Girls’ basketball UCT championship game will be Westfield vs. Patrick School for 3rd time in 5 years; Blue Devils oust RC, while Celtics eliminate Kent Place


CLARK – In order for the second-seeded Westfield Blue Devils to capture their second county championship, this is what needs to be done:
“We have to set the tone right away and shut them down, try to frustrate them,” Westfield junior guard Ali Lisanti said. “We turned the ball over too many times the previous times we played them.”
“The name itself, there’s something about it – Patrick School,” senior forward Samantha Stravach said. “We can’t get frazzled, especially early on. We have to forget about the name and just go out and play like we’re capable of.”
“We have to take care of the ball,” Westfield head coach Liz McKeon said. “We only have to worry about us. Defense and rebounding are always most important.”
Patrick School defeated Westfield 55-44 on its home court on Jan. 11, snapping a five-game Blue Devils winning streak.
Westfield had a four-game winning streak halted when the Celtics were a bit more decisive in posting a 50-33 triumph on the court the Blue Devils call home.
“The first time we played them closer,” Stravach said.
This time the game will be played on a bigger court and on a larger stage, with a trophy at stake.
“We’re used to moving around,” McKeon said. “We just need to be able to do what we need to do.”
Patrick School won its first UCT title in 2015 when it defeated Westfield in the final. Third-year head coach Damel Ling guided the Celtics to their second UCT crown in 2017 when his first Patrick School squad knocked off the Blue Devils once again in the final.
“Westfield has always given us problems,” Ling said. “They run some really good stuff and if we don’t come to play against them we’ll be in trouble.”

Thursday, Feb. 21
At Johnson High School
Westfield 60, Roselle Catholic 46
Patrick School 72, Kent Place 49

Since the 2014-2015 season when Westfield began playing the Patrick School, the Blue Devils have had their moments in certain games, but have yet to defeat the Celtics.
Including UCT losses in 2015 (final), 2016 (quarterfinals) and 2017 (final), Westfield is 0-12 vs. the Patrick School, including 0-2 this year.
The closest Westfield came to beating Patrick School was in the 2015 UCT final, a 45-43 Celtics win at Kean University.
The Union County Conference Watchung Division squads will battle at Kean for the third time in five years in the UCT final on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Westfield improved to 16-7 Thursday night at Johnson after producing a dominant 60-46 win over third-seeded Roselle Catholic. Including UCC-Watchung Division victories, the Blue Devils went 3-0 against the Lions for the first time.
Repeat Watchung Division champion Patrick School ousted fifth-seeded Kent Place 72-49 in Thursday’s second UCT semifinal at Johnson. Kent Place reached the semifinals for the first time.
Patrick School has now reached the final for the third straight year and for the fourth time in the past five. Roselle Catholic defeated Patrick School 55-52 in last year’s championship game at Kean.
“RC was better that day and they earned it,” Ling said. “That’s been our motivating factor. We’ve talked about 55-52 all year and that’s what we want to correct.
“We looked ahead and said our goal is to be playing Feb. 23 at 4 p.m.”
For the first time this year Patrick School has reached .500, now with a record of 12-12. A highly-challenging out-of-state slate in addition to facing some of the top teams in the state was a kind of rigorous schedule that had the Celtics under .500 until now.
“Our schedule has definitely toughened us up,” Ling said.
Patrick School has just one loss to a Union County opponent, splitting once again with Roselle Catholic in Watchung Division play.
Ling said the second Westfield win really got his team going.
“We played with a lot of intensity on defense that night,” Ling said, referring to his team’s 50-33 triumph at Westfield. “We also moved the ball extremely well.”
Following a 60-32 loss to Manasquan at Holmdel back on Jan. 27, the Celtics have now won eight of their last nine, with the only setback coming to a team from Maryland on Feb. 9.
“Who we have played has prepared us for the games we are playing now,” Ling said.
What Ling saw Thursday night before his team took the court was a Westfield squad that totally took RC Albany-bound senior center Taniya Hanner out of the game. Hanner was held to just two points – on a first quarter inside field goal that gave RC its first lead at 4-2 – and four rebounds.
“They shot the ball well and defended well,” Ling said. “We will watch film and prepare ourselves. We want to be able to take advantage of our size and get in front of them with our speed.”
An inside basket by Kayla Haywood gave RC its second and final lead against Westfield, 6-5. The first quarter ended with the Blue Devils ahead 7-6.
That would be the beginning of a 9-0 run that pushed their lead to 14-6. After an inside basket by RC senior guard Jenissa Encarnacion – who led all scorers with 22 points – Westfield went on an 11-0 run to take a 25-8 lead.
Encarnacion scored again inside and – then once more – Westfield answered, this time with baskets by freshman center Grace Klag, a jumper in the lane, and by junior shooting guard Ali Lisanti, a layup, to make the score 29-10. Encarnacion scored the final basket of the first half to make the score 29-12 at the break.
Encarnacion was getting her points, but the inside game of Hanner and junior Nina Worthey, who was held to nine points, was contained by a masterful effort led by junior Faith Dobosiewicz.
“Faith, Grace and Sam were all over her,” said Lisanti, who was Westfield’s shooting star, leading the Blue Devils with 20 points and all players with four 3-pointers. “They all played a part in shutting her down by fronting her.”
“We have a young team, but we play with a lot of heart,” Stravach said. “We knew we needed to shut Hanner down.
“The first quarter was back and forth and then we got our offense going in the second quarter. It’s usually by our defense stopping them, which fuels our offense. Also, instead of dribbling we were passing and cutting.”
When Westfield took control of the game was when the Blue Devils were holding the Lions to just one shot offensively.
Westfield outrebounded RC 9-2 in the second quarter, an eight-minute stanza the Blue Devils came out on top by a margin of 22-6.
“We do so many boxing out drills,” Stravach said.
Klag came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds. She made her presence felt in a big way.
“When Grace keeps the ball up high she is at her best,” Stravach said. “Hopefully she gained some confidence tonight and that will carry over.”
“We finally had a full roster and everyone stepped up,” McKeon said. “We also had to overcome some foul trouble.”
Stravach and Dobosiewicz had to sit for a while in the third quarter, both with three fouls at the time. Roselle Catholic made a move and got to within seven at 36-29 on a 3-pointer made from the left side by freshman guard Amaris Jenkins, who finished with 10 points.
However, Westfield rebounded by closing the third quarter on a 13-3 run, with Lisanti nailing her fourth and final 3-pointer for the period’s final points.
“Faith, Grace, Samantha and Chloe (Kreusser) all did a great job underneath,” McKeon said. “In the second quarter we pushed ourselves on defense and got rebounds and stops. That’s what we pride ourselves on, defense and rebounding.”
Ling was impressed with the way sophomore Shaniece Simpson-Whiteley played strong Thursday night in addition to senior guard Asonah Alexander, who will next play at Temple.
“Shaniece can dominate with her game and Asonah has been playing like a Division 1 guard,” Ling said.
Sophomore guard Lashae Dwyer, who comes in off the bench, leads the Celtics in scoring with just over 300 points.
Patrick School has many different options offensively, including senior guard Quanaijah McDowell. Ten different players scored in the team’s second win over Westfield.
“That’s when we’re at our best, when we get everyone involved,” Ling said.
Senior shooting guard Dana Hill came off the bench to score 12 points on four 3-pointers in Patrick School’s win at Westfield.
NOTES: On the same exact date last year – 2-21-18 – second-seeded Roselle Catholic defeated third-seeded Johnson 56-42 in the first UCT semifinal played at Johnson.
This year – the same matchup at the same venue on the same day, only the seeds reversed – Westfield came out on top by 14 points.
“We lost to them (RC) last year, so this feels amazing,” Stravach said. “We talked about it. It’s insane how it was one year ago today.”
Kent Place, sparked by another standout effort from senior Maggie Russell, saw its record fall to 17-7.

3-Roselle Catholic (14-9) 06 06 20 14 – 46
2-Westfield (15-7) 07 22 20 11 – 60

14-Jenissa Encarnacion, senior, 7-1-5-22
4-Kayla Haywood, junior, 1-0-1-3
13-Nina Worthey, junior, 4-0-1-9
23-Amaris Jenkins, freshman, 0-2-4-10
25-Taniya Hanner, senior, 1-0-0-2
5-Janelle McNeill, junior, 0-0-0-0
11-LaToya Alexander, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Haywood, Worthey,
Encarnacion, Jenkins, Hanner.
Totals: 13-3-11-46.

33-Grace Klag, freshman, 5-0-4-14
3-Caroline Dwyer, junior, 1-1-4-9
11-Ali Lisanti, junior, 3-4-2-20
22-Samantha Stravach, senior, 2-0-4-8
21-Chloe Kreusser, freshman, 2-0-2-6
23-Faith Dobosiewicz, junior, 0-1-0-3
5-Charlotte Dursee, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
20-Sam Leftheris, senior, 0-0-0-0
10-Lily Maz, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Stravach, Lisanti,
Dursee, Dobosiewicz, Kreusser.
Totals: 13-6-16-60.


SEEDS: 1-Patrick School. 2-Westfield. 3-Roselle Catholic. 4-Oak Knoll.
5-Kent Place. 6-Cranford. 7-Gov. Livingston. 8-Summit.
9-New Providence. 10-Union Catholic. 11-Brearley. 12-Dayton.
13-Elizabeth. 14-Plainfield. 15-Johnson. 16-Union.
17-Scotch Plains. 18-Hillside. 19-Benedictine. 20-Roselle.
21-Roselle Park. 22-Linden.

Brearley 50, Linden 30
Dayton 62, Roselle Park 29
Elizabeth 35, Roselle 32
Plainfield 77, Benedictine 35
Johnson 63, Hillside 50
Scotch Plains 35, Union 29

Wednesday, Feb. 13
Patrick School 75, Scotch Plains 14
Westfield 62, Johnson 29
Roselle Catholic 61, Plainfield 36
Oak Knoll 53, Elizabeth 32
Kent Place 65, Dayton 47
Cranford 64, Brearley 58 (OT)
Gov. Livingston 38, Union Catholic 32
Summit 27, New Providence 24

Friday, Feb. 15
At Johnson
Roselle Catholic 61, Cranford 37
Westfield 49, Gov. Livingston 36
At Rahway
Kent Place 40, Oak Knoll 37
Patrick School 70, Summit 32

Thursday, Feb. 21
At Johnson
Westfield 60, Roselle Catholic 46
Patrick School 72, Kent Place 49

Saturday, Feb. 23
At Kean University
2-Westfield vs. 1-Patrick School, 4 p.m.

2018 – Roselle Catholic
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
Plainfield 6
Roselle Catholic 6
Linden 3
Elizabeth 3
Scotch Plains 3
Gov. Livingston 2
Cranford 2
Patrick School 2
Benedictine 1
Mother Seton 1
Hillside 1
New Providence 1
Summit 1
Union 1
Roselle 1
Westfield 1