RAHWAY, NJ- For most of the second quarter, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders boys varsity basketball team appeared to be in control of the game against the Rahway High School Indians, leading by as many as 11 points. However, the advantage was short lived as the Indians turned the momentum, in their favor during the second half to snatch the win 74-56 in the Union County Tournament Second Round Wednesday night.
As the game got underway, Johnson and Rahway traded shots on both ends and played a close first eight minutes, with the Crusaders taking a 13-10 lead.
The Crusaders then led 17-16 with 5:53 left in the second quarter, before the offense really began to come together.
Johnson closed out the half on an 11-5 scoring run to take a 30-21 lead into halftime. Senior George Visconti added eight points in the quarter, while junior Brenden Kelly added seven points to power the Crusaders.
Despite the offensive streak of the Crusaders, the Indians would fight their way back into the game as the third quarter started.
Led by senior Keyshawn Cummings, Rahway was able to get within five points early, 32-27 within the first minute of the third quarter.
Cummings also connected for two three-point shots, tying the game at 39-39. He scored 18 of Rahway’s 28 third-quarter points and his team stormed out to a 49-41 lead with 1:41 left in the quarter, but Johnson would find a way to get back in it.
After a basket made it 49-43, Visconti launched a deep shot from beyond the arc and as he was fouled, connected. He completed the four-point play to make it 49-47. He would later score two free throws, knotting the score at 49-49 as the fourth quarter started. Rahway would steal the show as the final eight minutes started.
With the Indians leading the Crusaders 53-52, Rahway would put the game away possession after possession. Johnson had just called a timeout following a three-point shot from Kelly, but Rahway answered right after that on offense.
Cummings and junior Zion Pendleton hit back-to-back shots that made the score 57-52 with 5:15 left. They would string together more points, jumping out to a 63-54 lead with 3:18 left and they would not look back.
They would string together an 11-2 scoring run to close the door on the Crusaders and capture the win.
In total, Cummings finished the evening with 36 points, along with 3 three-point shots, which ignited Rahway’s comeback in the second half. Sophomore Nicolas Gallette tallied 17 points in the win for the Indians.
He scored 28 points in the previous matchup between the two teams in December.
“They were just making shots,” Johnson senior Jeff Drajin said, talking about Rahway’s suddenly hot streak on offense. “[Keyshawn Cummings] lit us up. We were playing together and trying to find a solution, but at the end of the day, you have to tip your cap to them because the kid was just making shots.”
The Johnson Crusaders, who have played 12 of their last 14 games on the road, including neutral sites such as Kean University and Roselle Catholic High School, are focused on the upcoming games left on their schedule before the start of the state tournament.
“We’re just looking to get back in that gym and continue to get better and have a strong showing before the state tournament,” Visconti said, “so we can build some energy and some momentum going into that because that’s our ultimate goal from here on out.”
“We need to get healthy,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We just need to get confident again and go to Brick [Township] and go to Pequannock, win those couple of games and have some positive momentum going into states.”
The Johnson Crusaders (14-7) head out on the road and will play at Brick Township HS on Wednesday, February 21 at 5:00 p.m.
The Rahway Indians (20-2) advance to the Union County Tournament Quarterfinals. They will take on third-seeded St. Mary of the Assumption HS (Elizabeth) Saturday night at Arthur L. Johnson High School at 7:00 p.m.
Their next regular season game is scheduled for Wednesday, February 21 on the road at Summit HS at 7:00 p.m.
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