UNION – From struggling early on to sustain any kind of rhythm offensively, to fixing that problem and taking a double-digit lead, to having to come back to forge ahead once again, the host Farmers were driven in many different directions on Opening Night.
Making sure this time Union would begin the season with a victory, the game’s leading scorer came through in the clutch to provide the Farmers with the advantage for good.
Immediately after visiting Plainfield scored late in the game to knot things up for the first time since midway through the first quarter, returning Union senior guard Ezra Glover took over.
Glover, whose first field goal was a resounding one-hand dunk, took the ball and drove to the hoop, filling it up to give Union the lead for good with 1:38 remaining.
Glover, who led all scorers with 15 points, then assisted teammate Ahmirr Robinson on the game’s final basket with just under a minute to play.
Unlike last year when Union fell in overtime to Elizabeth in its opener, the Farmers came back and then held on for a hard-fought 53-49 Union County Conference-Mountain Division boys’ basketball triumph over Plainfield in the first game of Friday’s 4th Annual St. Jude Classic at Louis J. Rettino Gynasium.
With 3.1 seconds remaining, Union senior guard Val Julien was fouled attempting a layup from the left side. Julien hit the floor hard and remained on his back from some 30 minutes before he was removed with a stretcher.
Julien had full movement in his entire body, but was complaining of considerable neck pain.
The refs ruled that the foul was intentional and Union was awarded two technical free throws, which Union missed both. Union then took the ball out and ran off the final 3.1 seconds.
Union trailed after the first quarter by two and then went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter that helped give the Farmers a 29-20 lead at intermission.
Union’s biggest lead reached 14 at 35-21 on the second of two straight 3-pointers drilled by junior guard Andrew Sanborn, who nailed three 3s and, off the bench, finished with 11 points.
Both teams made seven 3s.
Plainfield was led offensively by freshman Jamarques Lawrence, who scored 13 points, including a team-high three 3s.
Also scoring in double-digits for Union was senior guard Russ Ayala, who netted 12 points, including three 3s – all of them coming in the second quarter.
Glover, whose first four points came from the free throw line, electrified the crowd when he stole the ball and went down and slammed it home to give Union a 20-16 lead early in the second quarter.
“We had to play defense and wake up a little,” said Glover, who played sparingly on the varsity last season.
Union had six leads, Plainfield two and the three ties were 5-5, 6-6 and 49-49.
Tying the game at 49-49 for Plainfield was senior Jalil Lee on a layup with 2:39 to go. Lee finished with 11 points.
Robinson, who dons No. 15, finished with seven points and a game-leading 15 rebounds. He came down with some clutch boards in the fourth quarter, including his final one after Plainfield’s last miss.
“We were shaky in the first quarter and then began to play like a team more,” Glover said. “We worked harder.”
The difference according to Union eighth-year head coach Kevin Feeley: “Robinson’s rebounding and the fact that we just made enough plays at the end.
“We did not play a great second half. Plainfield outplayed us. We gave up only three offensive rebounds in the first half and then 16 in the second. That’s way too many second and even third chances.”
Feeley also said that, “when the game was slipping away from us we managed to come up with a big play.”
He cited the Glover basket and Glover assist to Robinson at the end and valuable rebounds that Julien came down with.
Feeley on the foul on Julien at game’s end: “I didn’t think it was dirty at all. I talked to (Plainfield) Coach (Mike) Gordon afterwards about it.
“It wasn’t like he cut his legs out from under him. It was an unfortunate accident. Hopefully Val recovers soon.”
NOTES: Union lost to Elizabeth 67-63 in overtime in last year’s opening St. Jude Classic contest.
“This was a similar game,” Feeley said.
Union rebounded to win seven of its next 11 games and ultimately finished 16-11, which was its third straight season above .500.
If Union is to approach that kind of record in 2018-2019, the Farmers are going to have to play much better defensively.
“We will attack, but we have to be better on defense,” Feeley said. “We gave up only 49 points, but it was not a good 49.”
Ayala played his first three years at Columbia. He gave the Union crowd reason to cheer with his three long-range baskets before halftime.
“He made some good plays, but there is plenty of room to grow,” Feeley said.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-MOUNTAIN DIVISION
OPENING NIGHT BOYS’ BASKETBALL AT UNION HIGH SCHOOL
Plainfield (0-1, 0-1) 14 06 13 16 – 49
Union (1-0, 1-0) 12 17 13 11 – 53
PLAINFIELD CARDINALS (49):
13-Daron Montgomery, sophomore, 1-2-0-8
22-Joshua Cordoba, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
00-Jalier Burns, junior, 1-0-0-2
4-Jalil Lee, senior, 4-0-3-11
10-Jamarques Lawrence, freshman, 2-3-0-13
1-Joshua Raymond, senior, 0-0-0-0
2-Tyejuan Taylor, sophomore, 2-1-2-9
3-Daekuan Mullings, senior, 0-1-1-4
11-Justus Williams, junior, 0-0-0-0
12-Jymirr Harvey, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
21-Jamir Esaw, junior, 0-0-0-0
23-Jeremiah Whitfield, junior, 1-0-0-2
24-Jashaunn Hill, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
25-Tahmir Ellis, freshman, 0-0-0-0
32-Jaden Wilson, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Montgomery, Cordoba,
Burns, Lee, Lawrence.
UNION FARMERS (53):
0-Ezra Glover, senior, 3-1-6-15
1-Rache Thomas, junior, 0-0-0-0
2-Russ Ayala, senior, 2-3-1-14
4-Val Julien, senior, 1-0-0-2
15-Ahmirr Robinson, junior, 3-0-1-7
3-Bobby Irby, senior, 0-0-0-0
5-Markeith Hinnant, junior, 0-0-0-0
10-Brandon Palao, senior, 0-0-0-0
11-Andrew Sanborn, junior, 1-3-0-11
12-Aaron Myrick, junior, 1-0-0-2
21-Ronn Flood, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
22-Colbe Roberson, senior, 0-0-0-0
23-Jakin Edmond, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
24-Nnaemeka Nkulume, junior, 0-0-0-0
32-Marv Raymond, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Glover, Ayala,
Thomas, Julien, Robinson
UNION COUNTY VS. MIDDLESEX COUNTY
OPENING NIGHT BOYS’ BASKETBALL MATCHUP AT UNION HIGH SCHOOL
Piscataway (0-1) 05 07 24 09 – 45
Linden (1-0) 10 17 13 13 – 53
PISCATAWAY CHIEFS (45):
23-Antonio Chandler, senior, 5-4-0-22
1-Tyree Barber-Bey, senior, 2-1-1-8
5-Mark Davis, senior, 2-0-3-7
15-Daryl DeCohen, senior, 1-0-0-2
10-Andre Emden, senior, 0-1-0-3
2-Khristian Hernandez, junior, 1-0-0-2
21-Nadir Holman, senior, 0-0-1-1
Starters: Chandler, Barber-Bey,
Davis, DeCohen, Emden
LINDEN TIGERS (53):
2-Nashawn Holmes, junior, 0-2-4-10
13-Amir Williams, junior, 4-0-1-9
3-Gerby Janvier, senior, 5-1-0-13
1-Dremar Hopkinson, junior, 2-1-4-11
32-Yasin Willock, junior, 2-0-0-4
15-Ryan Sampson, junior, 2-0-0-4
10-Schadrac Petit-Homme, senior, 0-0-0-0
4-Zair Desire, junior, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Holmes, Williams,
Janvier, Hopkinson, Willock
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-VALLEY DIVISION
OPENING NIGHT BOYS’ BASKETBALL AT UNION HIGH SCHOOL
Rahway (1-0, 1-0) 17 13 15 22 – 62
Westfield (0-1, 0-1) 12 15 07 17 – 51
RAHWAY INDIANS (62):
11-Tahlee Bailey, junior, 4-0-4-12
25-Jamauri Ellis, senior, 0-2-0-6
1-Zion Pendleton, senior, 5-3-2-21
31-Amari Thompson, senior, 1-2-1-9
32-Jordan Bell, junior, 0-0-2-2
5-Dashon Moore, senior, 1-0-1-3
2-Elijah Peele, senior, 0-0-0-0
4-Jarid Vertil, junior, 2-0-3-7
33-Caleb Wilson, senior, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Bailey, Ellis,
Pendleton, Thompson, Bell
WESTFIELD BLUE DEVILS (51):
11-Matt Crowley, senior, 5-2-0-16
3-Sebastian Ferrero, senior, 1-2-3-11
5-Griff Rooney, junior, 5-0-3-13
23-Colin Freer, junior, 4-0-0-8
32-Declan McCauley, junior, 0-0-0-0
10-Hank Shapiro, junior, 0-0-0-0
21-Will Kessler, junior, 0-0-0-0
14-Michael Kane, senior, 1-0-1-3
Starters: Crowley, Ferrero,
Rooney, Freer, McCauley