Coach Lorenzo Williams and his American History Bald Eagles have emerged as a state-ranked team and also one to watch in upcoming Group 1 state tournament. The Newark school is also attempting to make a run in 73rd Essex County Tournament and had to battle hard against a Brick City neighbor University in order to win in Saturday’s first round game and advance into quarters. (photos are courtesy of AH)
American History Reaches ECT Quarters
|By Jason Bernstein
NEWARK – For more than a month now American History has enjoyed the acclaim and attention that comes with being state-ranked team and being viewed as the favorite to win a Group 1 title. But as the Bald Eagles were rudely reminded in the first half of their Essex County Tournament opener, such praise is accompanied with a giant target, especially when its a neighborhood rival on the court.
Fortunately for them, such a valuable lesson was understood early enough for the Bald Eagles to rally from an eight-point deficit at halftime and eventually pull away late for a hard-fought 61-55 victory over 12th-seeded University at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center.
With the win, American History advances to the quarterfinals for the second time in program history as it will face fourth-seeded Seton Hall Prep next Saturday.
We’ve trying to tell these guys about how we went from the guys hunting to be recognized. And now that we’ve become recognized, now we have become the hunted,” said American History coach Lorenzo Williams. “We talk to these guys about playing with a target on your back every day, playing through any adversity and (when it’s) an inner-city rivalry game, it gets tough.”
“Before the season, we were the hunters. We were the ones who were going out there trying to get some type of recognition. We wanted to beat the ones at the top,” said senior guard Papie Roberts. “Now we’re in the Top 20 and people are looking to beat us. We can’t go out here and take any game easy, we have to go out here and play.”
Roberts, who finished with a game-high 21 points, scored seven of them in the final 2:43, starting with two free throws that evened the scored at 51-all. Then, after a Phoenix turnover, Roberts scored on an and-one, to give American History the lead for good at 54-51.
Emmanuel Bell made the first of two free throws, with teammate Sean Bell grabbing a critical offensive rebound on the miss and converting the put-back to make it 57-51. From there, the Bald Eagles never let the lead slip below four points with Roberts adding two points, a rebound and an assist in the final 1:13.
“I had a little problem with my eye, but coach told me it was three minutes left in the game and he needed me. I had to get back in the game and I had to lead my team to a win,” said Roberts. “This is my senior year, this is going to be my last county games so I gotta leave it all out there on the floor.”
Roberts was a freshman and one of the key contributors on American History’s only other quarterfinal appearance. He along with then backcourt mate Dashawn Latham (now at West Side) transferred to St. Mary’s of Elizabeth, but Roberts returned to American History before his senior season, to bring the Bald Eagles back to the quarterfinals.
An expected return trip to the quarterfinals seemed to be in great peril during the second quarter. American History held a 23-15 lead early in the period thanks in large part to three Tye Artis 3-pointers. But University came roaring back, especially on the defensive end of the floor. As a team, the Phoenix forced four turnovers and dominated in transition during a 19-5 run to close out the half. Senior D’Andre Collins scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the near-seven minute stretch.
“It was a rude awakening,” said Artis, who finished with 18 points and made five 3-pointers. “We thought that we could just beat them in the first quarter, but they came out with intensity and they brought it to us. We had to just stay strong.”
NOTES: Emmanuel Bell, who sat out the first half for what Williams termed “disciplinary reasons,” had eight points and seven rebounds in the second half to boost a Bald Eagles squad, which also got eight points and seven rebounds from Jasim Kelly, as well as nine rebounds from Sean Bell… University’s got positive contribution from sophomores Jaizon Bennett (eight points, seven assists and six steals) and Justin Harcourt (11 points, 6 rebounds)… Free throw shooting woes haunted the Phoenix in a big way as they went just 18-of-36 from the line and missed their last seven attempts… American History meanwhile sunk 11-of-14 foul shots in the fourth quarter… University and American History could very well meet again in the North 2, Group 1 semifinals… American History, the section’s top seed, is the favorite to win its first section title, with second-seeded New Providence, fourth-seeded University and fifth-seeded Hoboken among the top challengers.
UNIVERSITY (14-5) 15 21 7 12 – 55
AMERICAN HISTORY (16-4) 19 9 14 19 – 61
University: Tasheem Anderson 1-0-3-5, Taysir Hall 0-2-0-6, Jaizon Bennett 3-0-2-8, D’Andre Collins 4-0-8-16, Justin Harcourt 3-1-2-11, Dakari Ervin 0-0-1-1, Isaiah Davis 1-0-0-2, Tristin Harcourt 0-0-0-0-0, Bakir Cleveland 2-0-0-4, Noah Mack 0-0-2-2. Total: 14-3-18-55.
American History: Tye Artis 1-5-1-18, Shakkon Cummings 0-0-0-0, Sean Bell 1-0-2-4, Jasim Kelly 4-0-0-8, Papie Robers 4-1-10-21, Emmanuel Bell 2-0-4-8, Janaie Coates 1-0-0-2, Nasseem Cheek 0-0-0-0. Total: 13-6-17-61.
Follow Jason Bernstein on Twitter @JBernsteinHS
American History senior guard Papie Roberts scored 21 points in Saturday’s 61-55 ECT win vs. University as the Bald Eagles now advance into the Feb. 16th quarterfinals at Seton Hall Prep.
Coach Lorenzo Williams (standing, right) has liked most of what he has seen from his American History Bald Eagles so far through the first 20 games of a still evolving 2018-2019 campaign.