The Eastfield Harvesters lost to the Brookdale Jersey Blues (N.J.) 61-55 in the 2013 NJCAA Division III Men’s Basketball National Championship on Saturday night.
Eastfield (26-4, 10-2 in Region V) was ranked # 5 in the final national poll. Brookdale (30-1, 18-0 in the Region XIX) was ranked #1.
Prior to the game, Eastfield coach Anthony Fletcher said it would be a heavyweight fight. Fletcher’s team stayed competitive through the 12th round.
“We lost by six,” Fletcher said. “Two baskets. We made it to the national championship; nobody can take that away from us.”
The Eastfield players each earned medals acknowledging their play in the national championship. Harvesters’ forward Mike Love was named a member of the All-Tournament team following the game.
Brookdale forward Joe Nickerson won tournament MVP. He had 21 points and seven rebounds in the game.
Eastfield shot 36.7 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Brock Hunter said officiating affected the team’s play.
“We weren’t focused on the game,” he said. “We were more focused on the refs. Before the game they told the captains they were going to let us play, first possession on defense I got called for a petty foul.”
Eastfield didn’t shoot one free throw in the first half. They finished the game 9-of-13 from the free-throw line. Brookdale finished the game 16-of-30.
The Harvesters were up by two at halftime but began to fall behind in the second half.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Hunter said. “Shots just weren’t falling.”
Eastfield trailed by six with a minute to go but couldn’t make any shots in the final minute.
Fletcher accepted the second place trophy and said this year was a special season.
“This is the best team I’ve ever coached at Eastfield,” Fletcher said. “Some guys coach 60 years and never get a chance to play for a national championship; they gave me that this year.”
Eastfield will have several players sign to higher level schools in May. Others will stay with the Harvesters in hopes of playing in the 2014 championsip.