by Andrew Garda
GLADSTONE—Every season comes to an end, very few of which feel good. Monday, March 4, brought a bitter end to Immaculate Conception’s 2018-19 boys basketball season as the No. 6-seeded Lions were dominated by No. 2-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s by a score of 75-57.
Things started out ugly for the Lions, as they were only able to score 10 points in the first quarter, while allowing 21 by the Knights. IC went 4-for-11 from the floor and struggled to put together a cohesive rhythm on offense, while simultaneously struggling to contain the potent Bernard’s shooters.
“When you can’t score and they can score, this is the outcome,” head coach Jimmy Salmon said.
Five Knights found the basket in the first quarter, and if one became the focal point of Immaculate’s defense, someone else would step up.
The Lions rebounded in the second quarter, doing a better job of slowing down Gill St. Bernard’s and scoring themselves. IC outscored the Knights 15-13 at the end of the first half, and went into the locker-room down 34-25.
For a team like Immaculate, nine points isn’t close to insurmountable, if they hit their shots. While they definitely appeared frustrated at the half, the game was still very much anyone’s to win.
Then the Knights kicked off the second half with a 8-0 run over the first four minutes of the second quarter and Immaculate watched as the game began to slip away.
The most frustrating thing about the third quarter wasn’t being outscored 23-9, though that can’t have felt good, but how often the Knights left themselves vulnerable to a comeback with some sloppy play, especially in that first four minutes.
It was clear Gill St. Bernard’s felt the game was theirs, and while they were definitely trying to pile on the points, they made numerous sloppy passes that resulted in turnovers, missed layups they should have scored easily on and let the Lions have too many open shots.
Unfortunately for Immaculate, they could never take advantage.
The Knights removed Elijah Hutchins-Everett from the offense in the second half, after he scored nine points in the first two quarters. Hutchins-Everett, who holds offers from both Rutgers and Seton Hall, ended with just 15 on the night. Zion Bethea had scored in double-digits in all but three of the preceding 29 games, but was held to just five Monday night, and 10 of Nick Jourdain’s 12 fourth quarter points came on dunks which happened long after the game was over.
With the big three contained, the Lions needed someone else to step up, but nobody did.
While the Lions had just two players score 10 points or more, the Knights had five do so, with Rutgers commit Paul Mulcahy scoring 20 and Zach Martini — who was often matched up with Hutchins-Everett and won many of those battles — just behind him with 18.
While Salmon was disappointed with the end to the season, he was proud with how his players fought. He also had high praise for what senior Jourdain had achieved.
“Nick was one of the most improved players in the state,” Salmon said. “He’s got a few Division-1 offers, so we’re happy about that.”
Jourdain is the only senior Immaculate and Salmon will be losing at the end of this school year, and if nothing else his very young squad gained a lot of key experience this season.
As always, the offseason for Prep basketball can be filled with schools recruiting players from other schools, so Salmon never knows what he’ll have to work with, but he hopes to have his core group back.
“Nowadays you don’t know who’s coming back, you don’t know any of that stuff,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll know before we get into the summer, who we’re going to have so we know what we’re going to do.”
If Salmon gets everyone back, the Lions will have a lot to look forward to in building off a 20-10 season which saw them in the Essex County Tournament final for the second year in a row, and making a solid run in the NJSIAA State Tournament as well.