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

Union County’s Free Summer Concert Series Launches Fri, June 22

June 22, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ -- The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra kicks off Union County’s 57th annual Summer Arts Festival series of free outdoor concerts sponsored by the Freeholder Board with an evening of Broadway favorites, beloved opera overtures and more on Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside.

Attendees are also invited to bring a mat or beach towel and join ...

Register by June 18 for Summer of Fun Camp in Roselle

ROSELLE, NJ - Get your kids ready for best eight weeks of their young lives, as Roselle presents the 2018 version of its summer fun camp for borough youngsters.

Under the direction of Recreation Director Donald Shaw, borough officials have put together eight weeks of fun, from outdoor adventures, to movies, to arts and crafts, to bowling to swimming. There are also visits to a lake and to a ...

Vitale Family to Hold “Alex's Lemonade Stand” Fundraiser

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Vitale Family in Roselle Park will be participating in "Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer" this Saturday, June 16. 

The Vitale family has a son Matteo who has pediatric cancer and they want to help raise awareness.

The family will have a lemonade stand in front of there home at 718 Chestnut Street in Roselle Park, to raise ...

Roselle Park Bulk Collection Company Experiencing Significant Delays

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Borough of Roselle Park's Bulk Waste Collection contractor is experiencing significant delays at the solid waste transfer station designated by the Union County Utilities Authority. 

Due to these disposal delays, residents should expect delayed pickups today and Friday, as applicable, and potentially through the weekend.

The Borough remains in close ...

Roselle PBA to Host 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic

ROSELLE, NJ - The Roselle PBA will be hosting their 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic at Sylvester Land Field for all ages and skill levels.

The clinic will be held on Tuesday, July 10. Youth ages 5 to 11 will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and ages 12 to 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

While the event is primarily for girls, boys are also welcome to join in on the fun that will ...

Make Music Roselle Park Lineup Includes Rock Bands, Singer-songwriters, Free Harmonica Lesson

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The lineup for the first-ever Make Music Roselle Park will include two rock bands, a pair of singer-songwriters, a free beginner harmonica lesson and more.

The event being held on June 21, Make Music Roselle Park is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill ...

Linden Man Arrested After Explosion in Cranford

June 22, 2018

CRANFORD - On Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 7:06 p.m. the Cranford Police Department received
information that an explosion was heard in the area of Raritan Road and Summit Terrace. Through
a joint investigation with the Union County Prosecutor's Office and Linden Police Department, the
Cranford Police Department Detective Bureau identified a suspect through surveillance video ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent ...

Register Today for Summer Youth Courses Offered at Union County College

June 22, 2018

CRANFORD – This summer the Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is expanding its course offerings for youth ages 11-18. Classes are taught by NJ-certified teachers and subject matter experts that specialize in delivering high-quality youth programs. Classes begin the week of June 25 and run through August 23.

Classes offered include Introduction to Musical Theater, ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)


A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

'Half Time' lights up Paper Mill stage

‘Half Time’ turns the tables on aging in gleeful production

By Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other ...