GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Richard Stockton College men’s basketball team is involved in a down-to-the-wire race for the top seed in the upcoming New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament.

The Ospreys (16-4, overall 10-3 NJAC) maintained a hold on second place in the conference standings Thursday with a 65-49 victory over New Jersey City University.

They trail Rutgers-Newark by one game in the loss column and are one game ahead of Ramapo with five regular-season conference games remaining.

“We’re at the point of the season now where we need every game,” Ospreys coach Gerry Matthews said. “We’ve got a NBA schedule coming up (with four games in the next seven days), and we have to stay strong. We’ve been talking to the players about not giving in. This is still a league where if the teams are evenly matched, the team that plays the hardest is going to win.”

The Ospreys played very hard against New Jersey City (10-10, 6-8 NJAC), using long-distance shooting and aggressive defense to steadily pull away for a comfortable win.

Junior forward James Williams, a graduate of Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood who is in his first season with the Ospreys, came off the bench to score a game-high 15 points. All 15 points came in the first half, when the Ospreys broke open a close contest to take a 37-26 halftime lead.

“I tend to score in spurts,” said Williams, who spent his first two college seasons at Montclair. “Once I hit that first shot, I seem to get into a rhythm. But I’m willing to do whatever I can to bring energy to the team.”

When Williams cooled off in the second half, junior forward Josh Blaman (Cinnaminson) heated up.

The Cinnaminson High School graduate scored all 13 of his points in the second half to prevent the Gothic Knights from mounting a comeback. Senior guard Rameel Johnson (Newark) grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

Khalid Muhammad led Jersey City with 14 points and seven rebounds. Walik Albright added 13 points.

The Ospreys return to action on Saturday by hosting Montclair at 3 p.m. They are home against Kean on Monday, play at Rutgers-Camden Wednesday, return home to play Ramapo next Saturday and close the regular season at Rowan on Feb. 19.

They are attempting to win their first NJAC championship since 2008-09 and reach the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 2009-10 under Matthews, who earned his 550th victory Thursday.

“Obviously, we’re not a bad team,” Matthews said. “How good we are remains to be seen. We just have to keep playing hard, and we’ll see where we stand at the end.”

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I've worked at newspapers since 1985. Mostly in N.J., but with an eight-year pit stop in N.C. I've been at The Press since 1997.