Battle of the Boulevard


Photo of Zaire Jefferson from home-opening game against Farmingdale State. Credit: NJCU Athletic Communications.

Charles Villanueva, Contributing Writer

The wait is finally over: the Gothic Knights have returned.

In early November, the men’s basketball team had an exhibition game against Saint Peter’s University (SPU). An exhibition serves as a warm-up for the season in the realm of colligate sports.

NJCU and SPU are less than 2 miles apart on Kennedy Boulevard, which is why the annual matchup between the schools is called the “Battle of the Boulevard.” The game hadn’t happened, however, since 2019.

The game provided an opportunity for the community surrounding both programs to observe local talent. The match-up is especially great for NJCU, given the fact that this is an opportunity to spotlight their talent against a bigger school. NJCU is seeking to build on its great season last year by channeling the same spirit and collaboration into this year’s campaign.

NJCU started the game hot, with excellent possessions on both sides of the ball. They traded blows with SPU for the majority of the first half. Going into halftime, the Gothic Knights were down three points, the score was 43-40. The strong play in the first half showed glimpses of last season’s success.

SPU went on a scoring spree to begin the second half. They won the game thanks to the strong second-half start. The game ended with a 90-66 score. Despite the loss, NJCU fans were encouraged by their team’s performance throughout the game.

Not being able to participate because of an injury, freshman guard Zaire Jefferson said, “It’s tough to sit games out but I was happy to be with the team.” He also said, “It felt good to be in that atmosphere again, it felt good to see the fans in the stands.” When asked about his enthusiasm for the season, he stated, “I’m excited; we are all eager to play together and have fun.”

Up next for the Gothic Knights was a match-up against Alvernia University, where the score was 60-70. The match-up took place as a part of the USJ Tip-off tournament. The tournament marked the start of a string of competitive matches for the Gothic Knights. Aside from their conference schedule, NJCU will try to win some games against non-conference opponents.

When asked about the upcoming schedule, Zaire said “As a whole, we are ready to show teams what we got. Some games will be more difficult than others, but that is part of the fun of competing.”

Basketball season elicits a great deal of excitement at NJCU. Both the men’s and women’s teams have created a tremendous amount of buzz within the last couple of years. Basketball represents a ray of hope, a deviation from the norm. Because the basketball season was cut short last year, this year’s season is extra special, and the entire community has been looking forward to it.