UNION – Proving that it is still a force to be reckoned with, Patrick School learned well from its regular season loss to Elizabeth.
“We had to hold down their guards, prevent them from scoring, and keep the ball in front,” Patrick School senior guard Al-Amir Dawes said. “We had to do the little things defensively.”
Sometimes a little goes a long way. It did this time for the Celtics, who will now prepare to play in their fourth consecutive county championship game.
Behind a spectacular, game-high 28-point performance from the Clemson-bound Dawes, third-seeded Patrick School handed second-seeded Elizabeth its first loss of the season, winning 48-39 in Tuesday night’s 83rd annual boys’ basketball Union County Tournament semifinals at Kean University’s Harwood Arena.
Patrick School will face top-seeded and defending champion Roselle Catholic (23-3) in Saturday’s scheduled 6 p.m. final here at Kean. Patrick School lost to RC 68-58 in last year’s final and this year lost to RC 62-61 at Hillside on Jan. 17 and 48-42 at RC’s gym on Feb. 5.
Elizabeth (23-1) will now solely focus on the upcoming North 2, Group 4 playoffs, of which it is the No. 1 seed.
Not only did the Celtics win another UCT semifinal, but Patrick School led Elizabeth from start to finish and limited the Minutemen to their lowest point total of the season. Elizabeth’s previous low came in its 47-39 win over Cherokee in the Feb. 2 Battle by the Bay at Atlantic City High School.
Patrick School led 18-11 at intermission. Nothing in the locker room changed from a strategic standpoint.
“We stuck to our game plan,” said Dawes, who scored 21 of his 28 points in the final 16 minutes.
That game plan – for the entire 32 minutes – consisted of Patrick School constantly getting a hand in when Elizabeth had the ball and also limiting the Minutemen to just one shot offensively.
Not only did Elizabeth guards Brenden Kelly and Al-Fatir Connor have a tough time getting into any kind of rhythm, but bigs Jordan Price, Jesiah West and Abdul Shanunu were also limited by a defensive effort that saw Patrick School constantly get to the ball much quicker.
The three times West scored and was fouled, each occasion he missed the ensuing free throw.
Kelly was held to seven points, two at the very end and Connor didn’t take many shots at all and was held to two points on a couple of free throws.
Despite not really playing well at all, Elizabeth was always in the game scoreboard-wise. Price’s second 3-pointer – coming from the right side – pulled the MInutemen to within 38-36 with 3:12 remaining.
However, Patrick School senior guard Alejandro Vasquez answered with a 3 of his own, he let go of a shot from the right side as he fell to the ground, that put the Celtics back up by five at 41-36 with 2:25 to go.
Those Vasquez’s first points.
That might have been the biggest field goal of the game.
Dawes then added a 3-point play, strategically making a layup and getting fouled in the process. He did not miss his free throw.
“That’s just the kind of stuff I work on in the gym every day,” Dawes said. “That was easy. I was very confident.”
Patrick School will be that much more confident when going up against RC again. After beating a team – Elizabeth – it lost to in the regular season – 62-51 at Dunn on Jan.29 – the Celtics will try to reverse fortunes once more.
“It’s a good feeling to be back in the championship game again,” Dawes said. “We will be very motivated again.”
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS
AT KEAN UNIVERSITY’S HARWOOD ARENA
3-Patrick School (16-9) 08 10 14 16 – 48
2-Elizabth (23-1) 04 07 14 14 – 39
3-PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (48):
2-Al-Amir Dawes, senior, 6-2-10-28
1-Abdellah Diallo, junior, 0-0-0-0
34-Allon Johnson, senior, 2-0-0-4
20-Donte Johnson, freshman, 0-0-0-0
3-Samson Johnson, junior, 0-0-0-0
42-Olanreaju Olamuyiwa, senior, 2-0-0-4
00-Jayden Pierre, freshman, 0-0-0-0
21-Alexander Rice, senior, 0-1-2-5
24-Syheim Powell, senior, 0-0-3-3
15-Alejandro Vasquez, senior, 0-1-1-4
30-Jayvin Irby, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
25-Elijah Chavannes, junior, 0-0-0-0
22-Jaquan Harris, freshman, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Dawes, Allon Johnson,
Olamuyiwa, Rice, Vasquez.
2-ELIZABETH MINUTEMEN (39):
2-Al-Fatir Connor, sophomore, 0-0-2-2
11-Julius David, senior, 0-0-0-0
14-Pascal Dodard, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
0-Brenden Kelly, senior, 2-1-0-7
4-Jordan Price, junior, 2-2-5-15
33-Abdul Shanunu, senior, 1-0-0-2
3-DJ Watkins, junior, 1-0-0-2
1-Jesiah West, senior, 5-0-1-11
Starters: Kelly, West,
Connor, Watkins, Price.