UNION – There’s no doubt that the Union girls’ basketball team closed the gap between itself and Roselle Catholic Saturday afternoon.
Last year both teams won more than 20 games and met in the Union County Tournament championship game. Roselle Catholic defeated Union all three times they faced each other last year, each instance by double digits.
Saturday was a different story. While Roselle Catholic led for most of the game – its largest lead was just six points – Union put itself in a position to defeat the visiting Lions as late as the final moments of the fourth quarter.
Although Union still fell a bit short, falling 33-30 in the season-opener for both, the Farmers can come away a bit more confident that they were right there with perennial power Roselle Catholic until the very end.
“Our defense played tough and the kids believed in themselves,” Union head coach Justin Meyer said. “However, as we have seen over the years, Roselle Catholic executed when it needed to.”
On this day last year also at Union, Roselle Catholic stormed past Union 57-31. When the teams later met at Roselle Catholic, the Lions were just as dominant in a 51-32 victory. Then the schools faced each other in the UCT final, with Roselle Catholic still proving to be a level above in a 53-37 triumph.
Saturday’s Union County Conference-Watchung Division girls’ basketball game at Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium saw the host Farmers take a 5-2 lead after the first eight minutes.
Roselle Catholic missed its first four shots and only made one of 10 field goal attempts in the period. A 3-pointer banked in from the top of the key by junior Ayanna Chain gave Union its only lead of 5-2.
A 3-pointer from the right side by Roselle Catholic senior Allieyah Cubbage tied the game for the second time at 5-5. Cubbage, who scored six of Roselle Catholic’s nine points in the fourth quarter, led all players with 13 points.
After an inside basket by Union senior Adora Moneme tied the game for the fourth and final time at 9-9 early in the second quarter, Roselle Catholic came back to take the lead for good when Jennifer McClave’s only basket from the left side put the Lions ahead 11-9.
Although Roselle Catholic led the rest of the way, it was not able to really pull away and put the game away. A big reason for that was the defensive effort put forth by Union, led by the once-again outstanding rebounding of Moneme, who led both teams in that department with 15 total.
Roselle Catholic also played well defensively, including its trademark full court press that trapped Union several times, forcing critical Farmer turnovers.
Union closed the third quarter with a 4-0 run to pull to within 24-23 heading into the fourth quarter. Nnecka Monema made two free throws and then freshman starter Allison Seater connected on two.
“Going into the fourth quarter I thought we had a great chance to win,” Meyer said. “Every point was hard to come by. We’re just going to continue to get better day by day.”
Cubbage scored the first points of the fourth quarter on an inside basket and then McQueen’s second 3-pointer put the Lions up by six for the first time at 29-23.
Union battled back and got the game to 29-27 following a steal and a layup by Adora Moneme and then an offensive rebound and put back in by her as she was tough to defend inside the paint.
Cubbage then scored inside with exactly a minute to go off a big assist from McQueen. Cubbage scored again on a layup – assist to McQueen once more – to put Roselle Catholic back up by six at 33-27.
When Union came back down senior point guard Kya Riddick made her only field goal, which was a big 3-pointer, to cut the lead to 33-30. Union quickly called time out with just 14 seconds remaining.
Union was not able to foul Roselle Catholic immediately, which cost the Farmers time off the clock. Roselle Catholic missed two ensuing free throws before time expired. The Lions were uncharacteristic 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Union was right there with the defending Watchung Division champions. The Farmers may now go into their game at Roselle Catholic on Jan. 27 much more confident they might be able to beat the Lions for the first time in a while.
NOTES: Both teams only scored in double digits in one quarter, Roselle Catholic in the second and Union in the third.
Union was playing without returning starter Jasmine Bonaparte, a junior. Meyer said that Bonaparte tore her ACL during a workout in June and had surgery in August.
“We’re hoping to get Jasmine back by February,” Meyer said. “Right now we’re just trying to stay above water without her.”
Meyer also reported that Adora Moneme will attend Rutgers on a soccer scholarship.
“She’s an elite athlete,” Meyer said. “We’re hoping her sister Nnecka follows her lead.”
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
Roselle Catholic (1-0, 1-0) 02 15 07 09 – 33
Union (0-1, 0-1) 05 08 10 07 – 30
ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (33):
12-Allieyah Cubbage, senior, 4-1-2-13
10-Tyffani McQueen, senior, 0-2-0-6
5-Kamille Jacobs, junior, 1-0-2-4
44-Dolapo Balogun, senior, 2-0-0-4
3-Tyara McQueen, freshman, 1-0-0-2
23-Jennifer McClave, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
31-Anajah Williams, junior, 0-0-2-2
21-Ashley Skrec, senior
1-Victoria Jacobs, freshman
11-Conalie St. Amand, junior
Starters: Cubbage, Balogun,
McClave, McQueen, Kamille Jacobs.
UNION FARMERS (30):
13-Kya Riddick, senior, 0-1-4-7
15-Adora Moneme, senior, 5-0-1-11
43-Allison Seater, freshman, 1-0-2-4
12-Nnecka Moneme, sophomore, 1-0-3-5
3-Ayana Chain, junior, 0-1-0-3
10-Tajla Honorat, senior
30-Marlisa Shaw, junior
4-Tiffany Counts, sophomore
24-Judy-Mae Lima, sophomore
Starters: Riddick, Chain,
N. Moneme, A. Moneme, Seater.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC SCHEDULE:
Dec. 20 (A) Roselle Catholic 33, Union 30
Dec. 22 Patrick School, 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 Willingboro, 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 29 RC Tournament, TBD
Jan. 2 Hillside, noon
Jan. 4 Paramus Catholic, 7 p.m. at Kean
Jan. 6 Cranford, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9 at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Westfield, at Kean, TBD
Jan. 13 Linden, TBD
Jan. 15 at Scotch Plains, 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 at Patrick School, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 Union, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Cranford 4 p.m.
Feb. 3 Gov. Livingston, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Westfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 New Providence, TBD
Feb. 10 at Johnson, 7 p.m.
Feb. 25 Summit, TBD
Dec. 20 (H) Roselle Catholic 33, Union 30
Dec. 23 at New Providence, 4 p.m.
Dec. 26-29 Union City Holiday Tournament
Union, Union City, Passaic Tech, Clifton,
St. Dominic’s, River Dell
Jan. 6 at Patrick School, 4 p.m.
Jan. 10 at Scotch Plains, 1 p.m.
Jan. 13 at Cranford, 4 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Linden, 4 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Westfield, 11:30 a.m.
Jan. 19 Union City Tournament
Jan. 22 Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
Jan. 24 New Providence, 1 p.m.
Jan. 27 at Roselle Catholic, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Patrick School, 4 p.m.
Jan. 30 Oak Knoll, 4 p.m.
Feb. 3 Cranford, 4 p.m.
Feb. 5 Plainfield, 4 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Lincoln, 4 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Summit, 4 p.m.
Feb. 12 Westfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Columbia, 7 p.m.
Feb. 18 North Bergen, 4 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Johnson, 4 p.m.