SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — An odd, different, yet relaxed sort of vibe slowly crept over Scotch Plains-Fanwood as the night went on. Then it grew into a full out disaster as the fourth quarter ticked away.
Something was just off — it was clear from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. Perhaps the spectacular Senior Night ceremonies set everyone back, or maybe the fact that it was the last regular season game before the state tournament regular season set in.
Whatever the case, it was not a good look for Scotch Plains-Fanwood Friday night.
A festive atmosphere quickly turned into a bewildering one, as Roselle, which has made a habit of stunning the Raiders in recent history, marched into Scotch Plains and won, 61-57, to pull off another upset. Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Senior Night was spoiled in the process, and the Raiders now head into the state tournament with a record of 19-6.
The same Roselle team that nearly upended the Raiders in the UCT First Round two weeks ago was led by some familiar faces from that February 10 overtime thriller. Isaiah Chase and James Alderman combined for 35 points, while Chris Lango, Jason Smith, and Lamar Moore teamed up to put in 25 of the Rams’ points. Roselle outscored Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 20-11, to pull away in a fourth quarter that the Raiders entered with a 46-44 advantage.
As Scotch Plains-Fanwood was clinging to a one point lead, Lango hit an acrobatic layup with 1:37 left to put Roselle ahead, 58-57. On the Raiders' very next possession, the Rams came very close to purposely fouling, but were able to interrupt SPF by forcing multiple inbound restarts on reach in fouls. The plan eventually worked and coaxed a Raider turnover, to which Chase finished with a fastbreak to make it 60-57 with 38 seconds left, and after the Raiders were forced to foul, Lango hit a foul shot in the final seconds to seal the deal.
Chase drained nine of his 18 total points to lead Roselle's fourth quarter surge.
After each team traded leads for most of the first half, it appeared that Scotch Plains-Fanwood was going to take charge for good early in the fourth. Tommy Drubulis drilled a three-pointer with 6:02 left to give his team a six point lead, and seconds later, Lamont Cruse hit an acrobatic layup to make it 55-49. However, from that point on, the Raiders’ lead only shrunk, and fell to one point on a Lango “and one” play at 2:07.
Drubulis, one of the Raiders’ nine senior players, scored a team-high 15 points on a trio of both three-pointers and field goals. Petris, also a senior, added 11 points, and fellow classmate Dwight Laylor pulled down a staggering 16 rebounds in the loss.
With Drubulis and Petris each chipping in five points with a three-pointer, the Raiders jumped out to a 12-8 lead after the first quarter. Roselle struck right back in the second with their first of two 20 point frames, though the Raiders, helped by Drubulis and Muench three-pointers, hung on for a 29-28 advantage at halftime.
Shots seemed to have a hard time falling for Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which was successful on just 44 percent (22-for-50) of attempts from the field.
This is not the first time that the Raiders have fallen victim to Roselle. Last year, the Rams ended SPF’s undefeated start to the season in January, and cost the Raiders a conference championship on the regular season’s final day a month later. Roselle also won a meeting between the two in the 2015-16 season.
Prior to Friday night's game, 12 senior members from the Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys' basketball team and six senior cheerleaders were honored. They were:
Matt Kipp, Manager
Ryan Sta. Rosa, Manager
Alex Lipshitz, Manager