UNION – Roselle Catholic has come close the last six years, with the agony of defeat ever so present.
After the heartbreaking loss to underdog Union in the 2013 quarterfinals – one year after the Lions reached the final for the first time in 49 years – two very close setbacks followed in the 2015 and 2016 championship games to Linden and The Patrick School, the latter one decided in double overtime.
Roselle Catholic is back in the final for the fourth time in seven seasons.
Will the Lions this time – and for the very first time – finally experience the thrill of victory?
They are – once more – 32 minutes away from achieving the goal of capturing their county championship for the first time.
Saturday’s 82nd annual boys’ basketball Union County Tournament championship game – set to be played at Kean University’s Harwood Arena with a tipoff time of 7 p.m. – includes the top two seeds, with two-time defending champion and second-seeded The Patrick School of Elizabeth (14-9) taking on top-seeded Roselle Catholic of Roselle (21-4).
RC has only lost to four out-of-state opponents.
While they couldn’t be closer seed-wise, they almost couldn’t be farther apart championship-wise.
St. Patrick-The Patrick School has won the second most championships with 20, one behind Jefferson-Elizabeth with 21. Roselle Catholic is 0-4 in the final.
Since 1993, The Patrick School is 18-5 in the final, only missing the title game in 2012 and 2015.
For example, Cranford and Johnson still have one more championship than Roselle Catholic.
All that can change on Saturday.
Up until now, Roselle Catholic has proven itself time and time again this season, whether it was big men seniors Nazreon Reid (6-10) and Alanzo Frink (6-8) dominating inside or 5-8 senior guard Jason Battle having the hot hand outside. Ithiel Horton, Khalil Whitney, Josh Pierre-Louis and Colby Rogers have also provided their moments.
When Roselle Catholic and The Patrick School first met on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Kean, the Lions jumped out to a big lead, the Celtics fought back to make it close and then the Lions pulled away to a 75-63 triumph. Three days later RC went to Linden and defeated the Tigers 65-45.
When RC and TPS met for the second time in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play Saturday, Feb. 3 at RC, again the Lions jumped out to a sizable lead. RC led for most of the game before TPS senior guard Markquis Nowell – who because of injury did not play in the first game – started to fill the hoop from long range beginning at the end of the third quarter and continuing into the fourth.
However, when it came down to the final nitty-gritty, it was Roselle Catholic’s senior combination of Frink and Reid that simply would not be denied.
In a game where the host Lions struggled mightily (11-for-25) at the free throw line – including both Frink and Reid – it was a missed foul shot by Reid and then put back by Frink that ultimately propelled the Lions to a very hard-fought victory.
Immediately afterwards a steal by Reid followed by his seventh thunderous dunk gave RC a three-point lead with 16.7 seconds to go.
A Nowell layup and free throw by RC’s Horton followed, giving TPS the ball back one last time, down two with 4.9 seconds.
Nowell drove the length of the court and then dished to Manuel, who was stripped by Reid going up at the buzzer.
Roselle Catholic, down by as much as five in the fourth quarter after leading practically the entire way leading up to that point – and then still down by four with just more than two minutes left – came back and then escaped with a thrilling 69-67 Union County Conference-Watchung Division.
Frink led all scorers with a season-high 23-point performance. Nowell and Reid each finished with 18. Manuel – a threat both inside and outside – scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Roselle Catholic proved much stronger on the boards in the first half and built a seven-point lead at 22-15. However, the Lions were plagued by occasionally turnovers, although it didn’t seem like they would be enough to bring RC down.
The Patrick School hung around and then, after again being down by seven at 36-29, slowly crept back in the game as the third quarter progressed.
Then a quick basket followed by Nowell’s first of four 3-pointers actually gave the Celtics the lead for the second time at 44-42 very late in the third. Their only other lead was 1-0.
A dunk by Reid tied the game at 44-44 going into the fourth.
A very quick and frenzied pace to open the final eight minutes saw The Patrick School make four 3s – three of them by Nowell – to give the Celtics a 55-51 advantage. TPS added a free throw for their biggest lead of five at 56-51 with four minutes to go.
“Nowell’s an outstanding player and we knew he could change the game,” Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said. “For a player to be out four weeks and come into a game like this and do what he did is a credit to him.”
An inside basket by Frink tied the game for the third time at 59-59 with 2:48 left.
The Celtics answered with one of two free throws and then a 3-pointer following an offensive rebound off a missed foul shot to go up 63-59.
RC cut the deficit to 63-61 after making two of its next four foul shots. A jumper by Frink from the right side tied the game at 63-63 with 1:10 remaining.
The Patrick School then hit a fadeaway jumper from the left side for a 65-63 edge before Reid made one of two free throws to make it 65-64 with just over 30 seconds to go.
Reid’s next – make the first foul shot and miss the second – sequence put RC back on top and for good the rest of the way.
“If we make our free throws it’s a different game at the half,” said Boff, with the Lions ahead 29-23 at intermission. “I was proud of our guys and how they had to deal with it.
“Alanzo was great on the offensive glass for us and made a big play in a spot where we needed it. He played his best basketball toward the end of last season and has carried it over.”
Roselle Catholic defeated The Patrick School 75-63 at Kean on Jan. 20 in the first Watchung Division matchup. The Lions had a double-digit lead in that game and then the Celtics made it a one-possession game for a brief moment before the Lions roared back to win by 12. Reid led all scorers with 30.
“The Patrick School is such a great program, they work hard and execute. Any time you can get a win against them says something,” Boff said.
RC was 0-4 vs. TPS last year.
“They beat us four times last year, so we knew what we were going up against,” Frink said after the second game. “On some of our missed free throws we didn’t box out. We’ve been in a situation like that and when we do miss we try to get the long rebound.”
Frink made four of eight from the charity stripe.
“We try to play through it and not let it determine the game,” Frink said. “We always play until the end.”
“Alanzo won the game for us,” Reid said. “It was all redemption. I never lost to a team four times until last year. We came back with a tremendously exciting performance.”
A thoroughly monster dunk by Reid with 1:50 left in the third quarter put the Lions up 41-36. Despite his prowess inside at times, the Celtics kept coming back.
“We knew we were in for a hard-fought game,” Reid said. “Even when we were down we felt like we were still going to win.”
At the moment RC is half of the way there – if they are to meet four times – to going 4-0 against the Celtics this year.
Roselle Catholic led from early in the first quarter – after down 1-0 – until very late in the third when the Lions saw their 42-41 lead vanquish when Nowell hit his first 3-pointer.
The game’s first tie was 44-44 and the other ties were 49-49, 59-59 and 63-63.
The Celtics also took the lead again at 47-46, 52-49, 60-59 and 65-63.
The Lions also took the lead again at 46-44 and for the final time at 66-65.
Reid led all scorers at intermission with eight points, while Frink had seven and Daryl Banks, off the bench, led the Celtics with seven.
Roselle Catholic captured the UCC’s Watchung Division championship outright at 8-0. Will the Lions add another title to their 2017-2018 resume on Saturday?
RUBBER MATCH TO ENSUE BETWEEN RC AND TPS GIRLS’
On Jan. 5 when RC defeated TPS 59-52 in their first of two UCC-Watchung Division games, RC was beginning to be seen as the top team in Union County.
“We had a young team and will learn from this,” second-year TPS head coach Damel Ling said.
Then TPS came back to win the second division game Jan. 25, a 54-49 triumph.
It will be second-seeded Roselle Catholic (20-4) vs. top-seeded and defending champion The Patrick School (20-5) in Saturday’s 43rd annual girls’ basketball Union County Tournament championship game, tipoff at Kean at 5 p.m.
TPS has won two of the last three UCT titles – which are both of its crowns – while RC is seeking its sixth title and first since 2014.
In the first meeting (RC’s win), standout junior center Taniya Hanner and her game-leading 21 points were on the bench with four fouls with 3:11 left in the third quarter and Roselle Catholic ahead by nine points.
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.
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,” 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.”
In their second meeting Jan. 25 at Hillside, TPS outscored RC 18-8 in the fourth quarter en route to a 54-49 division triumph.
TPS won the Watchung Division at 9-1, while RC was second at 8-2.
TPS went 8-for-10 from the line in the fourth quarter, while RC shot 1-for-8 from the line in the final eight minutes. Madison Ruddy was 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth. Dwyer scored six points in the fourth.
Jacobs produced a solid game that included 12 points and seven rebounds.
Also scoring in double digits for RC were McQueen with a team-leading 13 and Hanner and Jenissa Encarnacion with 10 each.
“We did a better job of containing Hanner,” Ling said. “We will simply have to defend, that is No. 1 for us Saturday.”
“We just have to continue to work hard and hustle,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer also said after Wednesday night’s dramatic 45-44 semifinal win over Cranford – Dwyer scored the game-winning point on a free throw with five seconds left – that she was happy her mother made it all the way from Toronto to see her play.
82nd ANNUAL BOYS’ BASKETBALL
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT
AT KEAN UNIVERSITY
SATURDAY, FEB. 24, 7 P.M.
2-The Patrick School (14-9) vs. 1-Roselle Catholic (21-4)
UCC-WATCHUNG DIVISION THIS YEAR:
Jan. 20: Roselle Catholic 75, The Patrick School 63 – at Kean
Feb. 3: Roselle Catholic 69, The Patrick School 67 – at RC
RC won the Watchung Division with a perfect 8-0 league mark.
43RD ANNUAL GIRLS’ BASKETBALL
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT
AT KEAN UNIVERSITY
SATURDAY, FEB. 24, 7 P.M.
2-Roselle Catholic (20-4) vs. 1-The Patrick School (20-5)
UCC-WATCHUNG DIVISION THIS YEAR:
Jan 5: Roselle Catholic 59, The Patrick School 52 – at RC
Jan. 25: The Patrick School 54, Roselle Catholic 49 – at Hillside
TPS won the Watchung Division at 9-1, while RC was second at 8-2.
BOYS’ BASKETBALL ROSTERS:
2-THE PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (14-9):
14-Vladir Manuel, senior
1-Markquis Nowell, senior
00-Daryl Banks, junior
2-Al-Amir Dawes, junior
25-Alejandro Vasquez, junior
15-Majur Majak, senior
21-Giorgio Bezhanishvili, senior
Head coach: Chris Chevannes, 7th season
1-ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (21-4):
2-Khalil Whitney, junior
3-Colby Rogers, junior
4-Jason Battle, senior
5-Nazreon Reid, senior
12-Ithiel Horton, senior
20-Alanzo Frink, senior
22-Josh Pierre-Louis, junior
Head coach: Dave Boff, 11th season
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL ROSTERS:
2-ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (20-4):
1-Victoria Jacobs, senior
3-Tyara McQueen, senior
4-Jenissa Encarnacion, junior
20-Nina Worthey, sophomore
23-Kayla Haywood, sophomore
25-Taniya Hanner, junior
44-Princess Moise, senior
Head coach: Joe Skrec, 22nd season
1-THE PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (20-5):
0-Madison Ruddy, sophomore
1-Shadajah Thomas, senior
2-Lashae Dwyer, freshman
3-Aliyah Williams, junior
5-Quanaijah McDowell, junior
24-Brennah Cody, junior
35-Faith Reddick, sophomore
Head coach: Damel Ling, 2nd season
2-The Patrick School
3-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth
Koinonia 59, Cranford 55
Rahway 44, Dayton 30
Union Catholic 61, Oratory 42
Scotch Plains 59, Roselle 56
Summit 55, Gov. Livingston 44
Johnson 62, Plainfield 52
Elizabeth 58, Westfield 55
Union 90, Koinonia 34
New Providence 89, Hillside 72
Scotch Plains 56, New Providence 41
Union Catholic 64, Summit 56
Rahway 74, Johnson 56
Union 46, Elizabeth 43
Saturday, Feb. 17
The Patrick School 68, Union Catholic 54
Roselle Catholic 77, Scotch Plains 36
St. Mary’s 79, Rahway 63
Linden 68, Union 46
Tuesday, Feb. 20
At Kean University
The Patrick School 72, St. Mary’s 57
Roselle Catholic 65, Linden 56
Saturday, Feb. 24
At Kean University
2-The Patrick School vs. 1-Roselle Catholic, 7 p.m.
1-The Patrick School
Linden 57, Elizabeth 39
Gov. Livingston 38, Rahway 33
Johnson 56, Roselle Park 25
New Providence 45, Hillside 27
Union 35, Benedictine 33
Dayton 62, Summit 42
Scotch Plains 38, Union Catholic 34
Kent Place 51, Plainfield 42
Cranford 36, New Providence 30
Oak Knoll 58, Johnson 24
Westfield 64, Union 31
Roselle Catholic 60, Gov. Livingston 46
The Patrick School 60, Linden 46
Friday, Feb. 16
Westfield 48, Kent Place 40
Roselle Catholic 62, Scotch Plains 28
Cranford 47, Oak Knoll 42 (2OT)
The Patrick School 60, Dayton 36
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Roselle Catholic 56, Westfield 42
The Patrick School 45, Cranford 44
Saturday, Feb. 24
At Kean University
2-Roselle Catholic vs. 1-The Patrick School, 5 p.m.
UCT BOYS’ CHAMPS:
2017: Patrick School 58, Linden 44 – Chris Chevannes – Kean
2016: Patrick School 58, Roselle Catholic 54 (2OT) – Mike Rice – Kean
2015: Linden 60, Roselle Catholic 56 – Phil Colicchio – at Kean
2014: Patrick School 62, Linden 54 – Chris Chevannes – at Kean
2013: Patrick School 44, Linden 42 – Chris Chevannes – at Kean
2012: Plainfield 72, Roselle Catholic 66 – Jeff Lubreski – at Kean
2011: St. Patrick 70, Linden 58 – Kevin Boyle – at Kean
2010: St. Patrick 82, Plainfield 45 – Kevin Boyle – at Kean
2009: St. Patrick 89, Elizabeth 72 – Kevin Boyle – last one at Dunn
2008: St. Patrick 67, Linden 56 – Kevin Boyle
2007: Linden 63, St. Patrick 51 – Phil Colicchio
2006: St. Patrick 65, Plainfield 52 – Kevin Boyle
2005: St. Patrick 77, Linden 68 – Kevin Boyle
2004: Elizabeth 58, St. Patrick 51 – Donald Stewart
2003: St. Patrick 68, Linden 62 – Kevin Boyle
2002: Elizabeth 75, St. Patrick 61 – Pat Brunner
2001: Linden 76, St. Patrick 59 – Phil Colicchio
2000: St. Patrick 69, Linden 55 – Kevin Boyle
1999: St. Patrick 52, Union 43 – Kevin Boyle
1998: St. Patrick 76, Union 45 – Kevin Boyle
1997: St. Patrick 61, Elizabeth 48 – Kevin Boyle
1996: St. Patrick 65, Elizabeth 47 – Kevin Boyle
1995: Elizabeth 50, St. Patrick 49 – Ben Candelino
1994: St. Patrick 63, Hillside 47 – Kevin Boyle
1993: St. Patrick 45, Elizabeth 41 – Kevin Boyle
1992: Elizabeth 69, Linden 57 – Ben Candelino
1991: Elizabeth 76, Linden 49 – Ben Candelino
1990: Elizabeth 96, Roselle 67 – Ben Candelino
1989: Elizabeth 65, Roselle 57 – Ben Candelino
1988: Linden 50, Elizabeth 45 – Wilbur Aikens
1987: Elizabeth 62, Linden 61 – Ben Candelino
1986: Elizabeth 50, Union Catholic 43 – Ben Candelino
1985: Elizabeth 70, Rahway 56 – Ben Candelino
1984: Elizabeth 57, Plainfield 42 – Ben Candelino
1983: Linden 66, Roselle 60 – Wilbur Aikens
1982: Linden 86, Union Catholic 67 – Wilbur Aikens
1981: Johnson Regional 73, Hillside 61 – Steve Petruzzelli
1980: Union 65, Plainfield 63 – Tom Fox
1979: Plainfield 70, Linden 68 – Rico Parenti
1978: Elizabeth 62, Plainfield 60 – Ron Kelly
1977: Roselle 75, Rahway 54 – Dick Young
1976: Roselle 61, Union 54 – Dick Young
1975: Plainfield 69, Rahway 64 – Rico Parenti
1974: Union 61, Cranford 48 – Tom Fox
1973: Linden 69, Roselle 53 – Wayman Everly
1972: Jefferson 50, Linden 43 – Ron Kelly
1971: Roselle 73, Linden 71 – Dick Young
1970: Jefferson 68, St. Mary’s 61 – Ron Kelly
1969: Jefferson 55, St. Mary’s 47 – Ron Kelly
1968: Linden 63, Jefferson 62 – Joe Gaines
1967: St. Patrick 58, Plainfield 50 – Ed “Buzzy” Fox
1966: Linden 61, St. Patrick 56 – Joe Gaines
1965: Westfield 61, Cranford 52 – Bob Sanislow
1964: Cranford 68, Linden 61 – Bill Martin
1963: Westfield 65, Roselle Catholic 45 – John Lay
1962: St. Mary’s 40, Linden 30 – Al LoBalbo
1961: Roselle 45, St. Mary’s 43 – Ralph Arminio
1960: St. Mary’s 53, Jefferson 43 – Al LoBalbo
1959: Westfield 54, Cranford 46 – John Lay
1958: Roselle 66, Cranford 64 – Ralph Arminio
1957: Rahway 64, Jefferson 51 – Bob Berger
1956: Plainfield 58, Sacred Heart 51 – Bill Brann
1955: Jefferson 52, St. Mary’s 44 – Bill Tranavitch
1954: Jefferson 57, Springfield 44 – Bill Tranavitch
1953: Linden 59, Union 38 – G. St. Andrassy
1952: St. Mary’s 48, Linden 30 – Al LoBalbo
1951: St. Mary’s 37, Jefferson 36 – Al LoBalbo
1950: Jefferson 69, Hillside 57 – Bill Tranavitch
1949: Jefferson 42, Hillside 41 – Bob Cox
1948: Jefferson 33, Springfield 32 – Bob Cox
1947: Springfield 31, Linden 29 – Walter Hohn
1946: Springfield 37, Linden 34 – Walter Hohn
1945: Jefferson 39, Roselle Park 23 – Abner West
1944: St. Patrick 40, Roselle Park 36 – Ken Milsop
1943: Rahway 34, Jefferson 33 – Earl Walter
1942: Rahway 46, Jefferson 30 – Earl Walter
1941: Rahway 32, Hillside 24 – Earl Walter
1940: Springfield 35, Cranford 33 – Bill Brown
1939: Linden 30, Plainfield 20 – Les Goodwin
1938: Springfield 25, Rahway 24 – Bill Brown
1937: Rahway 27, Hillside 17 – Earl Walter
St. Patrick-The Patrick School 20
St. Mary’s, Elizabeth 4
Johnson Regional 1
UCT GIRLS’ CHAMPS:
2017 – Patrick School
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
Patrick School 2
Mother Seton 1
New Providence 1