Boys Basketball: Roselle Outlasts Scotch Plains-Fanwood in Nail-Biter

​A Ram and a Raider square off in the paint. Credits: Robert Fallo
Raiders senior Danny Bailco shoots a free throw. Credits: Robert Fallo
Raiders coach ​Steve Siracusa looks on in the fourth quarter. Credits: Robert Fallo
The Raiders huddle up for a timeout. Credits: Robert Fallo

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- In a game of two completely different offenses between Roselle and Scotch Plains-Fanwood, the Rams squeaked by with a 58-47 road victory Saturday afternoon to keep the Raiders winless.

The two teams’ offensive game plans were about as far apart as the distance from Earth to the moon. Roselle sprinted up and down the court settling for shots, covered or uncovered, on the perimeter, emulating a Golden State Warriors offense. While SPF was determined to score points in the paint, only taking shots behind the arc a handful of times.

“We were pretty patient,” said Raider head coach Steve Saricusa, “We executed and ran our stuff pretty well and I thought we got a lot of great looks and we capitalized. Roselle tried to go more up and down the court, fast paced, up-tempo and tried to gun and run."

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The only thing the teams did the same was play man defense in the first quarter. Roselle came out firing from long range. In the first two minutes of the game, three of the Rams’ possessions resulted in a three-point attempt, with just one going through the hoop. On the other side of the court, the Raiders would set-up on the perimeter and dish the ball on backdoor cuts into the paint to two of their big men, senior Danny Baliko and junior Peter Warren.

“We’ve been talking about since day one how we need to make good, hard cuts every single time we run a play and I think they are starting to understand and really improve on that and we’re seeing a difference.” said Siracusa.

The score at the end of the first was 11-8 Roselle, thanks largely to senior point guard Damonie Askew, who had four of his 10 points during the period. The offensive stalemate continued into halftime with the Rams leading 19-14.

In the second half, Roselle brought a new dimension of their offense: driving hard to the lane. Although they were still taking threes, the Rams used more of their possessions to penetrate the 2-3 zone the Raiders began to use. The new style of play resulted in 15 points for the quarter and kept Roselle up by four.

Early in the fourth quarter the Rams continued to rack up baskets, extending their lead to up to eight points. Sensing that the game might soon be out of reach, the Raider offense revved up their efforts and started pouring out points. The catalyst was senior guard Aaron Lee, who played with flair. Lee frequently took on two-three Ram defenders and score with the euro step and add an occasional “wow moment” for the crowd when sprinkling in a double clutch in the process.

“[Lee] played well. He kept his head up, kept fighting,” said Siracusa.

With 2:47 left in the game, Lee was fouled and received two free throws down to two. With pressure and a quiet gym while he set-up his shots, Lee buried both to bring the game to a tie and the crowd to their feet.

After 30 seconds Roselle was back on top from free throws made by junior Joshua Jones, who contributed eight points in the second half after not scoring since the first. He combined with junior Stephan Celestin, who accounted for 10 of his 14 points in the quarter, to help finish off the Raiders.

The next opponent for SPF will be Middlesex on Monday, while Roselle will play Cranford on Tuesday.

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