NEW PROVIDENCE – In a battle of – perhaps – the two best girls’ basketball teams in Union County and for the lead of the Watchung Division of the Union County Conference, the host Pioneers scored five quick points within the first minute of the second quarter to take a six-point lead.
“We were moving the ball well and not trying to force anything at that time,” New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said.
Roselle Catholic – in an effort to slow down New Providence and halt its momentum – called a timeout just 27 seconds into the period.
“We went to a combination of man and zone defense,” Roselle Catholic head coach Joe Skrec said.
Not seeking to lose a regular season game at New Providence for the second straight season, the visiting Lions took the game over at that point and slowly came back to take the lead at intermission by two points.
Roselle Catholic then turned up its intensity on defense in the second half, limiting New Providence to just four points in each quarter, while continuing to take the ball to the hoop and filling it up.
“It was more effort and execution,” Skrec said. “The girls did a really great job on defense.”
It was also a team effort that propelled Roselle Catholic to a convincing 45-30 triumph over New Providence in Friday night’s battle of teams undefeated in Watchung Division play.
Roselle Catholic improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Watchung Division, while New Providence, which had a six-game winning streak snapped, fell to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Watchung Division.
Roselle Catholic has now won 18 straight regular season games – its final 10 last year and its first eight this year – after falling at New Providence 53-51 on Jan. 14, 2014. That was Roselle Catholic’s only regular season loss a year ago during a campaign that saw the Lions go 25-2 and set a program record for wins in a season.
Both teams continue to have very challenging games. New Providence is at Governor Livingston Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as part of a Super Saturday event between the neighboring schools. GL won 31-30 last year. New Providence is seeking its first win on Super Saturday.
Roselle Catholic will face Westfield Sunday at 2 p.m. at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union in the second day of the Investors Games. Proceeds benefit Union County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (UCIAC) scholarships.
For Roselle Catholic it will be its final division game in its first go-around. The Lions have won division championships the past six seasons, including the UCC’s Watchung Division title the last four. Last year’s Watchung Division title included a first-time perfect 14-0 league mark.
Roselle Catholic is now 33-2 since the beginning of last year and since last year’s regular season setback to New Providence – the Lions began 9-0 last year before losing to the Pioneers – Roselle Catholic is 24-1.
In Friday night’s win, Roselle Catholic was sparked offensively by senior guards Tyffani McQueen, 16 points, and Allieyah Cubbage 13. Fellow senior forward Dolapo Balugo added nine points.
It was a 3-pointer from the left side by Cubbage that gave Roselle Catholic its first lead at 8-5.
“We kept playing aggressive and being patient,” Cubbage said. “Each girl stepped up.”
A 3-pointer from the same left side by McQueen with 1:15 remaining in the first half put Roselle Catholic ahead to stay at 24-22. It was crisp passing by the Lions that allowed them to execute their offense and find the open man.
“We know that we need to move the ball around a lot,” McQueen said.
A 12-0 run bridging the second and third quarters put Roselle Catholic ahead 31-22. The Lions scored the first seven points of the second half.
Roselle Catholic’s biggest lead was 15, which was the final margin of victory.
While in man-to-man defense it was Cubbage that had the enviable task of covering Florida-commit Sydney Morang, New Providence’s talented junior swing player.
Morang made all five of her field goal attempts in the first half to lead New Providence with 11 points at the break. However, Morang and the rest of the team were prevented from getting into any kind of rhythm in the second half.
Morang scored her team’s final six points and six of the eight the Pioneers managed in the final 16 minutes. She finished with a quiet, game-leading 17. Morang was limited to just five shots in the second half, making two of them.
Sophomore teammate Katie Kinum – covered by McQueen – was held to just five points. Her one 3-pointer and a basket by Sarah Zeto put the Pioneers up 19-13, given them a 14-5 run at that point in the game.
Since that surge, Roselle Catholic closed the game on a 32-11 run.
“Defensively, we knew Sydney was going to get her points, but it was not the end of the world,” McQueen said. “It was a team effort. It was one of our better games defensively.”
New Providence, which won its six in a row all by double digits, was held to its lowest point total of the season. The Pioneers, who shot 9-of-14 from the field in the first half and 3-for-16 in the second, missed their first five field goal attempts of the third quarter.
New Providence did not score in the second half until Zeto netted an inside basket with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter.
“It was a triangle-and-two defense they were in and it’s something we have to learn from,” Morang said.
The teams will meet again in Watchung Division play Feb. 7 at Roselle Catholic.
“They’re defense was really good,” Morang said. “We should have had some more back door cuts.”
Morang had eight points when New Providence had its biggest lead of six as the second quarter unfolded.
“After that we just started falling in on each other when the going got tough,” Morang said. “It was the first time we were tested.
“We have a lot of work to do. We’ll learn from this. I have confidence in my teammates.”
Like any coach, Pazdera realizes that it will take more than just a standout effort from Morang in order for the Pioneers, who last year finished 22-7, to continue to succeed.
“We saw this last year at this time when people started keying on Sydney,” Pazdera said. “We know that we need all five people to do a better job at running our stuff.
“We got locked down tonight. They did a good job with the triangle-and-two.”
Roselle Catholic ended the second quarter on a 5-0 run, the third on a 4-0 run and the game on a 6-0 run.
Roselle Catholic is now the only team in the Watchung Division without a division loss.
NOTES: Roselle Catholic defeated New Providence 43-28 at Rahway in last year’s Union County Tournament semifinals. The top-seeded Lions then went on to win their first UCT crown since 2011 and fifth overall.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION GAME
Roselle Catholic (8-0, 4-0) 13 11 13 8 – 45
New Providence (6-2, 2-1) 14 8 4 4 – 30
ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (45):
5-Kamille Jacobs, junior, 0-0-2-2
10-Tyffani McQueen, senior, 4-2-2-16
44-Dolapo Balogun, senior, 4-0-1-9
21-Ashley Skrec, senior, 1-0-0-2
12-Allieyah Cubbage, senior, 4-1-2-13
23-Jennifer McClave, sophomore, 0-1-0-3
Starters: Balogun, Cubbage,
McQueen, Jacobs, McClave.
NEW PROVIDENCE PIONEERS (30):
22-Sydney Morang, junior, 7-0-3-17
5-Sarah Zeto, sophomore, 2-0-1-5
1-Katie Kinum, sophomore, 1-1-0-5
20-Hannah Caminiti, sophomore, 0-1-0-3
30-Emily Molstad, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Morang, Zeto,
Kinum, Caminiti, Molstad.