SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. -- Union Catholic, led by Jaheim Tanksley, Matt Tracey, and Gio Phillip, defeated Westfield, 76-68, in the first round of the Union County Tournament on Wednesday night.
With the victory, fifth-seeded Union Catholic advanced to take on fourth-seeded St. Mary's, ranked No. 11 in the state, in the quarterfinal round of the county tournament this Saturday at 12:00 p.m. at Rahway High School.
Tanksley, a senior guard who scored 11 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, ignited a key surge for UC to open the final period.
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Union Catholic, now 15-5 on the season, was clinging to six-point lead after three quarters vs.12th seeded Westfield. But Tanksley opened the final quarter by draining a long three-pointer and scoring on a driving layup, and Isaiah Hill made a free throw to give UC a 58-46 lead.
Tanksley, who shot 56 percent from the field and had four rebounds, two steals, and two assists, was one of many Vikings who came up big.
Tracey had a huge game for UC with 17 points off an incredible 89% shooting percentage, Phillip had 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals, Elijah Barlow scored eight points and had three assists and two steals, and Hill finished with seven points, six assists, and four rebounds.
The game started out with a very fast pace with both teams trading baskets and the lead. Hill had a big first quarter for UC by scoring all three of his baskets to help the Vikings take a 21-18 lead
The Vikings burst out in the second quarter with an 8-0 as Barlow scored five straight points and Tanksley hit a big three to give UC a 29-18 lead. Tanksley hit a buzzer beater layup to end the second quarter, giving the Vikings a 40-32 halftime lead.
Westfield ,which stayed in the game thanks to his hot three-point shooting (the Blue Devils made 10 three's), outscored the Vikings, 14-12, in the third quarter to cut the deficit to six.
But after UC's 6-0 run to open the fourth quarter, Westfield never got closer than an eight point deficit the rest of the way.
Phillip contributed in all facets of the game and was once again a spark plug for the Vikings.
"I just knew I had to do all the little stuff like dive for loose balls, rebounds, get steals, and play defense," replied Phillip." That's where it started on the defensive end, we got the job done and that's why we came out with a victory."
Phillip knows the Vikings have a tough game vs. St. Mary's.
"It starts with practice," explained Phillip. "We are going to practice with a mindset that we have to win and get to the next round."