Champs At Last: Roselle Catholic Wins 1st Boys' Basketball UCT in School History

Josh Pierre-Louis takes flight on a thunderous dunk to kickstart a 9-0 Roselle Catholic second half run. Credits: Matt Kipp
Kahlil Whitney, right, and Naz Reid, left, along with the Roselle Catholic team celebrates its first ever Union County Tournament championship. Credits: Matt Kipp
Kahlil Whitney, who scored a team-high 19 for Roselle Catholic, is introduced pregame. Credits: Matt Kipp
Alanzo Frink goes up and under for an and-one layup. Credits: Matt Kipp
All-American Naz Reid holds the ball as Roselle Catholic lets the clock run out at the end of the first half. Credits: Matt Kipp
Ithiel Horton drained 18 points for Roselle Catholic. Credits: Matt Kipp
Jason Battle brings the ball up. Credits: Matt Kipp
Naz Reid, #5, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili, #21, compete for the opening tip-off. Credits: Matt Kipp
Alanzo Frink, #20, added 13 points for the Lions. Credits: Matt Kipp
Valdir Manuel scored a game-best 24 points for The Patrick School. Credits: Matt Kipp

UNION, NJ — Over the past decade and change, Roselle Catholic has housed one of the nation’s best high school basketball programs. 

It has won multiple Tournament of Champions, state championships, developed copious NBA talent, and taken down some of the United States’ best teams. But there’s one thing it had never done: Win the Union County Tournament. 

Until Saturday. 

Sign Up for E-News

Through timely offense and excellent shooting, top-seeded Roselle Catholic claimed a championship title in the 82nd Union County Tournament (UCT) of boys’ basketball with its 68-58 triumph over defending champion and second-seeded The Patrick School at Kean University’s Harwood Arena. The Lions are now 22-4 and have yet to lose an in state game this year as they enter the state tournament next week. 

Athletic wing Kahlil Whitney, one of the most coveted prospects in the class of 2019, dropped a team-high 19 points, and senior guard Ithiel Horton continued his torrid season and tournament with 18 points on four three-pointers to lead Roselle Catholic. Alanzo Frink added 13 points for the Lions, who never trailed in the second half. 

Roselle Catholic shot a staggering 72 percent (8-for-11) from the three point line, and 54 percent (24-for-54) overall from the field. 

Things got tense at Kean when Patrick School pulled within two points to make it 52-50 after Giorgi Bezhanishvili was awarded a basket on a goaltending call, but Roselle Catholic responded with a 9-0 run to take full control of the game. Like a jet plane taking off at nearby Newark Airport, Josh Pierre-Louis caught flight through an open lane to the basket and threw down a resounding dunk to get the run started, and by the time it was over, the Lions had claimed a 61-50 lead. 

That big stretch helped Roselle Catholic recover from a slight blip coming out of halftime which actually saw the Celtics tie it up at 41 at one point. But the Lions could have been in larger trouble if it weren’t for an even more dominant run in the second quarter.

Trailing, 21-25, at the 4:56 mark in the second frame, Horton started and ended a forceful 11-0 Roselle Catholic run. Horton’s six points during that nearly two minute long timespan sandwiched a Whitney two-handed dunk and Jason Battle three-pointer. When Horton hit his second three ball of the run, his team owned a 32-25 lead to provide the game's biggest separation in score yet from either squad. 

Delaware-bound Horton’s stellar performance should come at no surprise — the transfer who joined RC when now-defunct St. Anthony closed last June averaged over 15 points during three UCT games. He also hit a three-pointer in the first and fourth quarters, and now owns a team-best 48 from downtown. 

Patrick School did avenge a 35-29 halftime deficit and came back to tie the score at 41 with four minutes left in the third quarter after Al-Amir Dawes drained a three ball. However, Roselle Catholic used its height and responded with a 6-0 run, and would never again relent the lead. Whitney got the run started with a bucket to make it 43-41, then Naz Reid threw down a thunderous dunk on a pump fake and drive move, and seconds later, Whitney caught a loud slam off a steal. By that time, the Lions had a 47-41 lead, and won over the nearly sold out crowd with their high flying acts. 

Whitney, a 6-foot-6 forward/guard, continued to stake his claim amongst the game's elite with his performance. He is now averaging over 13 points-per-game against the state's top competition, and holds over 15 NCAA Division I offers. 

Though very early in the game, Roselle Catholic trailed by as much as seven points, which happened after Valdir Manuel hit a three for the Celtics to give his team a 19-12 lead. The Lions slowly cut the deficit, and tied things up at 21 apiece when Horton finished a steal and pass from Pierre-Louis 53 seconds into the second quarter. Whitney's dunk during the 11-0 gave RC its first lead since it was 4-3 just 90 seconds into the game. 

Manuel, an uncommitted senior recruit holding offers from schools such as Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Temple, led Pat’s with a game-best 24 points. Teammate Bezhanishvili, also a major Division I prospect, added 16 points for the Celtics, who are defending N.J. TOC champs and have won 20 UCT championships when accounting for their predecessor, St. Patrick High School. 

Receiving the tournament's No. 1 seed, Roselle Catholic received a bye into the quarterfinal round. The Lions then defeated public school powers Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Linden in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively, to reach the championship game. 

Roselle Catholic begins its quest for a TOC title on Tuesday, when it hosts Koinonia Academy in the Non-Public, North B state tournament first round. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Roselle/Roselle Park

NJ Legislative Black Caucus to Hold Recreational Marijuana Hearings

March 24, 2018

ELIZABETH, NJ - As local lawmakers wrestle with the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey, the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus is holding hearings to obtain input from constituents.

Assemblyman Jamel Holley, who represents Elizabeth and Roselle is a legalization proponent and is urging residents to attend a three-hour hearing.

“I've been an outspoken ...

Roselle Chamber of Commerce to Host Women’s History Month Event

ROSELLE, NJ - It will be an evening of honoring the trailblazing women leaders in business at the Roselle Chamber of Commerce event honor of Women’s History Month.

Joetta Clark Diggs, New Jersey’s four-time Olympian, Motivational Speaker, Author, and Businesswoman will be the featured guest speaker.

The event is free and will be held on Thursday, March 22 at the ...

Free Citizenship Workshop to be Held This Saturday in Elizabeth

ELIZABETH, NJ - A free Citizenship Workshop will be held this Saturday, March 24, at the Santa Isabel Lutheran Church from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. located at 908 East Jersey Street in Elizabeth.

The Citizenship Drive is an annual event that assists eligible residents to apply for naturalization. Immigration attorneys will be present to screen eligibility and trained volunteers will assist in the ...

Wastewater Sewerage Authority Looking for Treatment Plant Operator

LINDEN/ROSELLE, NJ - The Linden/Roselle Sewerage Authority is seeking to fill a position for a Wastewater Sewerage Treatment Plant Operator.  

This is a full-time position that entails shift work, 7 days a week. Candidate must have a High School diploma or obtained equivalency; possession of a valid S-1 New Jersey Wastewater Operators License is preferred but not ...

Teacher Training at Trailside

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ  - Teacher Training programs at Trailside will be offered this spring for teachers of students in Kindergarten through grade twelve starting March 15.

Project WET, a teacher training program for teachers K – 12 will be offered on Thurs. March 15 from 9 a.m.. to 3 p.m.  This workshop will provide the necessary tools, resources, and lessons for teachers ...

Information on Parking and Traffic for Saturday's 'March for Our Lives' Event

March 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – It is anticipated that several hundred people or more will participate in the Union County March for Our Lives event on Saturday morning in Union.

Students, teachers, parents, clergy and public officials from all over Union County will be walking from Burnet Middle School to Town Hall in an anti-gun violence march.

Parking will be available in the following ...

Freeholders Endorse Armed Security in all Somerset County Schools

March 23, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Following the Parkland, Fla school shooting last month in which 17 students and staff were killed, Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione and Freeholder Mark Caliguire Thursday announced that the freeholder board will fund a second armed school resource officer at the county Vocational & Technical High School in Bridgewater, and urged every school ...

Visit Union County’s Green Online Shop and Celebrate Earth Day with a New Compost Bin or Rain Barrel

March 23, 2018

Union County gardeners looking for a good Earth Day project can visit the new Union County Means Green online shop now and order a new compost bin or rain barrel at 50% off the retail price.

“Composting food scraps and harvesting rainwater are two effective ways to improve soil health and conserve water,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “Offering these compost bins ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...