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Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 Columns, Recruiting No Comments

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – In the 15-year history of the Hamilton Park Summer League, St. Anthony’s has captured the title 12 times. Interestingly, one of the seasons they did not was last year, as the Patrick School emerged victorious in the competitive Jersey City-based circuit. Even with St. Anthony’s closing in June the league still had its share of marquee teams.

This season, there were two finalists who had never captured the title, Hudson Catholic and Lincoln, who both hail from Jersey City. In a competitive and entertaining matchup, the Lions upended Hudson Catholic 64-56 in last Wednesday’s final.

The points of emphasis:

A fast start. Lincoln attacked the basket right out of the gate. The Lions played aggressively on offense, sending a message to their highly-regarded opponents that they were in a battle. At halftime Lincoln had a 29-26 lead – a one-possession game. Still, the first half saw Lincoln limit the Hawks to one shot per possession while establishing good ball movement on their own offensive end.

Darby was a difference-maker. A point guard under six feet in height, Donte Darby proved to be a dominant player. The Lincoln junior scored 24 of his team’s 29 first-half points. Darby scored from beyond the arc, on penetrations and a few times off steals. “At the half we were aware he had 24 points,” Lincoln coach Bill Zasowski said of Darby. “We have no egos and that wasn’t a big deal. If you look closer at his play you could see he passed up a few shots to feed teammates in better positions.

DJ Henderson answered the call. In the second half, Hudson was able to get Lincoln out of transition and pay more defensive attention to Darby. During that time Lions senior guard DJ Henderson stepped up, scoring 13 of his 15 points. His contribution came at a most opportune time. “DJ is passionate,” Zasowski said. “His number one concern is winning.”

Weathering the run. All good teams coming from behind have that last big run in them. Early in the fourth quarter, Hudson trailed by 16 before making theirs. The Hawks forced turnovers, utilizing a full-court press that rattled the Lions and created offensive opportunities. With roughly three minutes to go, Hudson threatened to make it a two-possession game. It would get no closer as Lincoln got the much-needed stops and sealed it from the charity stripe.

Donte Darby of Lincoln High School was the MVP of the Hamilton Park Summer League (Ray Floriani photo)

“These kids are winners and do what is needed to win,” Zasowski said. “We trailed Union by 8 in the second half of our semifinal win and I was never worried. We are not a very good free throw shooting team, but when it came time to make free throws to win the game, these kids came through.”

Among those in attendance at the Hamilton Park courts were Dominic Cheek, a former St. Anthony’s star who played at Villanova, and Bilal Dixon, who played at St. Anthony’s before finishing his career at Queen of Peace (North Arlington). Dixon played at Providence and Towson and now coaches Middlesex County College in New Jersey.

Hudson was led by Shackylle Dezonie with 16 points. Jonathan Delgado added 13 and Luther Muhammad scored 11 points, also pulling down five board for the Hawks. Nick Mariniello, like Hurley used to, hands the reigns of summer coaching to his Hudson assistants. Running the team was veteran assistant Derrick Mercer, who starred at St. Anthony’s and American University.

Ed Malloy’s assistance was invaluable. Malloy was a St. Anthony’s assistant who joined the Lincoln staff after the school closed in June. In the St. Anthony’s system coach Bob Hurley let his aides run the summer teams. Malloy teamed with Ben Gamble, now the head coach of NJ power Mater Dei, to lead the Friars to several titles. On the bench Malloy, who learned well under Hurley’s tutelage, has a good feel for the game and is good critiquing and.or encouraging the players. He even ran the Lincoln team a few times if Zasowski was unable to make the game. Without doubt Malloy is a solid addition to the Lincoln program.

Hudson and Lincoln each missed a few key players. “That is the nature of summer ball,” Zasowski said. “Kids might have prior commitments and miss a game or a few. I feel this was big for us and is very special being the first public school team from Jersey City to win the title. We face Hudson in the regular season and since they have won a few recent Hudson county titles, to win that title you must go through them. For us, we have work to do, but this is special and puts us on the map.”

Darby wound up with a game-high 36 points, earning MVP honors. “Colleges are inquiring about Darby,” Zasowski said. “They want to know his numbers and I say forget the stats. What this kid does and how he makes his teammates better cannot be measured.”

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