HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Jamarques Lawrence scored the first points of this intriguing Union County-Skyland Conference matchup on a deep three-pointer 50 seconds into the game.
It was fitting that the game’s first bucket belonged to Plainfield’s 6-foot freshman guard, because the afternoon belonged to him.
Lawrence went on to drop 26 points, torching Hillsborough from beyond the arc with eight three-pointers as Plainfield remained redhot with a convincing 61-41 victory over the Raiders. Hillsborough, which never led, was able to play within a possession of the Cardinals until late in the second half, but Plainfield outscored their Somerset County counterparts, 44-25, from the 2:26 mark in the second quarter until the final buzzer.
A.J. Strawderman led Hillsborough with nine points, but the Raiders struggled all afternoon against the Cardinals’ half court trap. Hillsborough managed just 12 field goals — the same amount Plainfield, winners of three straight, allowed in its last game against Scotch Plains-Fanwood — though did cash in from the stripe with 11 points from the free throw line.
Brian Chung added eight points and Jared Smith chipped in seven for the Raiders, who did possess a pretty noticeable size advantage over the Cardinals.
Though Hillsborough was never ahead on the scoreboard, the Raiders recovered from a six-point first quarter with a strong showing in the second. After opening up the frame on a mini 5-0 run, Hillsborough cut the deficit to two (13-11). Then, after falling behind, 17-11, halfway through the frame, the Raiders mounted another 5-0 run, in which Adam McCaffery’s two free throws made it a 17-16 ballgame.
That would be as close as Hillsborough would get all day. Jymirr Burns popped a corner three nearly one minute later to put Plainfield back ahead by two possessions, 20-16, with 2:26 left in the half. Then Lawrence hit a pair of treys as the Cardinals extended a 26-18 advantage by way of a 9-2 run to end the half.
Fittingly, Lawrence opened up the second half’s scoring on a three, as well, and at that point, the damage was done. Lawrence would go on to drop 11 points — a trio of three-pointers — in the third, as Plainfield pushed the lead to as much as 17 on a 14-5 stretch before Allen Holmon popped a three for Hillsborough with 6 seconds left in the frame.
Plainfield had also scored the first six points of the contest, which set the tone for the afternoon ahead. The Cardinals’ aggressive trap defense was certainly challenging for Hillsborough to overcome at times — especially early on — and multiple turnovers lead to transition points for the Cardinals.
Plainfield also found its offense through the hot hands of Jalil Lee (13 points) and Burns (11 points). Tyejuan Taylor added seven points.
Entering the game, Hillsborough definitely had a chance to build on the momentum it started previously in the week. On Thursday, the Raiders came away with a 58-41 victory against Bridgewater-Raritan, which is always a good victory, despite the fact that the Panthers are undergoing a down year.