RANDOLPH, NJ- As the No. 7 Seed in the NJSIAA North 1 Group 4 state playoffs, the Randolph Rams hosted No. 10 Seed Union City on Tuesday Mar. 3. Led by the second half scoring of Ryan Ross and Justin Lawler, the Rams were able to pull away from what was a 1-point game and secure a 56-45 victory.
“Confidence was the key to our win tonight. We weren’t afraid to attack their defense and didn’t let their star players stats get to our heads,” said Captain Brian Eames. “We focused on our game, and ultimately came out with the win because of it.”
The Rams came out strong, working up a lead of 16-11 by the end of the first quarter. But Randolph’s shooting turned cold and Union City came roaring back to go up 26-24 heading into the halftime locker room.
“The one thing I tried to stress to our guys was to keep shooting the basketball,” said coach Nick Lavender. “We went cold for a bit in the 2nd quarter, but I knew we could shoot our way out like we have all year. We all picked it up on the defensive end and that helped us out significantly on the offensive side.”
Trailing 29-28 early in the third, the Rams were in a dogfight. One of the top players in the state, Union City star Maurice Odum (game high 28 points) was knocking down shots from all over the court.
But Ross and Lawler came alive late in the third, spearheading a Rams rally. Ross picked up 12 of his team high 18 points in the second half with his usual mix of 3-pointers and slashing drives. Lawler did his part too, collecting 10 second half points, mostly in the paint in his usual workmanlike fashion. Both added 11 rebounds in the game.
“Lawler and Ross were great all night,” said Lavender. “They scored well in the 2nd half, but more importantly they were great on the glass. We wanted to limit Union City's second chance points and both of those guys were fantastic on the boards.”
While Ross and Lawler poured in the points, DQ Hendrickson stuck to Odum on defense, harassing him into some missed shots that allowed Randolph to increase their lead to 50-39. From there, they played keep away and cruised to the win by the final score of 56-45.
Hendrickson added 9 points and 4 rebounds in the game, while Eames calmly piloted the offense from the point, also scoring 9 points and dishing out 3 assists.
“Coach was proud of the way we fought and the toughness we showed throughout the game,” said Eames. “His main message though was that this is only the beginning. We have another game Thursday on our way to trying to claim the title.”
Randolph plays next on Thursday Mar. 5 against No. 2 Seed East Orange.