SPRINGFIELD – As the fourth quarter commenced and they were trailing once again the host Bulldogs were about to do anything in the final eight minutes to avoid starting their 2019-2020 campaign 0-4.
Not only were the visiting Bears hanging in there, but they took the lead for the fifth time on an inside basket by star player Ibn McLean for the final points of the third quarter.
Dayton’s standout, senior DJ Alicea, hit a big three-pointer to put the Bulldogs back in the lead in the third quarter, with the basket sparking a quick 7-0 Bulldog run. However, as it was doing all game long up until this point, Brearley came right back.
In and out of the game with foul trouble and scoring most of his points from the free throw line after getting fouled driving to the basket, Alicea took it upon himself to jumpstart the Bulldogs one more time.
The first shot of the fourth quarter belonged to the streaky shooting guard and Alicea didn’t disappoint, connecting on a three-pointer from the right side that put Dayton ahead for the sixth time.
Brearley immediately answered with an inside bucket by Nino Principato that knotted the game for the sixth and final time.
Then Alicea drove to the hoop to put Dayton back up by two. Josh Jackson followed with an inside basket and after a 3-pointer by Principato pulled the Bears to within one, Dayton took real charge of the contest for the very first time.
The Bulldogs began to build real separation, their biggest lead was previously five points in the third quarter, by scoring the next 10 points.
That was enough to electrify a full house and bring Dayton fans to the realization that this was a game the Bulldogs were not going to let get away.
Alicea finished with a game-high 23 points, making 12-of-16 free throws, and Jackson finished with 19 to help lead the Dayton boys basketball team to a convincing 57-42 triumph over Brearley in Friday night’s Union County Conference-Sky Division clash at Dayton’s gym.
After trailing by one at the end of the second and third quarters, Dayton outscored Brearley 28-10 in the fourth.
As a result, Dayton improved to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the Sky Division, while Brearley slipped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the division.
“The three-pointer I made to start the fourth quarter, I think that really got us going,” said Alicea, who scored his final 13 points in the fourth. “Our defense really stepped up and we were finally locked in mentally.”
After pulling to within 36-35 on the first of two three-pointers made by Principato, Brearley’s point guard finished with a team-high 16 points, the Bears were outscored 21-7 the rest of the way.
“They got the ball to their best player and we didn’t,” Brearley second-year head coach Pat Dunnigan said of how the deciding fourth quarter unfolded.
Dunnigan was referring to McLean getting limited looks in the final eight minutes. McLean did score twice, once on a jumper and again inside, but his only baskets of the fourth quarter came when Brearley was behind by double digits.
McLean finished with 14 points, 11 coming in the second half.
“Alicea’s three-pointer to start the fourth quarter changed the momentum,” veteran Dayton head coach Bob Martin said. “We were waiting for it. We had been struggling offensively.”
Dayton kept up a solid defensive effort as the fourth quarter progressed, preventing from what appeared might be a contest that was going to go right down to the very final whistle.
“We were a little more locked in defensively in the fourth quarter,” Martin said. We scored and then we showed some energy.”
Brearley led 20-19 at the break after a first half that featured more flying bodies that fell to the floor than points registering on the scoreboard. Both teams were in the bonus, each committing more than 10 fouls, before halftime.
“It didn’t feel like there were that many fouls called, but there were,” Martin said. “We made our foul shots in the second half and that was also big.”
Dayton made 24-of-35 free throws, connecting on 13-of-19 in the first half and 11-of-16 in the second.
“There was a lot of scrambling going on in that first half,” Dunnigan said.
Dayton opened with a Sky Division loss at Hillside and then lost twice at home in its Joe Pepe Tournament last week, falling in overtime to Shore Regional and then to Millburn.
“Sometimes the first win is the hardest to get,” Martin said. “If you want to win your conference you need to get the games at home.”
Brearley was also 3-2 after five games last year before finishing 10-13 after falling in the first round of the North 2, Group 1 playoffs in Dunnigan’s first season at the helm.
Brearley had won three straight after opening with a loss at Glen Ridge. The Bears won at Weehawken and then twice at Hopatcong over Central Jersey Prep Charter and Wardlaw-Hartridge.
“I’m happy with our start so far,” Dunnigan said. “I figured Hillside and Dayton would be the teams to beat in our division.”
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-SKY DIVISION
BOYS BASKETBALL AT DAYTON HIGH SCHOOL
Brearley (3-2, 0-1) 08 12 10 12 – 42
Dayton (1-3, 1-1) 09 10 10 28 – 57
BREARLEY BEARS (42):
2-Nino Principato, senior, 4-2-2-16
1-Ibn McLean, senior, 5-0-4-14
4-Sean Boyars, senior, 2-0-1-5
14-Armani Merino, junior, 1-0-0-2
3-Chris Kelley, senior, 1-0-3-5
5-Adrian Merino, junior, 0-0-0-0
13-Harry St. Fleur, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: McLean, Principato,
Boyars, A. Merino, Kelley.
DAYTON BULLDOGS (57):
13-Mahkie Cromartie, junior, 2-0-1-5
4-Josh Jackson, junior, 4-2-5-19
2-DJ Alicea, senior, 1-3-12-23
33-Daniel Munoz, junior, 1-0-0-2
12-Andrew Hornbuckle, senior, 1-0-3-5
0-Cameron Campbell-Miller, sophomore, 0-0-2-2
1-Arshad Lassiter, senior, 0-0-1-1
Starters: Alicea, Campbell-Miller,
Jackson, Hornbuckle, Munoz.