Girl's basketball wins against rival Union Catholic


George Davis

Grit and grind would be the words to describe the first round meeting between the Raiders and crosstown rival Union Catholic. On Tuesday, Feb. 13th at Union Catholic, the Raiders entered the game as the tenth seed, Union Catholic as the seventh. There was much anticipation for the game as it would be the first meeting between both teams despite being in the same town.
Going into the fourth quarter with a 24-23 lead, it was not indicative of the momentum the Raiders had going into the final frame. With the support of a large Raider crowd consumed of mostly friends and family, they had a slight edge. Senior Abbe-Gayle Burton seemed to be there whenever the Raiders needed a spark from their supporting cast. But the Vikings stayed persistent, regaining the lead with five minutes left, but immediately after giving up a transition “and one” layup, fouling freshman phenom Corinne Lyght. Lyght converted the free tying the score at 25 apiece.
With 4:27 left, the Raiders used a timeout to regroup and draw something up to attack the Vikings defense. The timeout gave sharpshooter, junior Stefanie Divizio, an opportunity to get one of her only open looks of the game. Devizio hit a corner three off a screen set by teammate, senior Nya Downing. Instantly after the basket, the Vikings pushed the ball ahead and attacked the paint, forcing the Raiders to commit a foul with four minutes left. The Vikings converted on both free throws, evening the score to 27-27.
After a missed three point attempt by the Vikings, Lyght took a rebound coast to coast and euro stepped around a Union Catholic defender to put the Raiders up five with two minutes left. Burton went on to seal the game for the Raiders scoring three straight baskets to close out the Vikings with a final score of 34-38.
Burton dropped a game-best 15 points and brought down seven rebounds to lead the Raiders, now 12-8 entering the next round in which they’ll visit second-seeded Roselle Catholic.  Senior Brianna O’Brien and DeVizio each added seven points, while Downing also came down with seven boards.
Both bleachers were packed for each team, leaving standing room only. The first quarter was back and forth battle between both teams trying to gain control of the game. Downing was expected to be an impact player, but two fouls sidelined her early in the game and forced backup center and junior Eboni Davis to play crucial minutes in replace of Downing. The Raiders bench had been a question mark coming into the game, but left no doubts after a strong showing.
Going into the second quarter both teams looked to improve upon what was already a strong defensive quarter. Union Catholic only allowed five Raider points in the second quarter and the Raiders only let up seven Union Catholic points. Union Catholic was playing stifling defense contesting every Raider shot. Physical defense and a rapid pace of scoring allowed the Vikings to walk away with a one point halftime lead at 17-16.
Both teams continued their suffocating defense in the third, with the first basket not being scored until the five minute mark. The Vikings played an aggressive 2-3 zone, protecting the driving lanes and preventing shooters to have an open looks. Downing seemed plagued by her two fouls and her interior game was missed by the Raiders offense in the second half. Burton provided the Raiders with surges of energy, finishing the game with a near double-double 15 points and numerous clutch rebounds.
Both teams swapped the lead multiple times in the third quarter. A Raider basket late in the third quarter with 1:54 left on the clock put them ahead. Then, the Union Catholic transition layup gave the Vikings a one point lead with 1:34 left in the third. Union Catholics back court took advantage of Downing’s absence, scoring most of their third quarter points in the paint. The Raiders took the lead with a go ahead basket with 1:29 left and held the Vikings scoreless for the final stretch of the third.
In the next round they will face a talented Roselle Catholic team, who is the second seed in the tournament and favored by many. Roselle Catholic is 17-4 with commanding wins over Union, Cranford and Rumson. The game will be on Friday, Feb 16th.