Cranford boys’ basketball turns back visiting Lyndhurst; Hands 3-0 Bergen County team its first loss

Senior center Ruka paces Cougars offensively with 15 points, including 3 second half 3-pointers

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – Cranford senior center Jeremy Ruka (No. 34) is about to be announced.

CRANFORD – Although Cranford came back from being down by eight late in the first quarter to – after the game’s third and final deadlock – building a seven-point lead of its own with just a little over a minute to go before the half, there was still something missing in its game.
Cranford ended up being ahead by four at intermission. However, among its six scorers was senior center Jeremy Ruka held to just two points.
In an attempt to get more involved not only in the paint but also as an outside shooting presence, Ruka pulled up and sank the first two of his three 3-point baskets in the third quarter. Both long-range shots came from the right side, with the first one putting Cranford back ahead by three.
Those were the first points Cranford scored in the third quarter, coming at the 4:30 mark. There was no scoring in the period until 10 seconds before when Lyndhurst junior Jon Rodriguez banked in a 3-point field goal to pull his Golden Bears to within one.
Ruka’s second 3 gave Cranford a five-point lead. His third and final one, filling the hoop with 3:24 to go in the fourth, put the Cougars ahead by 11 for the first and only time.
Ruka finished with a team-high 15 points, producing 13 in the second half. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots, also crashing the boards a bit more effectively in the final 16 minutes.
Cranford teammates such as senior Hunter Goff, sophomore Arjun Petgrave, junior Cole Blazek and sophomores Devin Haughey and Joe Carrea also contributed mightily to Friday afternoon’s 50-47 Cranford win over visiting Lyndhurst at Cranford’s Martin Gymnasium.
Cranford won for the second straight time to improve to 2-1 overall and 2-0 at home. Lyndhurst, which on Thursday improved to 3-0, fell for the first time to move to 3-1.
Goff finished with 11 points, scoring nine in the first half. Goff scored seven points in Cranford’s 20-5 run that saw the Cougars bounce back from an early 14-6 hole to take a 26-19 lead.
Goff tied the game for the third and final time at 19-19 by scoring in the lane with 2:50 to go in the second quarter. Soon after, Devin Haughey’s first basket gave Cranford the lead for good at 21-19.
The bespectacled Haughey quickly made an impact off the bench, scoring five consecutive points – he also nailed a 3-pointer from the right side – and pulling down four rebounds to help Cranford finish the first half in front.
Ruka’s final points put Cranford ahead 48-37, giving the Cougars their biggest lead. Lyndhurst, however, was not deterred and managed to chip away at Cranford’s advantage in the game’s final three minutes.
Frank Venezia made a layup and then one of two free throws to make the score 48-40. Then following a Cranford turnover Rodriguez made two free throws for a 48-42 count.
Cranford missed, then fouled, then turned the ball over again on a bad pass with 1:34 remaining. However, the Cougars got the ball back, with Petgrave scoring Cranford’s final points off an offensive rebound. That put The Cougars up 50-42 with exactly a minute to go.
Rodriguez followed with a conventional 3-point play, scoring inside and getting fouled and then making the free throw for a 50-45 game. Cranford had the ball with 45 seconds to go.
Rodriguez then stole the ball away from Ruka with 27 seconds left and then with 21.3 remaining senior Sid Das made his only two-point basket of the game – scoring inside – to pull the Golden Bears to within three at 50-47. Earlier in the game Das nailed five-of-eight 3-point attempts.
Das and Rodriguez both paced Lyndhurst offensively with 17 points each.
Cranford took the ball out with 21.3 seconds to go and got the ball past half court when Goff was fouled. Goff missed the first free throw of the one-and-one, with Rodriguez coming down with the rebound. Three passes later Rodriguez was defended hard as his body twisted. It resulted in a costly traveling turnover.
Ruka was then fouled with 2.3 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and Lyndhurst rebounded. Now with 2.1 seconds remaining, Brian Podolski attempted a long pass from underneath his basket that was blocked by Petgrave. The ball came loose before Carrea dove on it to end the game.
Following Cranford’s first lead at 6-4, Lyndhurst made four consecutive baskets, the first two 3s by Das and Rodriguez. It became clear at that point that Cranford had to make Lyndhurst more uncomfortable shooting the ball if the Cougars were to stay in the game.
Petgrave hauled in six of his 11 rebounds in the second half as Cranford was much more aggressive on the boards once it took the lead for good.

Lyndhurst (3-1) 14 08 08 17 – 47
Cranford (2-1) 08 18 11 13 – 50

44-Sid Dias, senior, 1-5-0-17
24-Jon Rodriguez, junior, 4-2-3-17
15-Frankie Venezia, senior, 3-0-3-9
5-Brian Podolski, senior, 1-0-0-2
3-Benny Franchino, senior, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Dias, Franchino,
Podolski, Rodriguez, Venezia.
Totals: 10-7-6-47.

12-Arjun Petgrave, sophomore, 2-0-1-5
34-Jeremy Ruka, senior, 2-3-2-15
1-Hunter Goff, senior, 3-1-2-11
32-Devin Haughey, sophomore, 2-1-0-7
11Cole Blazek, junior, 3-0-0-6
42-Joe Carrea, sophomore, 3-0-0-6
24-Kevin Donovan, senior, 0-0-0-0
13-Dennis DeMarino, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
22-Pat Blowe, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Blazek, Donovan,
Goff, Petgrave, Ruka.
Totals: 15-5-5-50.