CLARK, NJ - Union Catholic, which received a huge boost from the return of Sabrina Araujo, went on a big fourth quarter run to pull away from Roselle Catholic on the way to a 40-26 victory in the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament on Friday night at Johnson High School.
The victory by the third-seeded Vikings raised their record to 18-4 and sent UC into the semifinal round where it will meet Gov. Livingston this Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Rahway High School. The Vikings defeated GL last month, 47-22 at UC.
With the Vikings leading, 25-20, after three quarters, Araujo, who missed the last three games with an injury, scored the first seven points for UC in the final quarter to ignite a 9-2 run that gave the Vikings a 34-22 lead with 5:04 left in the game
Araujo, a junior guard who finished with 10 points, scored on a floater in the lane, scored again in the paint, and continued her electric fourth quarter with a step back corner three to force a Roselle Catholic timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Roselle Catholic scored four straight points through the next 90 to cut the deficit to 34-26. .
The Vikings then passed the ball around for a full minute as they waited for an opening. Madison Johnson, who finished with nine points, used a hesitation move to drive to the rim and get fouled with 2:03 left. Johnson hit both and extended the Union Catholic lead to ten.
The Vikings added two more free throws and a basket with 30 seconds remaining to close out the scoring and secure the victory.
UC, the Co-Champions of the Mountain Division of the Union County Conference, opened the game with an 8-2 spurt as UC senior guard Abbey Ortiz, who began the game aggressively with a combination of steals and rebounds that led to scoring opportunities, drilled a three to open the scoring. Ortiz finished the game with 10 points. After a Johnson three made it 8-2, pointer, the Lions used their first timeout.
Union Catholic, using high pressure defense and strong offensive rebounding, led 11-6 after the first quarter.
Roselle Catholic scored four straight points late in the second quarter to close to within one point at the half, 16-15.
Roselle Catholic hit the first field goal of the second half, but the Vikings were quick to answer. Both teams traded three pointers before Johnson found an open lane to the basket for two.
Scoring slowed down as the remainder of the third quarter consisted of a variety of whistles and stoppages in play. Union Catholic was able to grab back to back offensive rebounds to put them at the free throw line in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter as UC built a 25-20 lead after three quarters.
The Vikings used a 15-6 showing in the final quarter to seal the deal.
If Union Catholic defeats GL in the semifinal round, the Vikings would advance to the county final for the first time since 2005. UC, which last won the county title in 2001, has captured eight county titles, all under current coach Kathy Matthews. Coach Matthews is one of the winningest coaches in state history with 740 career victories