Westfield girls’ basketball dominates host RC in opening Watchung Division battle for both; Visiting Blue Devils lead from start to finish

Stravach scores 12, Dobosiewicz 11; Encarnacion finishes with 13, Hanner held to 5

ROSELLE – How does a team go into an opposing gym and not only come away with a hard-fought victory, but perform the task in totally dominating fashion?
It starts with defense and not allowing the best players on the other side from making a difference.
It continues with swarming to the ball and continually fighting for rebounds on both sides of the floor.
Offensively it consists of getting into a rhythm where the passes lead to finding the open player underneath – or free outside for an uncontested jumper.
The visiting Westfield Blue Devils had all of that and much more going on in its first division battle.
For the game’s entire 32 minutes Westfield did not relent one bit, with the Blue Devils producing a total team effort that saw the starters shine and the bench players excel as well.
Perhaps the most impressive stat in favor of Westfield was that the Blue Devils did not allow host Roselle Catholic to score consecutive field goals until there was just 2:08 remaining and the game pretty much already decided.
When Roselle Catholic scored – and the Lions were held to under 10 points in each of the first three quarters – Westfield answered right back.
Leading from start to finish and receiving solid efforts and scoring from six different players, Westfield produced a highly-decisive 49-38 Union County Conference-Watchung Division girls’ basketball victory over Roselle Catholic in Saturday’s first division game for both at RC’s gym.
Westfield snapped a two-game losing streak and evened its record at 2-2 and is now 1-0 in the Watchung Division.
Roselle Catholic fell to 2-1 overall and starts 0-1 in the Watchung.
Roselle Catholic finished second in the divison last year at 8-2 and Westfield third at 7-3, the teams splitting their division matchups by winning at each other’s place. Patrick School of Elizabeth won the division at 9-1.
When Westfield won at Roselle Catholic 42-35 last Jan. 16 the Blue Devils also ended a two-game slide that day to even their record at 5-5.
RC, which went on to capture its sixth Union County Tournament championship, finished 22-5 a year ago. Westfield, which fell to RC in the UCT semifinals, closed at 20-8.
Westfield scored Saturday’s first two baskets on inside field goals from junior Faith Dobosiewicz and senior Samantha Stravach to take an early 4-0 lead. The closest Roselle Catholic ever got was when senior guard Jenissa Encarnacion made the first of her two 3s to make it 4-3 with 3:58 to go in the first. It took Roselle Catholic that long just to get on the scoreboard.
Stravach paced Westfield in scoring with 12 points, while Dobosiewicz also reached double digits with 11. Encarnacion led all scorers with 13.
The reason Albany-bound Roselle Catholic senior center Taniya Hanner was held to just five points – one field goal and three free throws – was that Westfield’s strategy was simply not to let her get the ball at all.
It worked to perfection.
Hanner did not get off a single field goal attempt in the first quarter and was limited to just two rebounds. She did not attempt her first shot – a jumper from the left side – until there was 5:06 remaining in the second quarter. At intermission Hanner had zero points on just that one field goal attempt, in addition to also being limited to just three rebounds and one steal.
Then Hanner committed her third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter right after she finally scored – an inside putback – 43 seconds into the period.
Hanner did not return until early in the fourth quarter and was still not able to do anything offensively. Scoring-wise she produced only three free throws the rest of the way.
“Sam and Faith did a phenomenal job of guarding Hanner,” Westfield head coach Liz McKeon said. “They played against her last year and knew they couldn’t let her get the ball.”
A big reason why Westfield was able to go up by as much as 13 and then have a 12-point lead at the half was that Roselle Catholic committed nine turnovers in the second quarter.
While Westfield was executing backdoor and continually grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring on second and third chances, Roselle Catholic many times was throwing the ball away.
“A lot of rebounding is positioning,” Roselle Catholic head coach Joe Skrec said. “After that it’s heart and desire and Westfield displayed plenty of that today.
“Whenever there was a 50-50 ball Westfield beat Roselle Catholic to it. Westfield showed great tenaciousness and hustle.”
Not resting on its first-half laurels, Westfield continued its dominance in the third quarter. Still up by 12 midway through the period, the Blue Devils closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, with freshman Grace Klag scoring off an offensive rebound, Stravach inside and then sophomore Charlotte Dursee nailed a 3-pointer to put Westfield ahead 37-18 heading into the final eight minutes.
A layup by senior guard Lily Maz gave Westfield its biggest lead of 25 points at 43-18 with 6:20 to go. Not only were the Blue Devils creating a lot of layups, but they were making most of them.
“We had to shut down Hanner and Encarnacion,” Stravach said. “It was a team effort. On Hanner it was Faith from in front and me from behind.
“We didn’t look at the scoreboard at halftime or even in the second half. We didn’t want to get comfortable.”
Westfield lost three seniors to graduation who were 3-year starters from last year’s team, with Stravach and Maz the returning starters. Dobosiewicz played a lot.
“Our girls were tenacious from the start,” McKeon said. “We’re undersized, but our heart is there. Everyone stepped up their play today.”
Roselle Catholic’s returning starters are Hanner, Encarnacion and junior Kayla Haywood.
“They bothered us by packing it in and making it difficult for Taniya to get good, clean looks,” Skrec said. “We took some shots too early. Also, our man (defense) was not good. They had too many layups in the first half.”
The teams will meet for the second time in Watchung Division play on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. at Westfield.

UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL AT THE LIONS’ DEN
Westfield (2-2, 1-0) 10 14 13 12 – 49
Roselle Catholic (2-1, 0-1) 07 05 06 20 – 38

WESTFIELD BLUE DEVILS (49):
21-Chole Kreusser, freshman, 4-0-1-9
23-Faith Dobosiewicz, junior, 4-0-3-11
22-Samantha Stravach, senior, 5-0-2-12
10-Lily Maz, senior, 4-0-0-8
5-Charlotte Dursee, sophomore, 1-1-0-5
33-Grace Klag, freshman, 2-0-0-4
11-Ali Lisante, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Dobosiewicz, Dursee,
Kruesser, Maz, Stravach.
Totals: 20-1-6-49.

ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (38):
14-Jenissa Encarnacion, senior, 2-2-3-13
25-Taniya Hanner, senior, 1-0-3-5
4-Kayla Haywood, junior, 4-0-0-8
5-Janelle McNeill, junior, 1-1-0-5
13-Nina Worthey, junior 2-0-1-5
23-Amaris Jenkins, freshman, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Hanner, Encarnacion,
Haywood, McNeill, Worthey.
Totals: 11-3-7-38.

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – Westfield won at RC for the second straight season.

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