RAHWAY, N.J. -- The Union Catholic boys basketball team used a big fourth quarter surge to come up with one of its biggest wins in recent years when the Vikings upset St. Mary's, the No. 11 ranked team in the state, 63-55, in the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament on Saturday at Rahway High School.
The Vikings, the fifth seed, will now play defending champion and No. 1 seed Roselle Catholic, the No. 2 ranked team in the state, in the semifinal round on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at Kean University.
This is the first time UC has advanced to the semifinals of the county tournament since 2016 when the Vikings played a great game when it fell to The Patrick School, 66-58. The Patrick School was ranked No. 2 in the state at the time, just like Roselle Catholic is this year.
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With the score tied 42-42 entering the fourth quarter, UC, fueled by Jaheim Tanksley, outscored fourth-seeded St. Mary's (16-7) 21-13 to pull out the dramatic victory. Tanksley, a senior guard who finished with 18 points, three rebounds and two assists, scored eight points for the Vikings in the final quarter, including a three-pointer with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter to give UC a 48-46 lead.
Several players had big games for UC, which made seven three-pointers in the game.
Gio Phillip contributed 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Nahshon Battle sank three 3-pointers and had 12 points, two assists and one rebound, and Justin Archer added 11 points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal. Matt Tracey did a little bit of everything for UC with four points, five rebounds, and a block.
Battle, who converted on a clutch and one bucket to make the score, 52-48 UC, has always came up big when the Vikings need it this year.
Philip, a junior guard who had a pivotal steal late in the game to add another possession for UC, was elite defensively and was tenacious rebounding on the boards.
"That is a mindset that we are not always going to hit on the first try so when we get second positions, we need to perfect on offense and defense," said Phillip, who scored a pivotal floater in the lane to give the Vikings a 50-48 lead.
Tanksley, was a leader for his team when the game started to get closer to the finish line.
"I just know playing with a group of younger kids that I have to be a leader on the floor," said Tanksley. "We talked all practice about the game plan and we came out with the victory. Great victory."
Tanksley knows being a leader means a lot of preparation.
"I am going to stay and watch the games," claimed Tanksley. "We have film on Monday. We will be ready to go for whoever we have to play on Tuesday."
UC Head Coach Dr. Jim Reagan Jr. was happy his team was able to execute the game plan against a great team like St. Mary's.
"I think we did a really good job on preparation,'' said Coach Reagan. "We saw a lot of film on St. Mary's and we knew a lot of their tendencies and I thought we executed fairly well as in what we had to do in order to be successful."
Coach Reagan knows his team has a big game against Roselle Catholic in the semifinals, but he feels his team will be ready for the challenge.
"We have seen Roselle Catholic multiple times and we will be prepared,'' said Coach Reagan. "Our kids will work hard and we will have them in the gym for practice and we will ready to go Tuesday night."