first_img Nationals are next for BCC five By tim morris Staff Writer CHRIS KELLY Brookdale’s Mark Kelly launches a shot during the Jersey Blues’ home win on Sunday. Paul Cisek had a good feeling about his 2002-03 Brookdale Community College basketball team from the start of the season. He liked the sophomore leadership of players like Chris Brown, Dennis DelliSanti and Bobby Varno, and how tight-knit the club was. He also liked the athleticism under the basket that freshman Miguel Rodriguez provided, and the way his team played defense. He also liked the way that everyone was committed to winning and didn’t care about individual stats. In the end, it was all the ingredients for a Region XIX championship team. The Jersey Blues rewarded the confidence that Cisek had in his club by capturing the school’s first-ever Region basketball crown. Brookdale defeated Keystone (Pa.) College, 76-67, on Sunday in Lincroft to advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III championships, set for March 13-15 in Delhi, N.Y. “This is the greatest time I’ve ever had playing basketball,” said Brown, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “The last two games, we’ve been so pumped up. We told ourselves we didn’t want to stop playing. We wanted to take it to the nationals.” To do that, Brookdale (27-4) had to hold off two second-half charges from the defending Region champions from Keystone (20-8) before securing the elusive crown. The first rally, from 17 down, pulled Keystone within 50-48 halfway through the second half. Brown scored on a big put-back that led to a 13-6 surge and a 63-54 lead. Still, the Blues were not out of the woods. The three-point shooting for Jajuan Davis and Darice Venson led to one more comeback. With 1:51 remaining, two free throws from Davis made it 65-63 Brookdale. Mark Kelly then scored on a tough running one-hander off the glass in the lane to build the lead to 67-63. Varno and Kelly would then ice the game from the foul line, building the lead back to nine. “In the beginning of the season we didn’t think we’d ever pull it off,” Brown said. “After our first game with Ocean, I knew we were going to jell. “Defense has been the big key for us,” he added. Defense and rebounding proved to be the difference for Brookdale, as Cisek thought it might, in the final. The Blues were able to overcome an off night, shooting by crashing the offensive boards, led by Rodriguez and Brown, and getting second and third chances. They held Keystone to one-and-done on the defensive end as Rodriguez pulled down every errant shot (he had 18 rebounds for the game). Their team effort on defense held Keystone to just 25 points in the first half, allowing the team to get out to a 36-25 cushion. Varno paced the Jersey Blues with 21 points, followed by MVP Brown, who netted 20. Varno and Brown each nailed three three-pointers. Rodriguez had 14 to go along with his 18 boards, and Kelly netted 14, including a pair of threes. Brookdale won its first Region title the hard way, by having to win four games last week. They were seeded second in the GSAC South Division and had to play on Feb. 24 against seventh-seeded Burlington. Brown had 20 points, Kelvin DeLosAngeles had 18 and Rodriguez had 17 rebounds in a 115-72 romp. Brown scored 25 as Brookdale beat Camden, 90-69, in the South Division semifinals last Wednesday night. Friday night the Jersey Blues won the rubber match against top-seeded Gloucester for the playoff title, and the right to play against the GSAC North champion for the Regional title. Gloucester and Brookdale split their two regular season games with Gloucester, winning the regular season title by one game. All that didn’t matter on Friday as Brookdale’s 85-72 win sent the six-time Region champions packing. Brown (19) and Kelly (18) combined for 37. Brown said the home court proved helpful to Brookdale’s title quest. “The crowds were huge for us,” he said. “It benefited us.” MVP Brown scored 84 points during the tournament, averaging 21 a game. He and Rodriguez were both named to the all-Region XIX and all-GSAC South teams. By tim morrisStaff Writer Nationals are nextfor BCC five last_img

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