When Liz McKeon scored a career-high 31 points in her second-to-last game at Westfield in 1999, becoming just the second Blue Devils girls basketball player to reach 1,000 career points was quite the lofty achievement.
However, it came in a loss at Morristown.
When she scored 14 more points in her final game, again it came in a loss, that time at Clifford Scott in season-ending state tournament play.
Now in her sixth year as the program’s head coach, McKeon was fortunate enough this time to celebrate a milestone that came in a victory and also in Westfield’s gym.
When top-seeded Westfield defeated 16th-seeded Dayton 59-30 Tuesday in first round Union County Tournament play McKeon, her players, coaches and the Westfield fans in attendance were able to celebrate McKeon’s 100th coaching victory.
FRIDAY, FEB. 21 QUARTERFINALS
TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET AT RAHWAY:
5-Summit (12-9) vs. 4-Oak Knoll (13-8), 6 p.m.
9-Johnson (10-12) vs. 1-Westfield (17-5), 7:30 p.m.
BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET AT JOHNSON:
7-Gov. Livingston (15-9) vs. 2-New Providence (21-2), 6 p.m.
11-Roselle Catholic (5-15) vs. 3-Union Catholic (17-4), 7:30 p.m.
IN REGULAR SEASON PLAY:
Oak Knoll and Summit did not play each other.
Johnson and Westfield did not play each other.
Union Catholic defeated Roselle Catholic 61-26 at RC on Dec. 23. Roselle Catholic was 1-8 before the Lions captured their second of just five wins.
New Providence defeated Gov. Livingston 50-42 at GL on Jan. 4, putting GL’s record at the time at 1-5.
The hottest team in Union County at the moment and the favorite to win the UCT, Westfield improved to 17-5 and ran its winning streak to 13.
Senior guard Caroline Dwyer paced Westfield offensively with a game-high 23-point performance.
“I talked about it with the girls after the game how this has become a whole different life and career for me when I switched to education and coaching,” said McKeon, who starred collegiately at Lafayette where she achieved the Patriot League Honor Roll in addition to obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
McKeon also holds a Master of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, which led to a 10-year career in marketing positions for ESPN and the NFL, where she was selected to serve on the Women’s Interactive Network.
After serving as an assistant coach for one year in 2013-2014 under Joe Marino, the only coach to guide Westfield to a UCT championship, McKeon was named head coach in November of 2014.
McKeon guided Westfield to the UCT championship game her first season at the helm in 2014-2015 and two more times after that in 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, all three times losing to The Patrick School of Elizabeth.
Her assistant coaches, Brian Ciemniecki – Class of 1996 – and Marcie Williams – Class of 1990 – are, along with McKeon, enshrined in the Westfield Athletic Hall of Fame. Ciemniecki is also the girls junior varsity coach.
“I was fortunate enough to have Lillian Scott and Jacqueline Knapp as seniors my first year,” McKeon said. “Everything I do is for these girls and I know I push them because I know what they’re capable of. Hopefully that helps them down the road.”
This could be the beginning of a special run for Westfield, which has only four seniors on a 13-player roster. Freshman guard Annie Ryan is a cousin of Knapp’s. Annie’s older sister Molly played for McKeon, graduating in 2018.
“The girls are really playing as a team now,” McKeon said.
The tuneup – Westfield’s final regular season game – before UCT play commenced for the Blue Devils was Saturday’s Union County Conference-crossover clash at home against 20-1 New Providence, the UCT’s second seed. Westfield prevailed 48-45.
Westfield won the UCC’s four-team Watchung Division championship outright at 5-1, while New Providence shared the UCC’s six-team Mountain Division crown with Union Catholic, both finishing 9-1 and beating each other by four points at home.
Group 4 Westfield and Group 1 New Providence are now two UCT wins away each from facing each other one more time this season in the Feb. 29 UCT championship game at Kean University.
Westfield will next take on ninth-seeded Johnson and New Providence seventh-seeded Gov. Livingston in Friday night’s quarterfinals. GL is now 15-8 and has won eight in a row.
“Right now for us it seems to be someone new every night,” McKeon said. “No one is selfish with the ball. The kids are really coming into their own.”
Another Union County coach who will most likely have to wait until next season to reach a milestone is Cranford’s Jackie Dyer. In her 13th season at the helm of the Cougars, Dyer is at 195 wins, with the Cougars now 9-12 after falling at home to Roselle Catholic 64-54 in Tuesday night’s first round UCT play.
“While Cranford and Westfield are big rivals, outside of basketball Liz is one of my best friends,” Dyer said. “She has done such an amazing job at Westfield and has her girls playing and working hard for her. I have the utmost respect for her as a coach.
“She has a really young team, too.”
Patrick School does not have a team this season.
“Playing the Patrick School is not an easy thing to do,” Dyer said. “This year would be great for her to get there (reach the UCT final again) and end that streak the fourth time (in the final) that it happens.”
LOWER-SEEDED SQUADS JOHNSON AND ROSELLE CATHOLIC PREVAIL
There were two lower-seeded teams who managed to win on the road Tuesday night, those schools being Johnson and Roselle Catholic.
Johnson, the ninth seed, won at eighth-seeded Elizabeth 38-36. Led by the scoring of freshman Katie Ledden with 14 points and senior Lilly Gull with 11, the Crusaders outscored Elizabeth 12-7 in the all-important fourth quarter at the Dunn Center.
Johnson improved to 10-12 and won for the sixth time in eight games following a 4-10 start.
Elizabeth, which just captured a share of the UCC’s Valley Division championship with GL, fell to 15-8.
The teams did not face each other in regular season play.
Roselle Catholic, the 11th seed and with just four wins, won at sixth-seeded Cranford 64-54 at Cranford’s Martin Gymnasium after getting swept by the Cougars in regular season play. In UCC-Watchung Division games, Cranford beat Roselle Catholic 59-53 at RC on Jan. 14 and then downed the Lions 52-40 at home on Jan. 30.
This time Roselle Catholic managed to take a 32-25 lead at the break and after losing the third quarter 10-9 the Lions won the fourth quarter 23-19 to cement the upset.
Cranford managed to come back in the third quarter and take the lead by one point before Roselle Catholic scored the final six points of the period to take back the lead for good.
Shauntia Alexander’s long, two-pointer in the final second of the third quarter put the Lions ahead by 41-35 heading into the fourth. A freshman, Alexander posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds as Roselle Catholic remained ahead from the fourth quarter on.
Roselle Catholic senior Janelle McNeill poured in a game-high 18 points, including nine-of-13 from the foul line. Freshman Nia Clemons finished with 15 points and sophomore Amaris Jenkins, who played a very strong defensive game, added 10 points and five assists.
Cranford junior shooting guard Liz McCaffery paced the Cougars in scoring with 15 points, including two three-pointers. Sarah O’Donnell scored 14, including a game-high four threes.
GL SNAPS HILLSIDE’S 15-GAME WINNING STREAK AND HANDS COMETS THEIR FIRST LOSS AGAINST A UNION COUNTY OPPONENT
Governor Livingston, the seventh seed, won at home against 10th-seeded Hillside 57-39 Tuesday night, ending Hillside’s school-record 15-game winning streak. It was also the first time Hillside lost to a Union County opponent this season. Hillside’s first two losses were to Morris County foes Morristown and Montville back in December. Hillside was the last Union County team to lose to a Union County team this season.
Senior guard Skylar Dowling poured in a game-high and season-high 29 points to pace the host Highlanders offensively. Teammate Paige Phillips, also a senior, scored 17.
NOTES: The sites and times for Friday’s quarterfinals should be released Wednesday or Thursday. The sites have been Johnson and Rahway the past several years and with Johnson advancing, the Johnson-Westfield game should be one of the two played at Rahway.
The semifinals are scheduled for next Tuesday, most likely at Rahway.
McKeon, who played for head coach Kathy Hauser, needed 28 points to reach 1,000 with at least two games to go her senior season. Her career high was also 28 before she poured in the 31 at Morristown.
TUESDAY, FEB. 18 FIRST ROUND
TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
9-Johnson at 8-Elizabeth
Johnson 38, Elizabeth 36
16-Dayton at 1-Westfield
Westfield 59, Dayton 30
12-Scotch Plains at 5-Summit
Summit 47, Scotch Plains 24
13-Plainfield at 4-Oak Knoll
Oak Knoll 73, Plainfield 42
BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
10-Hillside at 7-Gov. Livingston
Gov. Livingston 57, Hillside 39
15-Roselle at 2-New Providence
New Providence 68, Roselle 35
11-Roselle Catholic at 6-Cranford
Roselle Catholic 64, Cranford 54
14-Kent Place at 3-Union Catholic
Union Catholic 49, Kent Place 24
LIZ McKEON AT WESTFIELD (6th season):
2019-2020: (17-5 so far)
2018-2019: (18-9) – UCT finalists
2016-2017: (19-6) – UCT finalists
2014-2015: (17-9) – UCT finalists
Total: 100-53 (.654)
WESTFIELD 1,000 POINT SCORERS IN ORDER:
1988: Krissy Jeremiah (1169)
1999: Liz McKeon (1017)
2008: Erin Miller (1580)
2015: Lillian Scott (1540)
2015: Jacqueline Knapp (1370)
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE 2019-2020 CHAMPIONS:
WATCHUNG DIVISION: Westfield (5-1)
MOUNTAIN DIVISION: New Providence (9-1) and Union Catholic (9-1)
VALLEY DIVISION: Gov. Livingston (9-1) and Elizabeth (9-1)
SKY DIVISION: Hillside (9-0)