ROSELLE – Subjective: which is the best girls’ basketball team in Union County?
Objective: After a total team effort lifted Roselle Catholic to a convincing Watchung Division victory over The Patrick School of Elizabeth there is no denying the Lions made a case Friday night to say that they are.
With standout junior center Taniya Hanner and her game-leading 21 points on the bench with four fouls with 3:11 left in the third quarter Roselle Catholic held a nine-point lead.
When Hanner went back in the game with 4:55 to go in the fourth the host Lions were ahead by 12.
Roselle Catholic didn’t miss a beat with its star player out, with the Lions receiving strong efforts from every player who stepped on the court.
It added up to Roselle Catholic taking the lead for good late in the second quarter on its way to a 59-52 triumph over the visiting Celtics.
In a battle for the divison lead, Roselle Catholic improved to 5-0 overall and now leads the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division at 3-0.
TPS fell to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Watchung Division.
The Celtics won the Watchung Division last year as part of a stellar 27-3 campaign. Four wins (two division, one UCT and one states) in four tries came over RC.
Roselle Catholic defeated TPS for the first time since knocking off the top-seeded and defending champion Celtics in the 2016 Union County Tournament semifinals. It was RC’s first regular season win over TPS since December of 2015.
Hanner, who dons No. 25 for RC, paced all scorers with a solid 25-point performance and her team with 10 rebounds. Hanner scored Roselle Catholic’s first 12 points and 12 of her team’s 14 first quarter total.
Hanner’s teammates had to come to her aid when she sat on the bench for a good six minutes in the second half.
One of them was senior Victoria Jacobs, who scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“We were down our big player, but had to pick her up by playing together,” Jacobs said. “We knew they were a good team and strong. We had to play with more intensity in the second half.”
Roselle Catholic did just that, increasing a slim two-point halftime advantage to a game-high 13-point lead later in the third quarter, with the Lions going on a 10-0 run.
However, a free throw by junior center Brennah Cody ignited a third quarter-ending 8-0 run the Celtics went on – standout freshman point guard Lashae Dwyer scored the last seven points in the surge – as TPS pulled to within 41-36 heading into the fourth.
A basket by sophomore Nina Worthey, who scored six points and grabbed five important rebounds off the bench, got RC going again as the Lions opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to build their lead back up to 14 at 50-36.
“Nina had a nice game, she was strong,” Roselle Catholic head coach Joe Skrec said.
As soon as Hanner re-entered she scored inside again off another feed from senior Tyara McQueen. A minute later Hanner’s final basket gave Roselle Catholic its second 13-point lead of the game at 56-43.
“This was really big because we lost to them four times last year,” Hanner said. “We saw them in our fall league. We had to be stronger.”
McQueen’s first of two 3-pointers – she finished with 11 points, seven assists and one steal – gave Roselle Catholic the lead for good at 21-19 with just less than two minutes to go before halftime.
The Celtics closed the game on a 9-3 run, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior reserve Dana Hill.
“I thought the turning point was when Hanner went out and we didn’t take advantage,” second-year TPS head coach Damel Ling said. “We knew had to stop Hanner and McQueen. Their other players also stepped. We can accept that.”
“We like to think we always have five girls on the court who can play,” Skrec said.
Dwyer – an Elizabeth resident for a little over a year now who hails from Toronto, Canada – finished with a team-high 17 points. However, she was not able to add to that total in the game’s final five minutes.
“Lashae can be very dominating and when she’s driving in the paint she can cause teams problems,” Ling said.
“Patrick School is tenacious, an excellent 3-point shooting team and No. 2 (Dwyer) is a sensational penetrater,” Skrec said.
After a 14-14 deadlock at the conclusion of the first quarter, Roselle Catholic hit the boards hard in the second quarter, grabbing 12 (seven defensive and five offensive) rebounds to offset the six turnovers the Lions committed.
“I thought we rebounded well and on defense were good enough,” Skrec said. “In the second half our offense settled down a little and we were able to run some of our sets. We didn’t really run many in the first half.”
“We have a young team, that’s no excuse, but our lack of experience cost us at times,” Ling said. “We’ll learn from this before the next time we play them.”
Cody also scored in double digits for the Celtics, netting 12 points, with eight coming in the second half.
“Trying to stop her, because she is bigger and stronger, I knew would be tough,” Hanner said of going up against Cody.
Roselle Catholic also grabbed 11 rebounds in the fourth quarter and finished with 29 total.
The Lions could have made the game a bit easier had they made their free throws. RC made less than 50 percent with 13 of 29 going in. The Lions made just five-of 13 in the second quarter and only four-of-11 in the fourth.
What was working and what opposing teams will have to stop in order to beat the Lions is preventing McQueen from getting the ball inside to Hanner. On Friday night it was a given that if McQueen fed Hanner the ball inside that Hanner was going to put it right up and in.
“That’s been a pretty good combination,” Skrec said. “Taniya was a strong presence in the paint.”
NOTES: The first half consisted of five TPS leads and four RC advantages. The game’s only two ties were 12-12 and 14-14, both in the first quarter.
Dwyer scored 11 of her 17 points in the second half.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL AT ROSELLE CATHOLIC
The Patrick School (5-2, 2-1) 14 08 14 16 – 52
Roselle Catholic (5-0, 3-0) 14 10 17 18 – 59
THE PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (52):
4-Dana Hill, junior, 0-2-0-6
24-Brennah Cody, junior, 4-0-4-12
1-Shadajah Thomas, senior, 1-1-3-8
0-Madison Ruddy, sophomore, 2-1-0-7
2-Lashae Dwyer, freshman, 5-0-7-17
15-Akiya Baker, freshman, 1-0-0-2
3-Aliyah Williams, junior, 0-0-0-0
35-Faith Reddick, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Thomas, Cody,
Williams, Ruddy, Dwyer.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (59):
3-Tyara McQueen, senior, 1-2-3-11
23-Kayla Haywood, sophomore, 1-0-1-3
25-Taniya Hanner, junior, 9-1-4-25
4-Jenissa Encarnacion, junior, 2-1-0-7
1-Victoria Jacobs, senior, 2-0-3-7
20-Nina Worthey, sophomore, 2-0-2-6
44-Princess Moise, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Jacobs, McQueen,
Encarnacion, Haywood, Hanner.