When the Cranford and Roselle Catholic girls’ basketball teams first tangled Jan. 4 in Roselle, both were 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Watchung Division of the Union County Conference.
After both teams hit a brief bump in the road earlier this month, each has bounced back nicely heading into their second division showdown – set for Thursday at 4 p.m. at Cranford’s Martin Gymnasium.
They may be the two most complete girls’ basketball teams in Union County.
Roselle Catholic is 14-2, has won seven straight, and leads the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division standings at 9-1. The Lions won the Watchung Division last year.
Cranford is 12-3, has won six in a row and is second in the Watchung Division at 8-2. The Cougars were second in the Mountain Division a year ago, splitting division games with champion Governor Livingston.
Roselle Catholic, after it defeated Cranford 51-41 for a rare regular season home win over the Cougars on Jan. 4, lost two straight. The Lions were edged by Paramus Catholic 43-41 at Kean and then fell at GL 38-33 for their only division defeat.
Cranford, after the RC defeat, was downed at home by North Hunterdon 45-37 the very next afternoon and was then defeated at Linden 54-50 for its second division setback. A three-game losing streak quickly transformed Cranford from being 6-0 and state-ranked to 6-3 and unranked.
Roselle Catholic is eyeing a fourth Union County Tournament championship in five years and fifth overall, while Cranford is out to claim its second county crown and first since 2006.
After Thursday, it’s not so far-fetched to think that they might be facing each other for a third time this season and that time might be the UCT championship game.
Roselle Catholic has been beating teams with a tenacious full court press and has front court players in junior Tori Pozsonyi and senior Renee Oliver that can dominate inside the paint.
Cranford has a big-time 3-point threat in senior Jenna Goeller and aggressive forwards in seniors Jess McCoy and Kaitlin McGovern and junior Carly Maucione. McCoy, also a 3-point threat, made a 3-pointer for her 1,000th point in a win at Scotch Plains.
McGovern did not play in the first Cranford-RC game, with the Cougars certainly missing her presence.
Roselle Catholic lost to GL, but swept Linden in division play. The Lions still have to host GL.
Cranford swept GL in division competition, but lost at Linden. The Cougars still have to host the Tigers.
Roselle Catholic is coming off a 32-21 division home win over Scotch Plains Tuesday, limiting the Raiders to their lowest point total of the season.
The Lions defeated a 10-2 North Bergen team 38-32 Monday at Union City, winning the third quarter 9-4 and the fourth 13-2.
Cranford outlasted division foe Plainfield again Tuesday, holding on for a 54-50 home triumph. Cranford also won at Plainfield 69-54 back on Dec. 20.
Thursday’s game should go a long way in determining which team may earn the top seed for next month’s UCT.
There’s a very good chance it will be another dandy of a Watchung Division clash between – arguably – the two best teams in the county at the moment.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC (14-2 overall, 9-1 and in first place in the UCC’s Watchung Division)
Roselle Catholic’s 7-game winning streak:
Jan. 10: (A) Roselle Catholic 49, Summit 26 – Watchung Division
Jan. 11: (A) Roselle Catholic 50, Plainfield 47 – Watchung Division
Jan. 15: (H) Roselle Catholic 60, New Providence 53
Jan. 17: (A) Roselle Catholic 53, Linden 49 – Watchung Division
Jan. 18: (A) Roselle Catholic 35, Union 34 – Watchung Division
Jan. 21: (N) Roselle Catholic 38, North Bergen 32 – at Union City
Jan. 22: (H) Roselle Catholiic 32, Scotch Plains 21 – Watchung Division
CRANFORD (12-3 overall, 8-2 and in second place in the UCC’s Watchung Division)
Cranford’s 6-game winning streak:
Jan. 10: (H) Cranford 49, Union 38 – Watchung Division
Jan. 11: (A) Cranford 59, Scotch Plains 39 – Watchung Division
Jan. 15: (H) Cranford 55, Union Catholic 27
Jan. 17: (H) Cranford 35, Gov. Livingston 33 – Watchung Division
Jan. 19: (A) Cranford 44, Summit 41 – Watchung Division
Jan. 22: (H) Cranford 54, Plainfield 50 – Watchung Division
Here’s a look at what happened the first time they played.
Jan. 4 at RC – Roselle Catholic 51, Cranford 41:
* Roselle Catholic jumped out to a 10-0 lead, sparked by a turnover-causing full court press.
* RC seniors Niavanni Grant and Renee Oliver, junior Tori Pozsonyi and sophomore Alliyeah Cubbage combined to score those 10 points and also combined to score 50 of Roselle Catholic’s 51 points.
* Cranford was out of sorts at the onset and did not get on the scoreboard until there was 3:49 left in the first quarter following a 3-point shot that junior Mairead McKeary banked in.
* Cranford starting senior forward Kaitlin McGovern did not play, out with an ankle injury. She returned to Cranford’s lineup the very next day.
* Pozsonyi netted 10 of her 17 points in the second half – six coming in the third quarter – and Oliver eight of her 14 in the first. Oliver, who played her first two years at Scotch Plains, also grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds for a double-double. Cubbage produced 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one block and four steals. Grant netted eight points.
* Pozsonyi, a Roselle Park resident, also contributed five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
* After the Cougars took the ball down twice with opportunities to tie the game, RC gained possession with a jump ball. Then Grant scored inside off a big offensive rebound to give the Lions a 40-35 lead.
* Goeller’s final basket made it 44-38 with 1:20 to go before RC went on a 7-0 run. The game’s final points were produced by McCoy on a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
* Cranford was led offensively by senior shooting guard Jenna Goeller’s 12 points and Maucione’s 11. Stepping in for McGovern, Maucione also had two blocked shots in the fourth quarter, the first an impressive one of a shot that Pozsonyi took.
* “Having Kaitlin out, hurting her ankle, that really kind of threw everything off,” Cranford head coach Jackie Dyer said. “Having someone consistently in the rotation out like that made it a little difficult against Roselle Catholic, which is a very good team. Breaking their press, we just had a hard time with it. Next time we need to tighten up our passes, some of them were soft, and be a little bit stronger with the ball.”
* “We’re lucky it’s early in the season that we can fix the mistakes that we made,” said McCoy, who scored her first points with 1:17 left in the third quarter and finished with seven.
* “We can’t have the breakdowns that we did and moments on the court when we turn the ball over,” said McCoy, who although she did not score a lot of points, was solid on the boards, coming down with 12 rebounds. “As a team we normally don’t give up. We always want to win, despite all of our struggles.”
* “I think we got some turnovers, maybe not a lot or maybe not a lot of points off turnovers – but then we turned it back over a couple of times – but I think our press helped make it a 94-foot game and that helped us a bit,” RC head coach Joe Skrec said. “I think our press is pretty good and our defense is pretty good.”
* While it might have been a bit rare that RC did not produce a single 3-point basket, the Lions did well to limit Goeller to just one. Four different Cranford players made just one each.
* “I think we did a pretty good job on No. 20 (McCoy), who I think is a very good player and one of the best in the county and I think we did a pretty good job on No. 4 (Goeller), who is a pretty good 3-point shooter, but only got a couple of looks,” Skrec said.
* “Tori had a very good game today and also last night (vs. St. Rose),” Skrec said. “Tori works very hard and she does a lot of good things for us.
“A lot of times people don’t notice the other things players do when they’re scoring. Tori was struggling a little bit (to score), but she was doing other things like rebounding and playing defense.
“The ball’s going in the basket a little better and I think it will continue to go in the basket better for her. Oliver is doing a great job inside. Renee and Tori are really starting to work well together and are a nice tandem.”
* “We had really good team chemistry tonight,” said Pozsonyi, who played on the varsity as a freshman two years ago when Roselle Catholic last won the UCT and became a starter last year as a sophomore. “We made sure we got up on their 3-point shots because we know that’s an advantage for Cranford and they’re a good team.”
* RC took the lead for good late in the second quarter and also was not outscored in any of the four periods.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION GAME
JAN. 4 AT ROSELLE CATHOLIC:
CRANFORD (6-1, 3-1) 10 8 8 15 – 41
ROSELLE CATHOLIC (7-0, 4-0) 12 9 15 15 – 51
CRANFORD COUGARS (41):
20-Jess McCoy, senior, 2-1-0-7
4-Jenna Goeller, senior, 3-1-3-12
15-Carly Maucione, junior, 3-1-2-11
32-Kerry Wischusen, junior, 2-0-0-4
13-Mairead McKeary, junior, 0-1-4-7
Starters: McCoy, Goeller,
Maucione, Wischusen, McKeary
ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (51):
3-Niavanni Grant, senior, 3-0-2-8
23-Renee Oliver, senior, 6-0-2-14
32-Tori Pozsonyi, junior, 6-0-5-17
14-Kate Tobie, junior, 0-0-1-1
31-Allieyah Cubbage, 4-0-3-11
21-Ashley Skrec, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
22-Zhane Irby, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
24-Danielle Franklin, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Grant, Oliver,
Pozsonyi, Tobie, Cubbage