SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - The Vikings of Union Catholic battled the Raiders of Scotch Plains-Fanwood in a crosstown rivalry on Tuesday night at Union Catholic.
The Raiders entered this contest with a record of 2-5 on the season, failing to secure a Mountain Division win so far this season. Union Catholic came into the game 2-0 in the Mountain Division and 7-2 overall.
Union Catholic, like it has done in most of its games this season, got off to another fast start and controlled the game on the way to a 59-38 victory.
Senior AJ Sepulveda led the balanced attack for Union Catholic with a career-high 14 points. Junior Elijah Barlow and senior Matt Tracey had 12 points each for UC.
Al Richardson picked up right where he left off against Seton Hall Prep on Saturday as he knocked down two triples in the first quarter for UC to help the Vikings get off to a great start, holding the Raiders to 4 points in the first quarter of play.
Richardson, with UC up 12-4, took advantage of the pick and roll set by Tracey to find Sepulveda backdoor for a reverse lay-in as the Vikings extended their lead to 10.
Sepulveda would go on to steal the ball under the basket and lay it in to complete the Vikings 16-4 first quarter edge over Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
The Vikings pushed momentum early in the second quarter. Sepulveda finshed off a personal 6-0 run extended from the first quarter, followed by a Bradley Young three pointer. Isaac Holmes then came up with a block in transition to keep the Raiders at bay.
Barlow then picked up two huge transition layups to blow the doors open for Union Catholic. The Vikings started the second quarter by scoring nine unanswered points before Scotch Plains-Fanwood needed to talk things over at the 4:43 mark in the second quarter.
Scotch Plains Fanwood started to see life after the timeout. The Raiders picked up two points at the line, as well as ten from the field. Union Catholic was able to go into the locker room at halftime with a 13 point lead, 29-16.
At the start of the second half, Scotch Plains-Fanwood came out with a 2-3 zone defensively in an effort to slow the Vikings inside attack down. Young, understanding that the Vikings needed to take perimeter shots against this scheme, crashed the boards in the first two minutes for put-back layups.
Throughout the remainder of the third quarter, Union Catholic was able to dump the ball inside constantly, extending the lead to 19. The Raiders were unable to climb back into the contest as they scored 13 points in the third quarter compared to the Vikings' 15. At the end of the third, Union Catholic led 44-29.
After 1:30 of scoreless basketball in the fourth, there were small bursts from both sides.
The Vikings initial three pointer was answered with two and one opportunities for the Raiders. A back and forth ensued for the next several minutes, as the majority of points came from physical play and foul drawing from both units.
The highlight of the final quarter camd when Barlow found Sepulveda for a transition alley-oop that put the Vikings up 17 points with four minutes left in the game.
As the window for Scotch Plains-Fanwood was closing, Union Catholic was able to force rushed shots on the defensive end and take advantage of transition opportunities, turning a variety of trips into points and/or free throws.
Union Catholic was able to dribble the clock out while taking a few reach in fouls to close things out at Union Catholic Tuesday 59-38.
The Vikings will be back in action at Westfield at 7 p.m. on Thursday.