real noise in this tournament.

“We know what we’re capable of, but you have to do it for an entire game.”

What concerned West Caldwell Tech supporters the most was the second quarter of Thursday’s game when their Eagles failed to hit a field goal and had just a Jesus Koudou free throw as they were outscored, 15-1, by their Bergen County opponent which saw all five of their starters score at least one basket in the stanza to turn a 16-9 first quarter deficit into a 24-17 halftime lead.

“We weren’t playing with the type of energy we have to have, especially in a must game like this, and we let them make too many shots,” said Koudou, an athletic 6-2 senior forward who scored 17 points and hauled down 6 rebounds. “Fortunately, Zayd got red-hot in the third quarter and that helped re-energize us in a big way.”

When Isa connected on his first of five third-quarter 3’s 50 seconds into the third quarter, it was the first points from the field in more than eight minutes of action for the Eagles, and after a Koudou jumper, Isa connected again from the left side go give his team a 25-24 lead, and while the Cavos would hang close, the Eagles started to seal the deal with 3:29 remaining when junior Joel DeSuze (12 points, 9 rebounds) scored inside off a nice feed from Koudou for a 43-38 lead which was the closest Emerson Boro would get the rest of the way.

The Cavos, who compete during the season in the New Jesey Interscholastic League’s Patriot Division, were led by senior guard Jeremy Lachman, who sank a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 17 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.

However, there was no one on the floor on Thursday with the hot shooting streak put together by Isa, who would certainly like to take his hot touch into Tuesday’s sectional quarters.

“I got into a rhythm and I could feel that my shot was definitely on, which always feels good,” said the veteran Eagles guard. “I’ve made 3’s like that before, but it’s probably been some time now and I’ll keep shooting in practice and hope that I have that touch from the outside again in our next game.”                   

NOTES- Emerson Boro is coached by John Ziemba, who won more than 300 games during his coaching reign at Fort Lee, and continues to do a solid job with the Cavos. His son Jason, who finished with 5 points on Thursday, is a starting guard on the team…West Caldwell Tech junior point guard Nasir Rauf had a solid floor game despite not scoring with strong defense to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists…Among the coaches on hand watching the action at West Caldwell Tech Thursday was West Essex’x Bill Humes, who is a good friend of Ziemba’s, and John McCarthy, who helped in the coaching department at Montclair State where Ziemba was once a standout collegian guard…Helping keep things running smoothly at the scorer’s table in the West Caldwell Tech gym is Anne Lauterhahn, the former Immaculate Conception standout guard, and former coach, who is a special education teacher at WCT…The Eagles won two games in last year’s N1G1 tourney, defeating both New Milford and Hasbrouck Heights before falling to Cresskill in the sectional semifinals.  

North 1, Group 1 state tournament first round:
(12) EMERSON BORO (11-14)               9        15      12       9    -45
(5) WEST CALDWELL TECH (13-12) 16         1       24     12    -53

Emerson Boro: Jeremy Lachman 3-3-2-17, Michael Dillon 2-0-1-5, Matt Sabatella 2-0-2-6, John Piccirillo 6-0-0-12, Jason Ziemba 1-1-0-5, Michael Graf 0-0-0-0. Totals: 14-4-5-45

West Caldwell Tech: Jesus Koudou 6-0-5-17, Joel DeSuze 3-0-6-12, Naquan Copeland 1-0-0-2, Zayd Isa 2-6-0-22, Nasir Rauf 0-0-0-0, Nasir Baskerville 0-0-0-0, Michael Benfante 0-0-0-0, Mahki Moultrie 0-0-0-0. Totals: 12-6-11-53 

North 1, Group 1 state tournament:
First Round, Thursday, Feb. 22:
(1) Paterson Charter 69 (16) Bogota 46
(9) Mountain Lakes 69 (8) Passaic Charter 63
(5) West Caldwell Tech 53 (12) Emerson Boro 45
(4) Park Ridge 52 (13) Boonton 36
(3) New Milford 47 (14) Hasbrouck Heights 44
(6) Waldwick 44 (11) Hawthorne 42
(10) Kinnelon 52 (7) North Warren 42
(2) Cresskill 77 (15) Midland Park 41

Sectional Quarterfinals, Tuesday, Feb.27:
Mountain Lakes at Paterson Charter
West Caldwell Tech at Park Ridge
Waldwick at New Milford
Kinnelon at Cresskill

Sectional semifinals, Thursday, Feb.29; sectional final, Saturday, March 2, at higher seed

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West Caldwell Tech's Nasir Rauf (3) goes on the drive as Emerson Boro's Michael Dillon (21) defends during Thursday's N1G1 action. In bottom photo, from left, Emerson Boro's Jason Ziemba (1), Dillon and the Eagles' Joel DeSuze watch as a loose ball hits the floor.

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