SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Union Catholic senior forward Matt Tracey caught fire at home in the Panthers’ second to last regular season game of the 2019-20 season.
He scored 14 of his 32 points for the Vikings in the third period alone to help Union Catholic (14-10) pull away from Bridgewater-Raritan (4-21) in the second half and give the Vikings a 76-53 victory over the Panthers.
Tracey opened the game’s scoring on a long jumper for Union Catholic before Panthers forward Alec Whelan got Bridgewater-Raritan on the board from the charity stripe in the game’s first minute. But in a high-scoring first period, the Vikings always seemed to have an answer for every blow by the visiting Panthers.
Union Catholic then came up with a pair of turnovers on defense, with the latter one leading to a fastbreak layup by guard Elijah Barrow, who scored 13 points for the Vikings. Whelan then gave the Panthers their first field goal with 6:30 left in the opening period on a hook shot to tie the game at 4-4.
Barrow then took advantage of a pair of offensive rebounds by the Vikings on their next possession by eventually connecting from long range, breaking the tie with 5:30 left in the first quarter and giving Union Catholic the lead for good. A bucket by Zach Letts, who scored eight points for the Panthers, got Bridgewater-Raritan to within one, but they got no closer after that. A three-pointer by Vikings guard Terrell Henderson and a layup by fellow guard Bradley Young put four of Union Catholic’s five starters on the board halfway into the quarter. With the Vikings up 12-6 at this point, Whelan then split a pair of free throws for Bridgewater-Raritan before Henderson drove through the Panthers’ defense for layups on back-to-back possessions to force a timeout a minute later.
Trailing 16-9, Panthers guard Alvin Cheng found forward Joey Callari, who also had eight points for the Panthers, for a quick score before Young split a pair of free throws for Union Catholic. Callari then responded with another basket in the paint to cut Union Catholic’s lead to 17-13 with 2:30 left in the opening period. With four of Bridgewater-Raritan’s five starters also on the board early, a jumper by Letts cut the Vikings’ lead in half before Tracey scored his final bucket of the opening period with just over a minute left. A three-pointer by Al Richardson capped off a burst of five unanswered points for Union Catholic to give the Vikings a 22-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
A split pair of free throws from Henderson gave the Vikings guard the last of his eight points on the night to open the second quarter. Barrow then intercepted a Panthers inbound pass and went coast to coast for an uncontested layup to extend Union Catholic’s lead to 25-15 two minutes into the period. Whelan then hit in the post to stop what ended up being an 8-0 Vikings run and get the Panthers on the board in the second quarter, and Letts found Whelan again from down low on Bridgewater-Raritan’s next possession.
Now trailing 25-19 with 4:48 left in the half, Cheng was called for his third foul at the other end. This led to a pair of free throws from Vikings forward Caleb Reed to put all five of Union Catholic’s starters on the board. Whelan responded with a pair of his own from the charity stripe, where Bridgewater-Raritan went 12-for-18 (67%) on the night, to cut the Vikings’ lead to 27-21 halfway into the second quarter. But Union Catholic responded with a triple from Tracey and a layup in transition by Barrow off of a turnover in a span of 34 seconds, giving the Vikings a 32-21 lead with 3:30 left in the half and their first double-digit advantage on the night.
A deep three-pointer by Callari and a layup by Zach Letts got the Panthers to within six points of Union Catholic. But Tracey offset this with four points of his own for the Vikings to close out the half, giving the home team a 36-26 lead over Bridgewater-Raritan.
And he was just getting started.
After Whelan opened up the third quarter with another bucket in the post for Bridgewater-Raritan and Young sunk a pair of free throws for Union Catholic, the Vikings senior forward went off. He scored Union Catholic’s next 14 points on seven field goals all in a span of 4:18 to extend the Vikings’ lead to 54-36 with 2:02 left in the third quarter. A bucket by Barrow and one more triple by Richardson capped off a 19-6 scoring run for Union Catholic, eventually giving the Vikings a 59-38 lead over Bridgewater-Raritan heading into the final frame.
Matt Rodriguez, who scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter for Union Catholic, scored the first five points of the final frame for the Vikings to extend their lead to 64-41 with 5:30 to play. A three-pointer from Whelan followed by a layup by Brandyn Vaughn, who scored all seven of his points in the final frame, and a split pair of free throws by Callari got the Panthers to within 64-47 just over a minute later.
Bridgewater-Raritan even got a quick steal and a good look from long range by Callari, but the shot unfortunately did not fall for the Panthers.
Instead, they settled for a split pair of free throws by Cheng, but the resulting 7-0 run by the Panthers cut Union Catholic’s lead to 64-48 with 3:55 to play.
But Tracey, who had 25 points for the Vikings in the first three quarters alone, scored his first field goal of the final frame with just over three minutes to go to break Union Catholic’s scoring drought. A quick answer by Whelan gave him a team-high 19 points for Bridgewater-Raritan on the night, but a response by Reed for Union Catholic at the other end extended the Vikings’ lead to 68-50 with 2:49 to go.
Tracey then closed the game out with a bang to put the game away, banking a short jumper off the glass and then connecting from downtown to close out his 32-point performance with 1:55 to go, and Union Catholic eventually ran out the clock on the way to a 76-53 home win over
Bridgewater-Raritan 53, Union Catholic 76
Union Catholic: Q1- 22; Q2- 14; Q3- 23; Q4- 17; TOTAL- 76
- Matt Tracey - 32 points
- Elijah Barrow - 13 points
- Terrell Henderson - 8 points
- Matt Rodriguez - 7 points
- Al Richardson - 6 points
- Bradley Young - 5 points
- Caleb Reed - 4 points
- Jack Saggio - 1 point
Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 15; Q2- 11; Q3- 12; Q4- 15; TOTAL- 53
- Alec Whelan - 19 points
- Joey Callari - 8 points
- Zach Letts - 8 points
- Brandyn Vaughn - 7 points
- Alvin Cheng - 6 points
- Rishi Mudduluru - 5 points
Bridgewater-Raritan (4-21), who has lost ten straight contests since back-to-back road wins at Hillsborough and J.P. Stevens between Jan. 23-25, will close out their 2019-2020 regular season at Bound Brook (21-4) Feb. 27. Tip at the Crusaders on Senior Night for Bound Brook will be at 6 p.m.
The Panthers and Crusaders both played Somerville, Bernards, Voorhees, and Gill St. Bernards this regular season. Bound Brook went 4-2 against these opponents including their most recent contest: an 88-47 setback against Gill St. Bernard’s in the quarterfinals of the Somerset County Tournament Feb. 25. The loss by Bound Brook at the hands of the Knights, who swept their regular-season series against the Panthers with 96-50 and 69-34 victories, snapped an eight-game win streak by the Crusaders.
Bridgewater-Raritan went 0-5 against the aforementioned common opponents.
For detailed Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers Athletics schedules and game locations, please see https://bridgewaterraritanhighschool.bigteams.com/.
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