LINCROFT – They gathered at the edge of the court, shouting, jumping and embracing one another in jubilation.
The Middlesex County College men’s basketball team celebrated their NJCAA Region XIX title victory on Sunday in the same fashion they had played all season – together, like a family.
The Blue Colts stuck together during a hard-fought, back-and-forth game and held on for a 68-67 victory over Union County College at Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College.
MCC’s Deontae Crawford converted and up-and-under move while being fouled to tie the game at 67, then converted the free throw for the margin of victory.
Letrell West, who was named the Tournament MVP, made a game-saving block in the lane in the final seconds.
“I saw him coming down,” West said. “I stepped up. I didn’t want to foul him. He went up and I waited for it and I blocked it. I knew there was 1.3 seconds left, so I knew there was no way they were going to get a shot. So, I knew we won.”
MCC will represent Region XIX in the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Division III National Championship, which begins Thursday, March 14 at the UCR Regional Sports Center in Rochester, Minn.
What made MCC’s victory even more impressive is that it played without starter Dareyus Valencia.
“I am so proud of these players,” Coach David Turco said. “They came up huge, playing without one of our starters all game. I told the guys when we first got together that it was going to come down to everybody in the room was going to responsible for us winning a game this year and thought the other guys filled in remarkably for our missing guy today.”
West finished with a team-high 24 points. Crawford added 14, Alkiem Raines had 12, Cameron Saintil had 10 and Elmer Rivera finished with 8.
Vincent Montgomery, Cheikh Ndiaye and Abdullah Nieskens also contributed to the victory.
Tyheem Bruno led Union County College with 24 points. Jordan Rowley added 14 and Simmons had 10 for the Owls.