RAHWAY – The last undefeated basketball team in Union County has had enough of – almost getting the job done.
This year the goal is simply to – finally get the job done.
All is well at the moment for the Rahway Indians as they improved to 15-0 with Saturday’s convincing 61-29 Union County Conference-Valley Division home win over Governor Livingston.
However, as each day goes by, as each game is played, we get closer to what this season will come down to. After falling in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals the past two seasons – at Chatham by three points in 2016 and at home to eventual champion Barringer by two in 2017 – this Rahway team is ready to take the next step.
The Indians are ready to come out of North 2, Group 3 the winner this time.
“Possession by possession,” cautions third-year Rahway head coach Jeff Lubreski, who guided Plainfield to back-to-back N2, G3 championships in 2011 and 2012. “At 15-0 it’s nice to win, but we know that we have flaws.”
There weren’t many Saturday as the Indians raced to a 21-6 lead after the first eight minutes. Rahway was led by the game’s high-scorer – senior point guard Keyshawn Cummings – who poured in 20.
“Keyshawn is so much more than scoring points for us,” Lubreski said. “He does a tremendous job defensively, which you don’t see in the box score.
“His assist-to-turnover ratio is climbing (in the positive direction) every day.”
Cummings was honored before the game as Rahway’s 11th player to reach 1,000 career points.
“After falling in the (sectional) semis twice we don’t want to lose again,” said the 5-11 Cummings, who will play in this July’s 25th annual Snapple Bowl and is still mulling a college decision that will include football or basketball.
“We’re smaller, so we have to defend way more. Offense will come after. For 32 minutes we have to play the whole game and not let up.
“We feel we have all the pieces to the puzzle.”
Other key players include junior Zion Pendleton, Rahway’s second-leading scorer, and emerging sophomore Nicolas Galette, who can fill the hoop nicely from short range.
Galette scored 16 and Pendleton 13 Saturday in the team’s 12th double-digit victory, three of them over GL.
“We have to continue to pride ourselves on working hard, starting on defense,” Pendleton said. “We all want this real bad for the seniors. We just have to take it one step at a time.”
Rahway defeated Johnson and GL to win its holiday tournament last month and then came two more big wins at home, first a come-from-behind triumph against Mountain Division foe Westfield and the four-point win vs. Valley Division rival Scotch Plains.
“We’ve been fortunate to have won a couple of games we felt we lost,” Lubreski said.
One of them was Rahway’s 54-50 home win over Scotch Plains and another was the 61-55 home win over Westfield.
“We were down a bunch early to Westfield,” Lubreski said.
“Scotch Plains was our toughest matchup and we made it close, we didn’t defend well,” Cummings said. “They scored 50 which is too much, we gave them too much. Our transition game was terrible, but we were still able to get the win.”
Should Rahway triumph at division rival Roselle Tuesday, then the Indians will clinch a third straight outright Valley Division title with a win at Scotch Plains Feb. 6, which is also the week the 82nd annual Union County Tournament will be seeded.
Rahway leads the Valley Division at 9-0. The Indians won the Valley Division at 9-1 two years ago and at 11-1 last year, both of those seasons finishing 21-4 overall.
“We don’t shoot the ball as well as we did today,” said Lubreski, who has guided Rahway to a 57-8 record so far since he took over two years ago. “We had some guys come off the bench today to give us a lift and we need that.”
One of those players was senior Denzel Cooper, who started alongside Cummings and Pendleton last year.
“Experience pays off when you get back in those games, the games we hope to be playing in later on,” Lubreski said. “You can’t on Jan. 27 look for March.
“We know where we are now and hope to be more successful this March.”
“We want to get to the (sectional) final and win it this time,” Cummings said. “I thought we had the team last year and, unfortunately, we had a bad eight minutes.
“We can’t let that happen this time.”
“My freshman year we almost won it,” Pendleton said. “My sophomore year we almost did. We’ve learned from our mistakes.
“We have to continue to work hard and come out and play hard and make sure that our effort shows.”
NOTES: Rahway’s last two seasons both ended on March 4. Two years ago on a Friday night it was a 51-48 loss at top-seeded Chatham – Rahway was the fourth seed – and last year on a Saturday afternoon at Rahway it was a 70-68 loss to fifth-seeded and eventual champion Barringer, Rahway falling as the top seed.
At present time, Chatham and Rahway are at the top of the power point standings in North 2, Group 3. Chatham’s overall record as of Saturday was 13-3.
Including Saturday’s win, Lubreski has a record of 440-276 (.615). He was 242-205 for 19 seasons at South Plainfield and 141-63 for seven at Plainfield. His three-season record at the moment at Rahway is 57-8.
Rahway has reached three group finals in its history – all in Group 3 – with the Indians defeating Weehawken in 1930 for its lone group state championship and losing to Ridgefield Park in 1944 and to Woodrow Wilson in 1985.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-VALLEY DIVISION
BOYS’ BASKETBALL AT RAHWAY
Gov. Livingston (8-6, 4-5) 06 11 08 04 – 29
Rahway (15-0, 9-0) 21 13 17 10 – 61
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (29):
11-Evan Reiner, senior, 3-0-3-9
45-Dylan DeFronzo, junior, 1-0-0-2
24-Matthew Faller, junior, 2-0-2-6
30-Tyler McCulloch, senior, 1-0-1-3
10-Ryan Davey, junior, 0-2-2-8
21-Matthw Schuman, senior, 0-1-1-1
3-Josh Coldon, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Coldon, Faller,
McCulloch, Reiner, Schuman
RAHWAY INDIANS (61):
12-Kiontay Nobles, junior, 1-0-1-3
14-Denzel Cooper, senior, 1-0-0-2
22-Nicolas Galette, sophomore, 8-0-0-16
24-Zion Pendleton, junior, 5-0-3-13
5-Keyshawn Cummings, senior, 2-5-1-20
11-Tahlee Bailey, sophomore, 2-0-1-5
1-Dashyne Martin, junior, 0-0-2-2
Starters: Galette, Pendleton,
Cummings, Bailey, Martin.
RAHWAY’S (11) 1,000 POINT SCORERS:
1957 – Fred Kast
1975 – Don Aikens
1979 – Jim Stewart
1986 – Stan Smith
1993 – Shelton Colbert
1997 – Louis Campbell
2004 – Jason Johnson
2006 – Earl Clark
2009 – Jose Pena-Benjamin
2012 – Hakeem Kornegay
2018 – Keyshawn Cummings
(15-0 overall and 9-0 for first in UCC’s Valley Division):
Dec. 15: Rahway 59, Hillside 44 – at Rahway
Dec. 16: Rahway 70, Koinonia 27 – at Rahway
Dec. 19: Rahway 69, Gov. Livingston 59 – at GL
Dec. 27: Rahway 74, Johnson 68 – at Rahway
Dec. 29: Rahway 56, Gov. Livingston 43 – at Rahway
Jan. 9: Rahway 61, Westfield 55 – at Rahway
Jan. 13: Rahway 66, Roselle 52 – at Rahway
Jan. 14: Rahway 79, Iselin Kennedy 40 – at Kean
Jan. 16: Rahway 54, Scotch Plains 50 – at Rahway
Jan. 18: Rahway 61, Summit 44 – at Rahway
Jan. 20: Rahway 77, Sayreville 58 – at Rahway
Jan. 22: Rahway 85, North Plainfield 47 – at North Plainfield
Jan. 23: Rahway 64, Cranford 23 – at Cranford
Jan. 25: Rahway 75, Hillside 34 – at Hillside
Jan. 27: Rahway 61, Gov. Livingston 29 – at Rahway
REMAINING REGULAR SEASON:
Jan. 30 at Roselle, 4 p.m. – Valley Division
Feb. 2 New Providence, 4 p.m.
Feb. 3 Oratory Prep, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Scotch Plains, 7 p.m. – Valley Division
Feb. 8 at Carteret, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 at Summit, 7 p.m. – Valley Division