Ramapo trying to break its Jambo glass ceiling

Peyton Seals socred a game-high 22 points for Ramapo, which will play Bergen Catholic in the semifinals of the Bergen County Jamboree for the third straight year after a 56-49 win over NV/Demarest.

HACKENSACK – This is the Golden Era of Ramapo basketball no matter what happens in the next couple of weeks. The Raiders are the reigning Group 3 state champion, they are the favorites to repeat and after a 56-49 win over upstart Northern Valley/Demarest in the quarterfinals of the Bergen County Jamboree, they are heading to the Final 4 of that tournament for the fifth time in the last six times that the tournament has been contested.

The resume is stuffed. Ramapo is the best Bergen County public school basketball program of the 2020s, but it wants more.

Each time the Raiders have been to the Jambo semis in the above mentioned stretch and again this year they have run up against Bergen Catholic and every time, with this year still pending, it has been the Crusaders that have gone on the championship game.

Needless to say, Ramapo is a little tired of that trend.

“We are here to win. It is a goal of ours going back to last season, so we are excited to get another shot,” said Ramapo head coach Nick Veir. “There has only been one Ramapo team that has ever been to the final. That was in ’92 with Doug Stokes. I was watching that on YouTube recently. They lost to Bogota and it is a big goal of ours to get back there with this group.”

Demarest is living its own basketball history as it returned to the Jambo quarterfinals for the first time since 1985. The rust showed early as the Norsemen fell behind 17-9 after the first quarter and were doubled up, 36-18, at halftime.

Matt Slowikoski helped Demarest get within double digits in the fourth quarter.

“Our guys weren’t born year and I was nine years old the last time we were here. I don’t want to say we were star struck, but the nerves were there,” said Demarest head coach Pat Gabriele. “Playing Ramapo, as good as they are, I think it took a half for them to realize, ‘We can hang with them.”

It was about midway through the third quarter that Demarest starting ‘hanging with them.’ Wyatt Eglinton-Manner’s layup gave Ramapo a 43-23 lead with 4:36 left in the third quarter, the high-water mark.

“We were up 18 at the half and that gave us the buffer that we wanted. In an early morning game like this it was great to start with energy. Sometimes you can start slow. If we didn’t have a game today I probably would have gotten up about 1 p.m.,” said Eglinton-Manner, the senior who surpassed the 1,000 career point milestone recently. “We set the tone and then it was just holding them off after that, especially in a game like this when it is survive and advance.”

Demarest then scored the final 10 points of the third quarter, the last seven by senior Brandon Srebnik as the Norsemen snuck to with 43-33 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. They are a tough team and they are this far in the tournament for a reason,” said Charlie Wingfield, Ramapo’s junior forward and three-sport athlete who holds 12 Division 1 football offers. “We didn’t play our best in the second half, but we did what we needed to to get it done and get to the semifinals.”

Charlie Wingfield had 5 points for Ramapo, which improved to 15-7 on the season.

Coming from so far back, Demarest needed to be nearly perfect in the fourth quarter to make a run at it and Ramapo left the door open a crack by missing some free throws. The Raiders made just 3 of their first 8 attempts from the line in the final period and Demarest were within double digits at 46-37 after a Zach Schweid bucket on the baseline, 48-40 after a Schweid 3 from the wing, 51-43 on Nick Gorenstein’s 3-pointer with 1:09 left and got as close as 52-46 when Schweid hit a step-back jumper with 35 seconds left, but then Chris Cervino made all four of his free throw attempts inside the final 30 seconds to ice it for Ramapo.

Srebnick (18 points) and Schweid (13 points) each finished in double figures for Demarest, while Gorenstein (8 points) and Matt Slowikowski (5 points) also pitched in. Likewise for Jake Schweid, who made a 3-pointer and Jake Goldenberg, who make a field goal for the Norsemen, who fell to 15-5.

Seals (22 points), Cervino (12) and Eglinton-Manner (12), the three Raiders that have been on the varsity since their freshman seasons, all finished in double digits, while Wingfield and Ryan Goldman split the other 10 points for Ramapo, which improved to 15-7.

Both teams are in the North 1, Group 3 state sectional bracket where Ramapo is the defending champion. If they do meet up again in the postseason, Demarest might be a little bit more seasoned have tasted the big game atmosphere. Ramapo is an old hand at big games as it has scheduled up and taken on many of the state’s top teams to get ready for what they hope is another state tournament run that goes right down to the end.

An extra step in the Jambo would be nice, too.

“Since losing last year and the year before that, this is where we wanted to get back to. This is what we want. We want to play in these types of games and we are preparing for it,” said Seals, the Princeton-bound point guard who will get a third shot and Bergen Catholic in the Jambo semis. “The tough schedule has maybe given us some extra losses, but it has made us better. Through the losses we stick together and we stick to who we are and at the end of the year I think it will have made us better.”