UNION – Will anyone be able to seriously challenge the Patrick School in this month’s girls’ basketball Union County Tournament?
Head coaches Justin Meyer of Union and Vin Gulbin of Governor Livingston see the Celtics – who won the crown for the first time in 2015 – as the favorites and why not?
Patrick School won at Summit 68-35 Saturday to improve to 19-1 overall with its sixth straight victory. Its only loss was on the road against South Shore of New York 58-50 on Jan. 22 after the Celtics got out to a 13-0 start that included all 13 wins by double digits.
Three of those victories came over Union and GL, with the Celtics winning at home against Union 69-35 on Dec. 22 and at Union 57-33 on Jan. 17 and in between at GL 79-64.
As a matter of fact, the only Patrick School win so far not by double digits was its final Union County Conference-Watchung Division game, which was played at home Thursday against Westfield.
The Celtics had to come back from a seven-point halftime deficit to edge the Blue Devils 43-41. That win enabled the Patrick School to win the Watchung Division with a perfect 10-0 mark.
The Celtics, sparked this year by the play of Ali-yah Powell, Qadashah Hoppie and Za’naja Jones among others, previously defeated Westfield 59-41 at Westfield back on Jan. 12.
So, in spite of its season-long dominance so far this season, Westfield proved that the Patrick School – as good as it is – can be had with the right effort.
“They’re the favorite, no doubt,” Meyer said. “They’re very solid and deep.
“They spread the ball, dribble drive and shoot the ball,” Gulbin said. “That’s a tough dynamic to stop.”
The 42nd annual girls’ basketball Union County Tournament will be seeded Tuesday morning, Feb. 7.
There’s no denying the top four seeds should be: 1-Patrick School, 2-New Providence, 3-Westfield and 4-Roselle Catholic – which are the four top teams from the UCC’s Watchung Division.
New Providence, which will next host Scotch Plains Tuesday night at 7, is 15-3, with its only in-county losses to the Patrick School.
Westfield won at Johnson 44-38 Saturday afternoon to improve to 13-5. Westfield’s only losses have come to the Celtics and New Providence, twice each.
Roselle Catholic, which won at Scotch Plains 63-24 Saturday afternoon to improve to 14-5 with its fourth straight victory, lost twice to Patrick School and New Providence and once so far to Westfield. RC and Westfield will not play their second Watchung Division game against each other until Feb. 23 at RC.
The seeding committee will have its work cut out for them deciding seeds 5 through 8 and then the remaining seeds.
Candidates include both Union and GL in addition to defending champion Cranford, Mountain Division leaders Rahway and Johnson, Valley Division squads Oak Knoll, Union Catholic, Dayton and improved Linden and Sky Division foes Kent Place and Brearley.
Oak Knoll captured the Valley Division championship Saturday afternoon with a 61-39 win at Elizabeth. The Royals, which began 10-0 before losing at Lawrenceville and then at Union Catholic in division play, won for the sixth straight time to improve to 16-2 overall. Oak Knoll won the Valley Division title with an 11-1 league mark.
Kent Place clinched the Sky Division crown on Jan. 26 with a 54-37 home win over Brearley to move to 7-0 in the five-team division. Its final division game will be at Benedictine. Kent Place fell to 12-2 on Thursday when it was downed in a conference crossover at Oak Knoll 43-32.
Linden, which dropped down to the Valley Division this year, won its sixth straight Thursday to improve to 11-7 as the Tigers won at home over conference-crossover foe Brearley 54-42.
“I have no idea where we may be seeded,” Meyer said. “I’ll say maybe somewhere between 8 and 13.”
Union downed GL 46-36 Saturday afternoon in conference-crossover action at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
“If we had won today (against Union) I would have said between 7 and 9,” Gulbin said. “Since we lost, I would say somewhere from 8 to 10.”
On Saturday vs. GL, Union was led by outstanding performances from senior center Nneka Moneme and junior shooting guard Allison Seater.
Moneme paced Union with 18 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, while Seater poured in 14 points, including her team’s only two 3-pointers.
Union snapped a four-game losing streak to improve to 8-12, while GL lost for the third straight time to fall to 9-9.
After GL had three leads and there were three ties in the first quarter, Union took the lead for good later in the period at 10-8 after sophomore Ya’Niyah Dickerson made a layup for the first of her three baskets for a total of six points.
“Brianna McNair came back from being sick and that was very important for us,” Meyer said, with McNair scoring four points off the bench. “Nneka and Allison also gave strong performances.”
The Highlanders were led by a stellar effort from senior forward Lindsay Gerrato, who paced all scorers with 22 points in addition to hauling in 10 rebounds and coming up with one steal.
At the half, Gerrato had 16 of her team’s 19 points.
In the second quarter of Thursday’s 58-53 Mountain Division setback at Rahway, the three-year varsity starter reached 1,000 career points. She finished that game with 24.
“We have to get her more open looks,” Gulbin said.
Gerrato worked hard for her 22 points vs. Union, often taking the pass in the middle and turning around and hitting a jumper from the free throw line.
Freshman guard Skylar Dowling was GL’s next high scorer with seven points.
“I thought Justin did a good job with his defense on Lindsay and Skylar,” Gulbin said. “We have to try to spread the ball out more. Against Johnson last week (a 56-44 win at Johnson last Saturday) we were making shots and getting outside shots. We have to do more of that.”
Moneme, who will follow older sister Adora as a soccer player at Rutgers, scored Union’s first six points and in the fourth quarter grabbed eight rebounds to help Union maintain its lead, which was eight heading into the final eight minutes.
“We continue to work hard in practice,” Moneme said. “After rebounding and getting my passes off I was hoping that some of those shots would go in and they did.”
Union has lost five games by eight points or less.
“As tough as some of the losses are we want to come out and win real badly our next game,” Moneme said.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Meyer, whose Farmers began the season 1-4 before the January portion of its schedule commenced. “We’re playing three sophomores who have gotten a lot of time now, so it’s time for them to step it up.”
NOTES: The only UCC division not decided yet is the Mountain. Leader Rahway is finished at 8-2, while second-place Johnson is 6-2 and has games remaining at Plainfield and home against Summit.
If Johnson wins those games the Crusaders will win the division outright based on sweeping Rahway. The game at Plainfield might have to be played at a neutral site due to an off-the-court situation.
Cranford won at home vs. Rahway 45-40 Saturday afternoon to improve to 7-10 overall with its third straight victory.
Four different teams have won the last four UCT championships: 2016-Cranford, 2015-Patrick School (first time), 2014-Roselle Catholic, 2013-Gov. Livingston (repeated).
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER GAME
GOV. LIVINGSTON (9-9) 10 09 10 07 – 36
UNION (8-12) 14 12 11 09 – 46
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (36):
23-Lara Romano, senior, 1-0-1-3
44-Lindsay Gerrato, senior, 9-0-4-22
30-Skylar Dowling, freshman, 1-1-2-7
11-Stacey Berliner, junior, 0-0-0-0
52-Michelle Coyle, junior, 0-0-2-2
21-Fiona Kerr, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Berliner, Coyle,
Dowling, Gerrato, Romano.
UNION FARMERS (46):
15-Nneka Moneme, senior, 8-0-2-18
11-Allison Seater, junior, 1-2-6-14
33-Krizia Aponte, sophomore, 2-0-0-4
14-Rabia Brown, senior, 0-0-0-0
12-Ya’Niyah Dickerson, sophomore, 3-0-0-6
24-Brianna McNair, sophomore, 2-0-0-4
Starters: Aponte, Brown,
Dickerson, Moneme, Seater.
FRANK J. CICARELL UCT
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS:
2016 – Cranford
2015 – Patrick School – first time
2014 – Roselle Catholic
2013 – Gov. Livingston
2012 – Gov. Livingston – first time
2011 – Roselle Catholic
2010 – Roselle Catholic
2009 – Roselle Catholic
2008 – Westfield – first time
2007 – Scotch Plains
2006 – Cranford – first time
2005 – Scotch Plains
2004 – Scotch Plains – first time
2003 – Roselle Catholic – first time
2002 – Roselle – first time
2001 – Union Catholic
2000 – Union – first time
1999 – Summit – first time
1998 – Union Catholic
1997 – Elizabeth
1996 – Elizabeth
1995 – Elizabeth – first time
1994 – Linden
1993 – Linden
1992 – Union Catholic
1991 – Linden – first time
1990 – New Providence – first time
1989 – Union Catholic
1988 – Union Catholic
1987 – Union Catholic
1986 – Union Catholic
1985 – Hillside – first time
1984 – Plainfield
1983 – Plainfield
1982 – Plainfield
1981 – Plainfield
1980 – Plainfield
1979 – Plainfield – first time
1978 – Mother Seton – first time
1977 – Union Catholic – first time
1976 – Benedictine – first time
Union Catholic 8
Roselle Catholic 5
Scotch Plains 3
Gov. Livingston 2
Mother Seton 1
New Providence 1
Patrick School 1