Talk about early-season showdowns, there were two undefeated vs. undefeated girls’ basketball clashes this past week in Union County, with the road team coming out on top both times.
On Saturday afternoon in Springfield it was visiting Oak Knoll coming through in the fourth quarter to pull out a 45-37 win over Dayton in a battle of the top two teams in the Union County Conference’s Valley Division.
Both teams entered the early-season battle 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Valley Division.
On Thursday night in Roselle it was visiting Patrick School of Elizabeth prevailing over Roselle Catholic 53-34 in a battle two of the top teams in the UCC’s Watchung Division.
Patrick School entered with an overall record of 6-0 and a 2-0 mark in the Watchung Division. Roselle Catholic was 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Watchung Division.
Westfield is the other undefeated Watchung Division team, owners of a 6-0 record that includes a 2-0 division mark. Westfield next plays at Watchung Division rival New Providence Tuesday night at 7.
The second and final division meeting between Patrick School and Roselle Catholic is scheduled to take place Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at Patrick School.
The second and final division meeting between Oak Knoll and Dayton is scheduled to take place Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. at Oak Knoll.
Oak Knoll and Dayton were tied at 26-26 going into the final eight minutes before the Royals produced almost as much offense as they did the first three quarters. Oak Knoll, behind the lead of junior Laura Borys and freshman Paige Morton, won the fourth quarter 19-11.
“They made some big shots,” Dayton head coach Dave Rennie said. “Morton scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers, and Borys hit some big shots.”
Dayton entered the game coming off an 80-54 Valley Division win at St. Mary’s of Elizabeth Thursday, while also on Thursday Oak Knoll defeated a 5-0 Brearley team 57-16 at home. It was the second straight opponent that Oak Knoll held to less than 20. Hillside was the first with Oak Knoll winning 58-18 at home on Tuesday.
“I give them (Oak Knoll) credit,” Rennie said. “They played great defensively. It was a tough, defensive battle.”
Borys paced all scorers with 17 points, while teammate Janelle Drake, a senior, poured in 14 for third-year head coach Katie Cummings.
Cummings graduated from Oak Knoll in 2003 with a program-best 1,357 points. That mark was eclipsed 10 years later by Kerri Moran, who finished with 1,401 points before graduating in 2013 and then taking her game to Ivy League school Cornell.
Dayton, which led 19-17 at the half, was paced by the scoring of junior guard Amanda Lau, who finished with 13 points. Also scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs was sophomore Sayre Brandstatter with 10.
“They played man-to-man and were easily the best defense we’ve faced so far this year,” Rennie said. “They were in our face, defended the perimeter and played smart, knowing who to shut down. They really pressured our guards.”
Also scoring for Oak Knoll were Emily Archer, Riley Campbell and Emily Dolan with two points each.
Caitlynn McTernan had seven points, Nicolette Angelo five and Melanie Schickler two for Dayton.
Lau produced a career-high 29 points in Dayton’s win over St. Mary’s.
“It was a small court, so we scored 80, but they also scored 54,” Rennie said. “I was pleased that we scored 80. Amanda had 19 in the second half and Brandstatter finished with 18.”
Lau, Brandstatter, Angelo – a junior – and McTernan – a sophomore – are returning Dayton starters. The other starter is Melanie Schickler, a junior, so all five starters will be eligible to return next year.
Lau and Brandstatter are the go-to players on offense.
“We definitely had high hopes coming in,” said Rennie, whose squad last year finished 14-12, which was the program’s 16th straight winning season. “At 6-0 I was pleased because I knew we had some tough games.
“The loss to Oak Knoll is a bit of a setback, but this team will bounce back. We will get past the loss and learn from it.”
Dayton’s next game is against Valley Division rival Linden on Tuesday. Linden moved down to the Valley from the Mountain, while St. Mary’s moved up to the Valley from the Sky, putting seven teams in the Valley Division for this season.
Lau played some as a freshman before starting for the first time as a sophomore last year.
“Each year she’s showed incredible improvement,” Rennie said. “Her shot is better and she finishes better. Her 3-point shot is looking great.
“She’s not real big, but she has great moves. She really sees the open floor and finds the open person. She’s also picked it up defensively as well.”
Brandstatter runs the point. “Sayre and Amanda work well side by side,” Rennie said.
Angelo covers the opponent’s toughest player.
“She is our glue player,” Rennie said. “Nicolette does all the little things. She did a good job of holding (Oak Knoll’s) Emily Archer to just two points.”
Rennie also reports that McTernan’s perimeter game is coming along and that she is also excelling on defense.
Schickler is Dayton’s defensive stopper on the perimeter. “Melanie covers the other team’s biggest scoring threat and does a good job,” Rennie said.
Other Dayton players in the lineup against Oak Knoll included senior Emma Ares, who sang the National Anthem, freshman Michelle Bellino and junior Zoe Frei.
Patrick School, guided by head coach Demel Ling, has also produced other impressive double-digit Watchung Division victories at New Providence 68-48 on Dec. 20 and at home against Union 69-35 on Dec. 22.
Against Roselle Catholic, Patrick School – ranked among the state’s Top 20 teams – won the third quarter 14-6 after a slim 22-20 lead at intermission.
Senior Milicia Reid scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the third quarter and 12 total in the second half. Teammate Zara Dorsey, a junior, netted seven points in the fourth quarter and finished with nine for the Celtics.
Qadashah Hoppie, a senior, also scored in double digits for Patrick School, finishing with 14 points.
Roselle Catholic led for most of the first half until Patrick School took the lead right before halftime.
Roselle Catholic sophomore forward Taniya Hanner scored six of her team-high 13 points in the first quarter to help give Roselle Catholic an 11-8 lead after the first eight minutes.
Senior Jennifer McClave scored nine points for the Lions and junior Victoria Jacobs seven.
Roselle Catholic bounced back Saturday to top Mount St. Dominic 69-42 in the opener of the annual Scholarship Fund for Inner City Children (SFIC) event at Kean University in Union.
McClave, a co-captain, scored 13 points in the third quarter to ignite a 24-8 spree that carried the 6-1 RC Lions. McClave sank a 3-pointer and was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the third quarter.
Roselle Catholic led 31-26 at the half before winning the third quarter 24-8 and the fourth 14-8.
McClave finished with a season-high and career-high 25 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds, coming up with five steals and dishing out two assists.
Hanner had 15 points, nine rebounds and two steals and was 7-of-10 from the floor. She scored five of her points in RC’s decisive third quarter advantage.
RC juniors Tyara McQueen and Jacobs each made 3-pointers during the third quarter. McQueen had six assists and three steals and both finished with eight points.
RC sophomore Jenissa Encarnacion added five points, four assists and three steals.
Grace Sheehan produced a fine game for MSD (1-8), scoring 13 points, hauling in four rebounds and blocking three shots.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE STANDINGS
AS OF MONDAY, JAN. 9
WATCHUNG DIVISION (6 schools):
1-Patrick School (3-0)
3-New Providence (2-1)
4-Roselle Catholic (1-1)
MOUNTAIN DIVISION (6 schools):
1-Gov. Livingston (2-0)
5-Scotch Plains (1-3)
VALLEY DIVISION (7 schools):
1-Oak Knoll (4-0)
3-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (2-1)
5-Union Catholic (1-2)
SKY DIVISION (5 schools):
Kent Place (2-0)
3-Roselle Park (1-2)