CLARK, NJ-  The Arthur L. Johnson High School girls varsity basketball team was looking for a spark to get their season back on track, and they found it Thursday night with a 56-39 win over Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. 

It was senior night for the Crusaders, who honored Meaghan Gallagher, Jess Gannon and Sabrina Parin for their contributions to the team.  The young women were joined by their families in the celebration.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride of fun and laughs,” Gallagher said. “Being with Sabrina and Jess has been an awesome time.”

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Gannon said the girls have been playing together since third grade. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to spend my senior night with,” she said.

“It’s amazing,” Parin said. “It’s all about the energy that will carry us through the season.”

The game started with the Crusaders taking a commanding offensive position.  Within the first 60 seconds, they put eight points on the board, shutting the Raiders out. By the end of the first quarter, the Crusaders led 23-4.

The Raiders pushed back in the second quarter, not allowing a Crusaders basket for the first five and a half minutes of play. A 10-0 scoring run cut the Crusaders’ lead to 23-14 with 2:24 left to play in the first half, but the Crusaders would respond with key baskets.

Johnson junior Amy Wysocki knocked down a three-point basket to get Johnson some points before going into halftime. The Crusaders led the Raiders by a score of 29-15 at halftime.

Raiders Summer Shepphard and Abbe-Gayle Burton started the third with a pair of baskets for SPF, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap. ALJ’s Wysocki and Gannon drilled back-to-back three pointers to maintain the Crusaders’ comfortable lead.

Shepphard responded, knocking down two 3-point baskets, to bring the Raiders to within 10 points. That was the closest they came, as the Crusaders kept sinking their shots. 

The Crusaders led the Raiders by a score of 46-29 following the third quarter and would hold the lead to capture the win.

“It’s definitely nice to get a win on your senior night,” Gallagher said. “We really wanted to get revenge on Scotch Plains after last time, so it’s definitely a good feeling.” The Crusaders lost to the Raiders, 44-36, in Scotch Plains on Jan. 12.  

“The win is very important because right now, we are in the lead in our conference,” Johnson head coach Joe Marino said after the game. “We have only two losses and we’re 6-2 in the conference, Rahway is 7-2, we beat them twice. The next two games we have to play, against Summit and Plainfield, are important to us.  Hopefully, we can finish off strong and if we do, that was one of our strong objectives at the beginning of the year.”

Palella, Gallagher and Wysocki each put up 14 points for the Crusaders. Parin contributed 11 points in the win.

“It’s amazing. It’s the only thing I could ever ask for,” Parin said. “I have an amazing team behind me, I just love this team. It’s been the best year yet.”

For Scotch Plains-Fanwood, senior Summer Shepphard scored 16 points in the loss, while senior Abbe-Gayle Burton added 15 points for the Raiders.

The Johnson Crusaders (8-9) will face off against Westfield HS in a home game Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m.

The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders (3-14) are back in action when they return home to play against Roselle Catholic HS Saturday afternoon at 7:00 p.m.

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