UNION – Union missed its first seven shots.
However, the host Farmers led visiting Montclair by the scoreboard-breaking – nod, nod, wink, wink – account of 6-3 following the first eight minutes of the season.
Welcome to Opening Night boys’ basketball.
Friday night’s back-and-forth affair of not-so-pretty-to-see-hoops, initially, saw Union take control in the fourth quarter en route to a 49-36 triumph over Montclair at Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
Union was led by senior Tevin Service, who poured in a game-high 21 points. Montclair was paced by junior Tahlik Summers, who scored 11 of his team-high 14 points in the second half.
“We just had to stay together and remain focused,” said Service, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Union, which took the lead for good early in the third quarter when Service made the first of his two 3-pointers, connected on eight of 12 foul shots in the final eight minutes.
Union led 16-14 at the half and then 29-26 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t into it in the beginning of the game,” Service said. “We played much better in the second half and kept it up on defense.”
Union made only six of 22 shots in the first half. Montclair was not much better at five-for-21.
“It was, obviously, a sloppy game,” said fourth-year Union head coach Kevin Feeley. “The kids were nervous and excited.
“I thought the second half was much better. We were making the simple plays instead of trying to make the great ones.”
Montclair took its second lead at 9-8 on a layup by junior Isaiah Rodriguez. Union then went on an 8-0 run to jump ahead 16-9 before Montclair closed the first half with a 5-0 surge of its own to cut the deficit to two.
A 3-point basket by Summers for the first points of the second half – it was the first 3-pointer of the game – gave Montclair its last lead of 17-16 and concluded an 8-0 Mounties run.
However, Service came right back with Union’s first 3-pointer to give the Farmers a 19-17 advantage. Union never looked back.
The Farmers slowly-but-surely increased a lead that reached a high of 13 on three occasions late in the game.
“Our shots weren’t falling, but our defense kept us in the game,” third-year Montclair head coach Jerry Hill said. “We tried to trap in the fourth quarter and Union handled it. They didn’t turn the ball over, which was a credit to them, and they made their free throws.”
In the first half, Union went on a 6-0 run to take a 6-2 lead. Union’s first basket, coming at the 4:23 mark of the first quarter, was an inside shot made by senior Jordan Roberson, who finished with six points.
Montclair then went on a 6-0 run to take its 9-8 lead before Union followed with its 8-0 run.
“I think we made only one perimeter basket in the first half,” Feeley said. “We seemed to have more success scoring inside, so we tried to run more.”
Union shot a little better from the outside in the second half, with senior Elijah McNair and Service hitting back-to-back 3-pointers from the same spot on the right side to put Union ahead 29-23 after a banker basket by Montclair sophomore Shawn Smith knotted the game for the only time at 23-23 midway through the third quarter.
Union began the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run that put the Farmers up 35-26. Service hit two free throws and then senior Khalil Brown scored his only two baskets on inside shots.
The last point Service scored, which came on a free throw, gave Union its first 13-point lead of 45-32 with just over a minute to go.
“I thought both teams worked hard and played well defensively,” Hill said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game.
“Of our top 10 players eight are underclassmen. We have a young team that is inexperienced. We look forward to getting better.”
Service, who also had his share of steals and assists, in addition to a couple of blocked shots, was the only Union player to score in double digits.
Service played like a leader on the court, either looking to go to the basket or dish the ball off. He was also a force on the boards.
“Tevin is the kind of player that when things are not going great he’s a guy to look to,” Feeley said. “He performed when we needed him to. He relaxed the team.”
Union’s trademark under Feeley has always been a man-to-man defense first. That’s how Union is going to manufacture the majority of its victories.
“That’s what we try to do here,” Feeley said. “We’re going to have other nights like this for sure. It was good that our defense showed up and held them to 36.”
NOTES: Union also defeated Montclair 47-41 at Montclair last year on Feb. 25. The year before at Montclair, the Mounties defeated the Farmers 66-60 on Jan. 5, 2013.
MONTCLAIR (0-1) 03 11 12 10 – 36
UNION (1-0) 06 10 13 20 – 49
MONTCLAIR MOUNTIES (36):
45-Dylan Metsch-Ampel, senior, 1-0-0-2
0-Cameron Lipton, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
4-Tahlik Summers, junior, 3-1-5-14
5-Terrin Earl, freshman, 2-0-0-4
23-Joshua Allen, senior, 3-0-2-8
1-Shawn Smith, sophomore, 2-0-0-4
22-Isaiah Rodriguez, junior, 1-0-0-2
2-Jordan Wiggins, senior, 0-0-0-0
25-Isaiah Allen, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Wiggins, Summers,
Isaiah Allen, Joshua Allen, Smith.
UNION FARMERS (49):
10-Justin Beckett, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
14-Josh Croskey, junior, 2-0-2-6
5-Tevin Service, senior, 4-2-7-21
24-Bryceton Horton, junior, 0-0-1-1
12-James Battle, junior, 2-0-2-6
22-Jordan Roberson, senior, 3-0-0-6
3-Khalil Brown, senior, 2-0-0-4
2-Elijah McNair, senior, 0-1-0-3
Starters: Croskey, Horton,
McNair, Roberson, Service.