Tommy Rosario stared into the and saw 800 strong cheering him and his teammates Friday night, a rare time fans filled both sides of the Belleville High School gymnasium.
Ultimately, it provided the Buccaneers' star senior forward and everyone in home white a most memorable night. Although much of the crowd came to support the Pink Out which benefited Belleville native Lindsay Giordano, who is battling breast cancer, they ultimately enjoyed the thrill ride their hometown team took them on across 36 minutes of a 51-45 overtime victory over neighboring rival Nutley.
“That was really fun,” Rosario said. “The first quarter, I was frozen. But after that, everyone played their game.”
Before the largest home crowd in recent memory, the Buccaneers (14-7) pulled within one win of tying their school record of 15 victories set in 1987-88. To climb closer to history, Belleville overcame a 10-4 deficit after one quarter and trailed 23-14 at halftime before Keith Everett scored all nine of his points by burying three third-quarter, three-pointers to stake the home squad to a 36-35 lead.
“The crowd got us into the game,” senior forward Julian Rodriguez said.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter left the teams tied at 43-all after Rodriguez' lay-up with 1:28 remaining, Rosario and Rodriguez combined for seven points in extra time before Shaq Richards' free throw in the final seconds iced the Buccaneers' latest victory before a boisterous cheering section.
As has become customary across one of the best seasons in Belleville High School boys basketball history, the duo of Rosario (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Rodriguez (13 points, 13 boards) dominated down low – which proved more than enough to offset Nutley's balanced attack led by Jon Russo's 11 tallies.
The Buccaneers could tie their school record for victories Tuesday when they travel to Glen Ridge for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
BHS Girls Bow to Nutley
The Belleville girls basketball team also played before a large crowd Friday evening, with most of one side of the gymnasium filled with fans. After hanging around early, the Bucs dropped a 61-42 decision in the Pink Out's opening game.
Belleville (5-16) led 11-9 about halfway through the first quarter before Nutley (17-5) reeled off 12 of the next 14 points to claim a 21-3 lead after eight minutes, effectively seizing control of the contest though the Bucs pulled within 33-25 at intermission.
Sade Morales led Belleville with 13 points and also grabbed eight rebounds, while Chassity Sousa's double-double included 12 tallies and 12 boards.
For Nutley, the trio of Eileen Purcell (22 points), Jaimie Towey (19), and Tonianne DeMatteo (18) combined for all but two of the Maroon Raiders' points.