RAHWAY, NJ — Forget about the basketball academies and super teams of Union County for a minute. The dogfight put on by Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Rahway Tuesday night epitomized the true grit and heart of Union County basketball; what the sport’s spirit in its purest form looks like.
An epic back-and-forth showdown between two of the county’s premier public schools was put on between the Raiders and Indians in front of Rahway’s popping Earl Walter Gymnasium. Both teams entered the contest undefeated, but ultimately it was Rahway that remained perfect.
After the Raiders headed into halftime with a commanding nine-point lead, Rahway put together a ferocious second half rally sparked by Zion Pendleton and Keyshawn Cummings to hand the Raiders their first loss, 54-50, of the season. Pendleton dropped 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, in which Rahway outscored the Raiders, 17-10.
Rahway remains a perfect 9-0 and is now atop the Union County Conference Valley Division, while Scotch Plains-Fanwood falls to 9-1 and in third place for the division.
Dwight Laylor recorded a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) for the Raiders, though all of his points came during the first half. Jack Brady, named the Union County Conference player of the week by NJ.com on Tuesday, scored a team-high 14 points, while Tommy Drubulis and Lamont Cruse each added eight points. The Raiders led by as many as ten points at one point during the contest.
After he won Sunday’s game with three-ball in the final seconds, Brady again produced in the clutch when sunk a three-pointer with 35 seconds left and the entire gym on its feet. Brady’s bucket tied the ballgame at 50 apiece, but Rahway converted clutch free throws and hit a layup in the final seconds to pull away.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was outscored by Rahway, 35-22, in the final two quarters.
Though the Raiders held a lead for most of the first half, the tides began to turn as soon as the third quarter began. Rahway opened up the frame on an 11-2 run and by the quarter’s end, the Raiders’ lead fell to three points (40-37). Keyshawn Cummings, regarded as one of Union County’s most elite guards, scored seven of his 15 total points during the third quarter.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was held to just three field goals in the fourth quarter, while the Indians sunk five buckets and hit seven shots from the charity line.
The Indians’ second half rally erased a game that Scotch Plains-Fanwood once controlled. After falling behind, 10-9, at the end of one quarter, the Raiders jumped ahead and created separation in the second quarter when Brady popped his second of three three-pointers and Dwight Laylor converted a three-point “and one” play. Laylor would drop a total of 10 points in the scintillating second quarter, as the Raiders entered halftime with a 28-19 lead.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood battled foul trouble down the stretch, as multiple of Rahway’s points on foul shots came in the double bonus situation (when the opposing team has 10 or more team fouls, the team fouled gets two foul shots even if it was not a shooting foul). The Raiders accumulated 12 team fouls in the second half, and four of the team’s five starters picked up four total fouls.
The Raiders will look to get back on track on Thursday, when they host Hillside at 7:00 p.m. in another divisional showdown.