By Phil Anastasia
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- This was the Pitman team that won all those games on paper before the start of the season.
This was the Pitman team that meshed all its parts, that played loose and free, that embraced all those lofty expectations.
"We fought through a lot of adversity to get here," senior guard Darnell Foreman said after the Pitman beat Bloomfield Tech 59-48 in the Group 1 state championship game Sunday night at Rutgers University.
Foreman scored 16 of his 18 in the second half and junior forward Tim Delaney generated 20 points with seven rebounds for Pitman (25-7).
Senior swingman Eric Stafford added nine points with 12 rebounds for Pitman, which won its third state title and first since back-to-back crowns in 1997-98.
"It's amazing," Stafford said. "It's so special at a place like Pitman, such a small town. You know everybody in the stands."
The victory was the culmination of a remarkable tournament run in which the Panthers seemed to shake off an up-and-down regular season and play to their full potential.
With Delaney patrolling the paint, Stafford working his all-around act and Foreman controlling games with his creative play off the dribble, Pitman rolled through the South Jersey Group 1 tournament, stunned defending state champion Point Pleasant Beach in the state semifinals and dominated the second half against Bloomfield Tech.
"We struggled a little bit with expectations," Pitman coach Kevin Crawford said. "We struggled a little bit with injuries. We struggled a little bit with close games.
"But this was our goal at the beginning of the season and we accomplished our goal."
The victory popped the cork on a wild celebration, as Pitman players raced into the stands to join with the school's orange-clad student section.
Pitman is the first South Jersey team to win a Group 1 state title since Burlington City in 2002. Pitman also is the first Tri-County Conference team to win a state title since the 1998 Pitman team, which also beat Bloomfield Tech in the championship game.
"The goal of a Group 1 team is to win a state title," said Crawford, whose team will be the No. 5 seed and face Group 4 state champion Linden in the Tournament of Champions quarerfinals onTuesday night at Toms River North.
Pitman broke the game open in the second half as Foreman kept slashing to the rim, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates.
At the defensive end, Pitman played a match-up zone with a mix of man-to-man to limit Bloomfield Tech's open looks.
"We felt like if we could get back on defense, we could hold them under 40," Crawford said. "They are so good in the open court."
Delaney set Pitman on its way with a strong first half. Foreman opened the second half with a pair of traditional three-point plays as the Panthers turned a 22-20 edge into a 30-20 lead.
"He is exactly what they need to drive their ship," Bloomfield Tech coach Brad Howard said of Foreman. "He was the catalyst."
Senior forward Tyler Wisniewski added 10 points, including a key three-point jumper early in the third quarter, for Pitman.
The Panthers seized irrefutable command early in the fourth as Delaney scored on a two-handed slam off a feed from Matt Spicer, and Foreman added four points on a driving layup and a pair of free throws.
"I just needed to settle down," Foreman said of his play after halftime.
Bloomfield Tech 3 17 5 23 -- 48
Pitman 10 12 15 22 -- 59
BT: David Lunsford 2, Dachon Burke 15, Salomon Pierre 8, Ram Dixon-Conover 8, Mar Bullock-Harris 3, Devin Jones 12.
P: Tyler Wisniewski 10, Tim Delaney 20, Darnell Foreman 18, Eric Stafford 9, Michael Gibson 2.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com
-- Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter