When the Union girls’ basketball team concentrates and plays to the very best of its ability, there’s no team on its schedule that it can’t compete with.
That was the case Wednesday when division newcomer Governor Livingston came to Union’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium, owners of a six-game winning streak and overall record of 6-1.
The Farmers, seeking to avoid a second straight setback and begin January with a victory, came back from an early deficit to stun GL 51-39.
Union improved to 5-3 overall and evened its record in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division at 2-2.
GL slipped to 6-2 overall and also 2-2 in the Watchung.
The Highlanders, who last year produced a program-best 26-2 record that included their first Union County Tournament championship and first Union County Conference-Mountain Division title, jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Union scored. GL was led in that stretch by aggressive, 6-1 senior center Erin Ferguson, who scored 10 of her 16 points to help give her team a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, that was the only quarter GL would come out on top in.
Sparked by outstanding games from senior Alexis Akridge, juniors Wendy Berry and Salena King and sophomore Adore Moneme – all returning starters – Union outscored GL 13-5 in the second quarter to take a 23-19 lead at intermission. The Farmers remained ahead the entire second half en route to snapping a two-game division losing streak.
Akridge finished with a game-high 17 points, Berry added 15, King 11 and Moneme led the Farmers with 15 rebounds. Freshman point guard Jasmine Bonaparte made two big fourth-quarter free throws.
Union had to find a way to limit Ferguson from scoring inside after the first quarter. Ferguson, in foul trouble in the second half, managed to net just six more points the rest of the way.
“They were getting lob passes to Ferguson,” said Union 11th-year head coach Justin Meyer, who guided Union to the UCT semifinals in 2006. “We had to change our defense around a little bit and get help from everyone. Our big girls did a good job.”
Union, which produced a 13-14 record last season, received a big 3-point basket from Berry in the fourth quarter after GL closed to within 37-33. Akridge scored 14 of her 17 points in the first half.
Akridge didn’t play in Union’s division losses to Roselle Catholic and Linden after suffering an injury in the season-opener at Plainfield, which was a 66-58 Farmer division victory.
“We have a lot of experience,” Meyer said. “The kids played well in the summer and hopefully that will translate on the court now.”
Both teams graduated their best players, Union losing Jamiyah Bethune and GL Alyssa Polimeni. Both were 1,000 point scorers.
GL returns starters Ferguson and senior Mallory George, who scored nine points vs. Union.
NOTES: In holiday tournament play, GL won all three of its Cougar Classic at Chatham contests, defeating Columbia 54-28 Dec. 26, Hunterdon Central 42-38, Dec. 28 and Chatham 54-44 Dec 29. The Highlanders outscored Hunterdon Central 18-4 in the fourth quarter.
Union won two of three games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament in Union City. The Farmers defeated Passaic County school Passaic Tech 49-40 Dec. 26 and then downed Essex County opponent Orange 49-29 Dec. 28. On Dec 29, Union fell to Bergen County foe River Dell 46-39.
UNION GIRLS’ BASKETBALL
5-3 overall, 2-2 in Watchung Division
Dec. 14 (A) Union 66, Plainfield 58 – Watchung Division
Dec. 18 (A) Roselle Catholic 48, Union 22 – Watchung Division
Dec. 20 (H) Linden 53, Union 46 – Watchung Division
Dec. 22 (A) Union 47, Westfield 44
Dec. 26 (N) Union 43, Passaic Tech 40 – Union City
Dec. 28 (N) Union 49, Orange 29 – Union City
Dec. 29 (N) River Dell 47, Union 39 – Union City
Jan. 2 (H) Union 51, Gov. Livingston 39 – Watchung Division
Jan. 4 Summit, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 8 Scotch Plains, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 10 at Cranford, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 12 at Newark West Side, 2 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Columbia, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 Plainfield, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 18 Roselle Catholic, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 22 at Linden, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 24 at Summit, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 29 at Scotch Plains, 7 p.m. – Watchung Division
Jan. 31 Cranford, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Feb. 1 at Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
Feb. 7 Westfield, 4 p.m.
Feb. 18 at Ridge, 5:30 p.m.