Who’s Gym? Jaden Carter’s Game-Winner Stuns Westfield On the Road 61-59

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Matthew Levine, Editor in Chief

It’s my gym. 

Seconds earlier, senior guard Jaden Carter topped off his team-leading 16 points by banking the game-winning three to upset Davidson commit Sean Logan and the Westfield Blue Devils 61-59 Saturday evening, Dec. 18 at Westfield High School. 

“It was a great shot and I knew I was gonna bank it,” Carter said. “I’ve got faith in myself so I took it. It was open and the rest is history.”

And when Carter ran over to the Westfield fans to celebrate, he chose to keep it simple. 

“It’s my gym! It’s my gym!”

It’s not only Carter’s gym now; it’s the Raiders’ gym. 

While the boys varsity basketball team was never lacking confidence — I received a text message from junior guard Matt Nervi this afternoon that read “statement game today!” — nobody expected the Raiders to compete the way they did and then win outright.  

“Everybody was counting us out, people in our school, etc.,” Nervi said. “I’m not sure how confident they were and we just wanted to come out here and play as hard as we can to show the state because nobody believed that we were gonna win this game.” 

Though they lack size, the Raiders possess two key qualities of a winning basketball team: hustle and swagger. The Raiders dive for every loose ball and play nasty team defense on one end while draining threes and celebrating on the other end — just ask Nervi and Carter. 

With under a minute left in a 56-56 game, Nervi took a key charge preventing the Blue Devils from taking the lead. When the Raiders went down one 59-58 with 15 seconds remaining, head coach Steve Siracusa asked his team in the huddle who should shoot the final shot.

All eyes turned to Carter. 

“That last timeout, we called with about fifteen seconds left and I asked the team, we had a couple plays that we were thinking of and they collectively as a group said, ‘let’s get the ball to Jaden,’” Siracusa said. “He’s been a three-year starter. He worked his butt off this whole off-season and we want the ball in his hands at the end of the game. We know he’s gonna have a target on his back now, but [tonight] he really showed the type of overall point guard and player he is.”  

The Raiders saw major contributions off the bench from seniors Russ Sta Rosa and Zach Mawby along with sophomore Sam Sponheimer, who was responsible for igniting the 12-0 run SPF went on at the end of the first quarter. Sta Rosa disrupted the Blue Devils defensively and scored seven points during the second quarter where the Raiders outscored Westfield 14-7, carrying a 26-22 lead into halftime. Mawby, meanwhile, was responsible for keeping the division one Davidson commit contained. 

“The biggest X factor for us today was Zach Mawby,” Siracusa said. “He put in great minutes off the bench and he didn’t even play varsity last year. He’s an undersized 6’2’’ center and we just said as long as you get in great position, we’re going to be okay defensively. We couldn’t let him [Sean Logan] get to his comfort spot and he did at times today, but overall, I think we got him outside of his comfort zone and that made a big difference.”

“It’s my gym! It’s my gym!” ”

— Jaden Carter

While Logan led both teams with 23 points and 14 rebounds, SPF came up with stops when they needed to on Saturday. The Raiders were able to weather Westfield’s third-quarter run that put the Blue Devils ahead 43-40 to start the fourth. SPF was always able to keep the game close enough so their playmakers could have a chance to win it. Carter scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter while Nervi contributed eight of his 11 points in the second half. 

“We knew we could play with them,” Siracusa said. We were doing it the whole game so far so we just had to weather that, and I think the biggest thing is our players, especially our guards, played composed and disciplined. That’s what we kept reminding them: stay the course, don’t get outside yourself and play together. I’m glad it worked out for us tonight.” 

The Raiders now prepare for their home opener against the Rahway Indians on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. where Siracusa & Co. look to secure their first conference win. 

“As much as this is a great game and test for us and a statement win, our conference didn’t start yet,” Siracusa said. “That starts on Tuesday against Rahway at home and we know they’re going to be tough. We haven’t beat them in a couple of years either and we need to be ready to go.”