Woodbury earns Group 1 state basketball title

Woodbury players celebrate their Group 1 state final win over Cresskill, 60-58

It was no secret play.

It was no surprise design.

It was no Woodbury special.

It was Aaron Estrada, with the basketball in his hands and the state championship game on the line.

“Everybody knew he was getting the ball,” Woodbury coach Mark DiRugeris said.

Estrada went hard to the basket, drew a foul and made both free throws with 0:04.2 seconds remaining to lift Woodbury to a 60-58 victory over Cresskill in the Group 1 state final Sunday night at Rutgers Athletic Center.

“When I was on the foul line, I was focusing on the basket really,” Estrada said. “I knew I had to make them.”

The victory secured the first basketball state title in Woodbury history.

It also propelled the Thundering Herd (21-11) into the Tournament of Champions, where they will face Group 4 state champion Shawnee in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals at Toms River North.

Estrada finished with 23 points and junior guard JayShawn Harvey added 15 for Woodbury, which was the third seed in the South Jersey Group 1 tournament.

Woodbury escaped a second-round game vs. Haddon Township by the margin of a missed free throw with 2.7 seconds left, and the Thundering Herd was trailing after three quarters in its next two games on the road against higher seeded Penns Grove and Glassboro.

“We talked all year about staying locked in,” DiRugeris said. “Just keep playing.”

Woodbury rallied from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter against North Jersey champion Cresskill (29-3).

The 6-foot-4 Estrada, a clever left-hander, led the way. His steal and three-point play cut Cresskill’s lead to 54-51 with 4:54 to play.

His baseline drive gave Woodbury its first lead since the start of the second half with 1:30 left.

And his free throws sealed the deal, popping the cork on a wild celebration for a team with a first-year coach and four juniors in the starting lineup.

“Phenomenal,” DiRugeris said of Estrada. “Not only his play but also his leadership. He’s getting his teammates involved.”

In the end, Estrada took the ball to the basket, drew contact, converted the foul shots and secured the first state title in the long history of Woodbury basketball.

“The last play, everybody knew I was going to get the ball,” Estrada said. “Coach told me to be aggressive and get to the basket. That’s what I did.”

 

Cresskill 12 18 19 9 – 58

Woodbury 15 16 10 19 – 60

C: Mike Ferrara 12, Wellington Ventura 6, Luka Radovich 14, Harrison Lucibero 14, George Sikoryak 5, Ben Green 2.

W: JayShawn Harvey 15, Marcus McGruder 9, Aaron Estrada 23, TJ Carter 5, Hakim Thomas 2, Andre Parker 6.