Three 20-win UnionCounty girls’ basketball teams saw outstanding 2013-2014 seasons come to a conclusion Saturday in state tournament action.
At Rahway in a Non-Public, South B semifinal, top-seeded Roselle Catholic was turned back by fifth-seeded St. Rose of Belmar 52-46. The Lions finished 25-2, setting a program record for wins in a season.
In the other semifinal, sixth-seeded Patrick School lost at top-seeded and No. 2 in-the-state Gill St. Bernard’s. The Celtics concluded one of their best seasons ever at 20-6.
The No. 1 team in the state, top-seeded Shabazz, will host second-seeded New Providence in Tuesday night’s North 2, Group 1 final. The Pioneers – owners of a 22-6 record – are the only UnionCounty team still alive.
And in the North 2, Group 4 semifinals, top-seeded Union rallied to send the game to overtime, but then fell at home to fourth-seeded Franklin 53-45. The Farmers finished 23-6, winning the most games under the 12-season tenure of head coach Justin Meyer.
The final will be Franklin hosting sixth-seeded East Orange Campus Monday night.
“The kids really did battle back,” Meyer said of his Farmers. “We were down six late in the game, tied the score and had a chance to win.”
Union came back from a 43-37 deficit to knot the score at 43-43 late in the fourth quarter.
“Then they (Franklin) scored with 35 seconds left to take a 45-43 lead and then we came down and tied the score at 45-45,” Meyer said. “We got a rebound with 12 seconds left and then Wendy Berry passed to Tessa Dolce, who made a move to the basket.
“The ball was blocked with three seconds left (in regulation). It was questionable that a foul wasn’t called there. Our kids played their hearts out like they have the entire season.”
Overtime was all Franklin, with the SomersetCounty squad winning the extra session 8-0.
“We won the tip in overtime, but then turned the ball over twice,” Meyer said. “Franklin played great the whole game. They’re a very good team.”
Union was paced offensively by senior four-year starter Wendy Berry, who finished with 16 points for a final career total of 1,021.
Berry reached 1,000 career points in Thursday’s 51-39 quarterfinal round home win over eighth-seeded Piscataway.
“Wendy’s a great kid who has a passion about the game, loves her teammates and who worked hard to improve on the court and in the classroom,” Meyer said.
Berry is seeking to play in college, with in-state Division 3 programs such as Rutgers-Newark, Kean and Ramapo showing interest.
Union finished second in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division at 12-2 (only two losses to champion Roselle Catholic) and second again to Roselle Catholic in the Union County Tournament.
Union reached the final for the first time since the only year the Farmers won the crown, which was 2000.
“Berry was a four-year starter and senior Salena King started as a sophomore and this year came off the bench as a senior, she’s tough as nails,” Meyer said. “Adora Moneme (junior) stepped up her game and is one of the best players – rebounding-wise – while sophomore point guard Jasmine Bonaparte controlled the ball and made everyone else’s job easier.”
Whether or not this was head coach Joe Skrec’s best team – this was Skrec’s 18th season at the helm of the Lions – is up to debate. Here’s what his 25-2 Roselle Catholic squad accomplished:
* won its holiday tournament and was the only team (up to this point) to beat eventual Morris County Tournament champion Morris Catholic
* won a fourth straight watchung division title and sixth straight division title overall
* finished perfect in a division (14-0) for the first time
* won a fifth Union County Tournament championship and is now 5-0 in the final
* won a program-best 25 games that included winning streaks of 9 and 16
* did all of this with his two senior starters (Tori Pozsonyi-Colgate and KateTobie-MontclairState) to continue playing in college
On Saturday vs. St. Rose, junior Dolapo Balogun scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to post another double-double.
Poszonyi netted a team-high 14 points and grabbed seven boards. Pozsonyi was one of seven Union County girls to reach 1,000 career points this season, the other six being Westfield juniors Lillian Scott and Jacqueline Knapp, Brearley senior Christine Grispart, Hillside junior Yasmine Robinson-Becota, New Providence sophomore Sydney Morang and Union senior Wendy Berry.
Another Roselle Catholic standout junior – Allieyah Cubbage – finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four steals. Tobie dished out four assists.
St. Rose nailed four 3-pointers in the third quarter, including two by Payton Smith, who finished with nine points. The Shore Conference squad battled back from a two-point halftime deficit.
St. Rose will play Gill Tuesday night for the championship.