UNION – Coming off a near-win against one of the state’s top-ranked teams in Linden, host Union knew its next challenge was to somehow contain Westfield big man Scott Toresco, yet still manage to get a hand in the face of the Blue Devil sharpshooters.
After falling behind by as many as 10 points in the first quarter – thanks to Toresco getting inside and scoring 10 points in the period – Union managed to come back and even took two small leads in the second quarter.
However, beginning late in the second quarter, visiting Westfield reasserted itself by taking the lead again for good on a 3-pointer by junior Dylan Elliott.
The Blue Devils continued to feed Toresco in the second half, while every time Union pulled to within two points in the fourth quarter Westfield answered with a big basket.
Union, down by two, had a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds when senior Jaleel Chain attempted a two-point shot from the right corner that went off the rim.
After Westfield grabbed the rebound, the Blue Devils went to the line. A missed free throw was rebounded by Elliott, who after getting fouled himself then made one of two free throws.
Elliott’s only point from the line helped Westfield escape Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium Saturday afternoon with a hard-fought 58-55 Union County Conference-interdivision triumph.
Westfield improved to 3-0 and is also 2-0 in the Mountain Division. Union, which is not that far away from being 3-0 itself, fell to 1-2 overall. The Farmers are 0-1 in the Watchung Division.
Toresco led all scorers with 23 points, pouring in 14 in the first half to help give Westfield a 46-42 halftime lead.
“We were moving the ball and I saw a mismatch because I had a lot more weight on the kid (Union’s Tarjay Davis),” said Toresco, whose traditional 3-point play in the fourth quarter – the Union bench argued Toresco should have been called for an offensive foul – increased his team’s lead to 55-48. “He was trying to move in and I was trying to get a feel for getting the ball underneath.”
“We talked about that in practice yesterday, because we really thought he could score inside and we wanted to pressure Union,” Westfield second-year head coach Daryl Palmieri said. “We wanted to feature him early on.”
Toresco, a senior who has been with the varsity since his sophomore season, is a presence Mountain Division teams will have to prepare hard for.
“He did a good job and that’s what I expect of him,” Palmieri said.
Thanks to Toresco’s ability to produce in the lane and also come down with a key rebound, Westfield never trailed in the second half. There were three consecutive occasions early in the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils scored baskets – one by freshman Nick Mele, the second by Elliott and the third by Toresco – after Union cut the lead to two.
Mele came off the bench to net three big baskets in the fourth quarter and finish with six points. His final field goal – on a reverse layup under the basket – put Westfield up 57-53 moments after Union junior Emmanuel Kema knocked down his second 3-pointer to, once again, pull the Farmers to within two points.
Kema was solid for Union, leading his team with an 18-point effort.
Elliott finished with eight points, with the only free throw that he made being a huge add-on point for Westfield.
“Dylan Elliott made a huge free throw for us there at the end,” Toresco said.
Also connecting from 3-point range for Westfield were sophomore Danny Mitchell, who had three and finished with 11 points; and senior Keegan Hess, who made two for his six-point production.
Also scoring in double figures for Union were Chain with 11 points and senior Corey Edwards with 10. Adams finished with eight.
“They used their big man to there advantage and had their shooters all over the court,” second-year Union head coach Kevin Feeley said. “When we had to help out on the big guy they hurt us by making their shots.”
Union’s first lead was 22-21 after a layup by Chain. The Farmers went ahead for the second and last time at 26-25 on a Kema layup.
“We didn’t match their intensity, they were more physical than our guys were,” Feeley said. “We need to out-work the other team and we didn’t do that today.”
NOTES: Westfield will play in next week’s Butch Kowal Tournament at Rahway. The Blue Devils won it in 2010 and reached the final last year.
One schedule has Union playing Bridgewater-Raritan and Ferris next week.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-INTERDIVISION GAME
AT LOUIS J. RETTINO GYMNASIUM
WESTFIELD (3-0) 21 12 13 12 – 58
UNION (1-2) 15 11 16 13 – 55
WESTFIELDBLUE DEVILS (58):
34-Dylan Elliott, junior, 2-1-1-8
11-Nick Mele, freshman, 3-0-0-6
42-Scott Toresco, senior, 9-0-5-23
23-Danny Mitchell, sophomore, 1-3-0-11
12-Keegan Hess, senior, 0-2-0-6
41-Sean Elliott, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
35-David Kane, junior, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Hess, Toresco,
Mitchell, Dylan Elliott, Kane
UNION FARMERS (55):
1-Erick Lofton-Harris, senior, 2-0-0-4
2-Corey Edwards, senior, 4-0-2-10
3-Jaleel Chain, senior, 3-1-2-11
5-Tevin Service, sophomore, 1-0-2-4
32-Tarjay Adams, junior, 4-0-0-8
4-Emmanuel Kema, junior, 6-2-0-18
Starters: Service, Edwards,
Adams, Chain, Lofton-Harris