ROSELLE – Beginning with the vigorous play of freshman Shauntia Alexander off the bench, Roselle Catholic seized control of Monday night’s Union County Conference-crossover clash during the latter stages of the first quarter.
Then the Lions never let go.
Alexander’s first points gave home team its fourth lead and the advantage for good against visiting Roselle as Roselle Catholic went on to produce a convincing 49-30 triumph in what game announcer Rich Biddulph, an RC alum, dubbed the “Battle of the Borough of Roselle”, 3-4 blocks separating the two schools.
Alexander, driving hard to the basket and also showing an ability to fill the hoop from long distance, paced all scorers with 17 points, netting eight by intermission and her final nine in the third quarter. Alexander also hauled in seven rebounds, the first five in the second quarter, blocked one shot and came up with one steal.
“Shantia was good offensively and went to the basket hard and aggressively,” Roselle Catholic head coach Joe Skrec said.
Alexander’s first points were free throws that tied the game for the third and final time at 7-7 and then gave Roselle Catholic the lead for good at 8-7. The Lions closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 12-7 lead into the second quarter. Alexander added her first field goal, scoring inside, during the surge.
“We got off to a slow start, but I thought we pretty good on defense,” Skrec said. “We’ve been playing zone a lot more and at times well. It made boxing out their No. 33 a little easier.”
Skrec was referring to Roselle junior center Maddison Vaughn, who paced the Rams offensively with a 14-point effort. At times Vaughn was a handful. She also blocked five shots, four in a short span of the second quarter, grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds, came up with a steal and dished out one assist.
“We helped each other on defense at times, especially with Vaughn and the shots she blocked,” said Roselle fourth-year head coach Billy Houck, a 2011 RC graduate who is a former member of the RC practice squad.
Roselle Catholic allowed only one Roselle field goal in the second quarter en route to a commanding 23-11 halftime lead.
Roselle Catholic sophomore guard Amaris Jenkins was all over the court as well, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals.
“Every game is a learning experience for us,” said Skrec, who saw his team win for the second time in three games to improve to 4-11. Roselle Catholic will play the entire season without 6-1 senior scholarship player Nina Worthey, out with a torn ACL. Worthey, RC’s scorekeeper, will continue playing in college at North Carolina A&T.
“Anytime we can look up at the scoreboard and see it in our favor is a good thing,” Skrec said. “Roselle’s size, strength and ability to block shots definitely bothered us. We hope we can learn from that.”
Roselle, which begins the week in third place in the Union County Conference’s Sky Division at 6-3, slipped to 9-4 overall.
“Roselle Catholic was a tough team for us, but we played hard and represented well,” Houck said. “We have a young team with a lot of sophomores and a junior and they got the best of us.
“We did have better ball movement in the second half. The biggest thing for us is to play hard right to the end and I thought we did that.”
“We’re proud of Billy, an RC graduate and part of the RC family,” Skrec said. “He’s done a lot of good things in his time at Roselle and his kids play hard.”
Roselle Catholic’s next game is home Thursday night, Feb. 6, at 7 against Oak Knoll. That is RC’s final Watchung Division game. The Lions will then host Mountain Division foe Scotch Plains Saturday, Feb. 8, at 11 a.m.
“Our team, thanks to the efforts of the assistant coaches and the girls, has shown a lot of improvement since November and December,” Skrec said. “We’re hoping the girls will use the next month to continue that improvement.”
RC’s roster includes one senior, two sophomores and four freshmen.
Roselle’s next game is its final Sky Division contest Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. at home vs. Benedictine Academy of Elizabeth. Roselle will then play Thursday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Somerset County Vo-Tech.
NOTES: The 45th annual Union County Tournament will be seeded Feb. 11. The championship game is scheduled to be played Feb. 29.
Ten years ago the 2010 UCT championship game saw Roselle Catholic defeat Roselle 72-66 at Roselle Catholic. It was the fifth year in a row (2006-2010) and the last time the title game was held at RC.
UCT finals were previously held at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth. The UCT championship game has been held at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union since 2011.
When Roselle Catholic won the UCT title in 2010 it was the first time the Lions repeated as champions. RC won a third straight championship in 2011 for its fourth title and later added championships in 2014 and 2018.
RC’s first of six titles came in 2003 one year after Roselle won the championship for the first and only time in 2002.
When Roselle Catholic defeated Roselle in the 2010 UCT championship game at RC, present RC assistant coach Allison Skrec poured in a career-high 33 points. Skrec graduated in 2010 as RC’s all-time leading girls scorer with 1,338 career points.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER
GIRLS BASKETBALL AT ROSELLE CATHOLIC
Roselle (9-4) 07 04 06 13 – 30
Roselle Catholic (4-11) 12 11 14 12 – 49
ROSELLE RAMS (30):
33-Maddison Vaughn, junior, 4-0-6-14
13-Tyla Holmes, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
11-Kennedy Vaughn, sophomore, 2-0-4-8
12-Mia Rios, sophomore, 2-0-0-4
21-Jamilah Hayles, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Rios, M. Vaughn,
Hayles, K. Vaughn, Holmes.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC (49):
5-Janelle McNeill, senior, 2-0-3-7
23-Amaris Jenkins, sophomore, 3-1-4-13
3-Gabby Meloni, freshman, 2-0-0-4
1-Nia Clemons, freshman, 2-1-0-7
15-Woodlyn Duvalcin, freshman, 0-0-1-1
22-Emma Howlett, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
25-Shauntia Alexander, freshman, 4-1-6-17
Starters: McNeill, Jenkins,
Meloni, Clemons, Duvalcin.