ROSELLE – Trying to contain an opponent’s top two players is challenging enough.
Then when another one of its performers comes off the bench and shoots the lights out, well, that makes the mountain even higher and more treacherous to climb.
While Governor Livingston seniors Erin Ferguson and Mallory George played their games in the paint to almost perfection, it was the highly-accurate and effective 3-point shooting of junior Patrice DiTomasso – from the top of the key and from the right side – off the bench that might have taken the steam out of a Hillside team that played its hearts out in trying to keep up with the favored and more experienced Highlanders.
DiTomasso, who came in for starter Sara Dilly when Dilly picked up her second foul in the first quarter, made her first four 3-point attempts, shot 5-for-7 overall from the field and poured in 16 points to help lead third-seeded and defending champion GL to a more-than-convincing 66-54 triumph over 11th-seeded Hillside in Thursday night’s 38th annual Frank J. Cicarell girls’ basketball Union County Tournament quarterfinals on Pat Hagan Court at the Lions’ Den at Roselle Catholic.
Ferguson, who scored the game’s first five points and GL’s first seven, paced the Highlanders – who improved to 18-4 their eighth straight win – in scoring with 21 points.
George, who scored GL’s next eight points to give the Highlanders a quick 15-5 advantage, finished with 18.
Senior guard Alyssa Cranston finished with eight points, while Dilly scored three – all on free throws – late in the fourth quarter. Before Dilly scored her points, GL’s point production came solely from Ferguson, George, DiTomasso and Cranston.
GL led Hillside from start to finish.
Hillside was sparked by the outstanding and gutsy play of the game’s leading scorer – sophomore Yasmine Robinson-Bacote who finished with 27 points – sophomore Afeni Richardson with 14 and senior center Jasmine Lombard who netted six.
While GL moved the ball around with uncanny precision to find Ferguson or George open inside, the Highlanders were able to kick it out to DiTomasso, who had the hot hand from outside.
DiTomasso struck for back-to-back 3s from the top of the key midway through the second quarter to extend GL’s lead to 25-16. Before that, Hillside cut the lead to three when Lombard scored inside after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Getting the ball on the right side this time, DiTomasso let go and connected on her third 3-pointer to make it 28-18.
DiTomasso followed up by making both of her free throw attempts and then in the third quarter nailed her fourth 3 – also from the right side – to make the score 47-31 with 3:47 left before the fourth period.
The only shots DiTomasso missed were her fifth 3-point attempt and a layup. She scored the first points of the fourth quarter inside for her only 2-point field goal.
Despite falling behind by double figures as early as the first quarter, Hillside played hard the entire game and was very representative of one of the top teams in the county.
Robinson-Bacote, who like DiTomasso made all four of her team’s 3-point baskets, Richardson and Lombard had their moments and gave GL fits at times.
Hillside, which came into the game having won 11 of 12, saw its record dip to 14-5. The Comets will next focus on preparing for the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs.
NOTES: GL reached the semifinals for the third year in a row and the Highlanders are now one win away from reaching the championship game for the third straight season.
In Thursday night’s first of two quarterfinals at Rahway, fifth-seeded Linden outlasted 13th-seeded Plainfield 57-50 in overtime to advance to Monday night’s semifinals.
Linden won the overtime period 10-3 and is now one win away from reaching the final for the first time since 1994, which was the last year the Tigers won the tournament.
Linden, which improved to 15-9 and ended up beating Plainfield three times in three tries, tied the game at the fourth quarter buzzer on a layup to force overtime.
Plainfield, which had a 3-20 record as of last week’s seeding meeting, had its first two-game winning streak of the season snapped and fell to 5-21.
UCT GIRLS’ BASKETBALL QUARTERFINALS AT ROSELLE CATHOLIC
11-HILLSIDE (14-5) 11 13 14 16 – 54
3-GOV. LIVINGSTON (18-4) 17 21 15 13 – 66
HILLSIDE COMETS (54):
25-Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, sophomore, 6-4-3-27
32-Tia Cole, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
12-Rha ‘Shanai Cole, senior, 0-0-0-0
35-Jasmine Lombard, senior, 3-0-0-6
21-Afeni Richardson, sophomore, 7-0-0-14
20-Chantel Turner, senior, 2-0-1-5
4-Nia Aponte, freshman, 0-0-0-0
13-Natashia Frazier, senior, 0-0-0-0
10-Destiny Biename, freshman, 0-0-0-0
3-Jasmine Crockett, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Lombard, Richardson, Turner,
Robinson-Bacote, Rha ‘Shanai Cole
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (66):
15-Mallory George, senior, 7-0-4-18
22-Erin Ferguson, senior, 8-0-5-21
5-Marielle Jankowski, senior, 0-0-0-0
10-Alyssa Cranston, senior, 1-0-6-8
23-Patrice DiTomasso, junior, 1-4-2-16
44-Katie Rielly, junior, 0-0-0-0
2-Jenny Pires, junior, 0-0-0-0
24-Lauren DiStaso, junior, 0-0-0-0
13-Haley Berliner, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
21-Sara Dilly, sophomore, 0-0-3-3
12-Lauren Sorrano, freshman, 0-0-0-0
Starters: George, Ferguson,
Jankowski, Cranston, Dilly
CRANFORD, OAK KNOLL CAPTURE NIGHTCAP CLASHES
Second-seeded Cranford held off 10th-seeded Scotch Plains 43-37 at Roselle Catholic, while eighth-seeded Oak Knoll led the entire second half en route to a 49-43 upset of top-seeded Roselle Catholic at Rahway.
The Oak Knoll-Roselle Catholic game was a battle of 19-3 teams playing each other for the first time this season.
Cranford, now 16-7, will next face GL and Oak Knoll, now 20-3, will battle Linden in Monday’s semifinals, scheduled for 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. starts at a site still to be determined.
After being held at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth for some time, the semifinals were at Roselle Catholic from 2006-2010, at Rahway in 2011 and at Johnson in 2012.
In a quarterfinal at Rahway last year, Summit came back in the fourth quarter to oust three-time defending champion Roselle Catholic 34-24 after the Hilltoppers were previously swept by the Lions in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play.
Oak Knoll, which received a game-high 22 points from the program’s all-time leading scorer – Kerri Moran, is one win away from reaching the final for the first time since 1998.
Oak Knoll has never won the UCT.
Cranford, which previously swept Scotch Plains in Watchung Division play, winning by 20 on the road and by 21 at home, had a 10-point halftime lead at 24-14 before Scotch Plains came back to pull to within two at 35-33 with six minutes left.
The Raiders, who fell to 10-13, had a chance to tie the game when they missed a 3-pointer while down 36-33 with 3:45 to go.
Shortly thereafter, with Cranford ahead 39-33, Scotch Plains 1,000 point scorer Taylor Sebolao hit the floor hard on her back and was quickly in pain. The senior, who is her team’s leading scorer, remained on her back on the court for about 10 minutes before she was taken away on a stretcher.
Sebolao was not paralyzed in any way and even gave a smile while she was taken away from the court on her way to an ambulance. Those that were at her immediate aid said Sebolao told them she initially couldn’t move her head forward.
A hard-nosed player and also a tough soccer goalie, Sebolao might have suffered a concussion, but the good news was that she was able to move all of her body parts.
None of the three UCC division winners – Roselle Catholic-Watchung, New Providence-Mountain and Hillside-Valley – reached the semifinals.
New Providence joined Oak Knoll Thursday night as Union County’s first 20-game winners this season. The Pioneers won at Morris County power Chatham 47-43 to improve to 20-3.
Cranford vs. GL might be Union County’s version of Duke vs. North Carolina. The teams will meet for the sixth time in two seasons and could meet again in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.
Cranford swept GL in Watchung Division play this season, winning 37-36 at GL in the season-opener for both back on Dec. 14 and then 35-33 at home on Jan. 17.
In last year’s UCT championship game at Kean, GL defeated Cranford 31-25 to capture its first county crown. Cranford won its lone title in 2006.
“We’re still bitter about that loss,” Cranford senior Jess McCoy said. “It seems like we’ve been rivals forever.
“We’re going to have to match their intensity. Both teams are going to play aggressive.”
The top seeds won the tournament the last three seasons. Oak Knoll became the first team to beat a top seed since eventual champion Roselle Catholic, as the fourth seed, ousted top-seeded Scotch Plains in a 2009 semifinal at RC.
8-Oak Knoll – None.
5-Linden – 3: 1991, 1993, 1994.
3-GL – 1: 2012.
2-Cranford – 1: 2006.