Hudson Catholic began the game as the consensus No. 1 team in New Jersey, but it took just a few minutes of game time for it to offer the suggestion that perhaps anyone with a poll at his disposal may be grossly underestimating the Hawks.
"We're No. 1 in the county," declared senior forward Louis King. "We've been playing (together) since we were kids. Our talent and our chemistry is there."
The chemistry was so strong for the Hawks in those initial minutes that they practically burned holes through the floor at the Caldwell University Newman Center.
With the 6-8 King spearheading the charge with both his shooting range and skywalking ability, top-ranked Hudson Catholic poured in the game's first 19 points in a 4:09 stretch en route to an 82-55 victory over No. 16 Pope John at The Hoop Group Tip-Off Showcase Saturday evening .
The Oregon-bound King erupted with 10 of his team's first 14 points and he finished with a team-high 19 to garner his team's MVP honors and help Hudson Catholic make an opening-game statement that could possibly enhance its national status. MaxPreps tabbed it as the No. 4 team nationally in its preseason poll, while USA Today has the Hawks at No. 8 in the current Super 25 Expert Rankings.
If not, Hudson Catholic will get an opportunity to prove itself further when it plays this week in the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.
"If everyone says we're the No. 1 team in the country, then I'm gonna go with it," said senior guard Luther Muhammad. The Ohio State commit scored five points in that explosive first quarter and he closed with 15. Senior swing Shackylle Dezonie connected for 11 points and senior guard Will Brown added nine.
"I just focus on winning," Muhammad said. "Jahvon (Quinerly), Louis, Schack, Will, Precious (Ikediaschi), Danny (Rodriguez), everyone holds each other accountable and we keep our heads level. Everyone keeps each other level-headed."
Well, the rim is generally pretty level, so King must have just been checking for sure when he climbed high above it three times in that stunning first quarter to push the Hawks to a 25-3 lead.
He opened the game with a 3-pointer from the right wing and sank another two minutes later from the left corner for a 10-0 lead. He then made even bigger splashes with his three thunderous dunks for that quarrter--an alley oop from Quinerly for a 12-0 lead, the next on a pass from Muhammad off a steal to make it 14-0, and again from Quinerly with 1:17 to go in the frame to make it 23-2. Pope John's only bucket to that point came on a goaltending violation by King.
"We came out and we were ready for them," King said. "We were speaking on defense, we were speaking on offense. We got the ball out in transition, we got layups after layups. "
It seemed that all Hawks other than Quinerly took an active role in that layup parade. He did hit one off a steal just under two minutes for a 7-0 lead, but the senior would not score for the remainder of the game.
That's worth pointing out because it adds just a little more texture to the extent of this rout. Quinerly averaged 20.3 points per game last year on his way to First Team All-State recognition and high consideration for Player of the Year. He was one of the more feared scorers is New Jersey.
Yet he was tied for ninth on his team in scoring in the first game of the season, and still it won by cool 27 points against a very talented squad. Quinerly attempted only two other shots after that first layup, because running the floor was far more important on this night than looking for his share of points.
"Without his scoring, we're still playing," King said. "He's still going to play his role, eyes open."
Senior guard Aaron Clark garnered MVP honors for Pope John with a game-high 25 points, of which 17 came in the final quarter. He was held scoreless in the first quarter and finished the half with four points with Muhammad guarding him, and the rest of the Hudson Catholic team also exerting a great deal of energy on defense.
"We just want to send a statement to everyone in the state that this year Hudson Catholic is coming out with energy every game," Muhammad said. "We’re approaching every game like it's the T of C championship."
Pope John (0-1) 3--9--16--27---55
Hudson Cath (1-0) 25-15-19--23--82
Eddie Davis 3-1-2-11, Gavin Flowers 1-0-0-2, Francisco Davlino 0-0-5-5, Aaron Clarke 6-1-10-25, Tahji Hooks 1-0-4-6, Diandre South 1-0-0-2, John Grinthal 0-0-0-0, Mike Pawko 0-0-0-0, David Taylor 1-0-2-4
Louis King 5-3-0-19, Schackylle Dezonie 3-1-2-11, Jahvon Quinerly 1-0-0-2, Luther Muhammad 1-2-7-15, Daniel Rodriguez 2-0-0-4, Precious Ikediaschi 1-0-2-4, Will Brown 2-1-2-9, Shane Dezonie1-0-4-6, Amare Marshall 3-0-1-7, Jonathan Delgado 0-0-0-0, Tristian Jeffries 0-0-1-1, Dkari Ervin 1-0-0-2, Jaden Quinerly 1-0-0-2
Also at the Tip-Off Showcse:
Rutgers Prep 68, Union Catholic 65: Junior guard Jonah Charles struck for 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the 13th-ranked Argonauts rallied from a 53-40 deficit in the nightcap at Caldwell University. Charles hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the quarter to fuel a 13-3 run, and he later gave Rutgers Prep the lead for good, 64-62, off dribble penetration with 1:32 remaining.
That provided a satisfying but scary beginning for the Argonauts' first-year head coach Matt Bloom. His young team--with two freshmen and a sophomore in starting roles--had shot poorly from the floor in the first half as it fell behind, 35-28. Rutgers Prep then fell victim to Union Catholic's nagging ball pressure in the third quarter as the Viking's built a double-digit lead.
"The hardest thing was convincing them they could still win," Bloom said. "They really thought they were going to lose this game. The young kids just didn't have the confidence after falling behind. "
Junior guard Nashon Battle scored 17 points and took down 15 rebounds to earn MVP honors for Rutgers Prep. Senior Nate Lyles chipped in with 14 points and surprising freshman Trey Patterson finished with 10 points and nine rebounds to help in the victory.
Junior guard Jaheim Tanklsey scored 17 points (14 in the first half), senior guard Rob Miller had 16 and senior forward Ibn Lynn contributed 15 points and nine rebounds to snap up MVP acclaim for 19th-ranked Union Catholic.
Justin Archer pulled the Vikings to within 64-63 when he hit one of two free throws with 36 seconds remaining. Kalen Oweh rebounded Archer's second attempt, was quickly fouled and then sank both ends of a one-and-one for a 66-63 lead. Miller brought Union Catholic to within 66-65 with a pair of free throws with 17.9 seconds to go, but Charles sealed it with a layup off a turnover with 6.7 seconds left.
St. Benedict's Prep 63, Our Savior New American 52: Junior forward Lester Quinones knocked down five 3-pointers and closed with a game-high 22 points to pace the Gray Bees (6-0) in Caldwell. He netted 18 points and senior teammate Solueymane Diakite had seven of his 11 in the second half when St. Benedict's erased a 32-29 deficit.
Blair 69, Christian Brothers Academy 50: Keenan Worhtington and Gabriel Ravetz paced a balanced effort for Blair (8-1) with 14 points each in Caldwell. The 6-7 Worthington also pulled down 10 rebounds to pick up MVP honors for the Bucs. Junior forward Josh Cobb scored 18 points and collected eight rebounds to earn MVP recognition for CBA (0-1).
Junior guard Stephen Brauenstein scored 17 points while junior guard Liam Kennedy compiled seven assists for CBA. Blair constructed a 37-27 lead in the opening half behind 10 points from Ravetz and six from Worthington.