SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ - “And ONEEEE!”

Accompanied by clapping and shouting, the phrase “and one” crescendoed throughout the gym as junior Damon Schumann converted his layup attempt and the referee signaled the bucket and the foul

“When I saw [an opening] because our coach drew up a play where he said if you have a big opening where you can drive it, go ahead and take advantage and do what you have to do, either score it or pass it and I saw an opportunity to get a layup, so I took it,” Schumann said.

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This was the moment that represented the game being all but over; the moment that secured the boys basketball team their third consecutive win defeating the Roselle Park Panthers 61-50 on Friday, Feb. 12, in what was an exceptional week for the Raiders.

After starting their season off with two consecutive losses by a combined 57 points, the Raiders (4-3) have transformed into a different basketball team over the past week and a half. Last week’s nor’easter bought the boys basketball team a break when they needed it the most. Since returning to play, the Raiders have won three out of their last four games. Arguably, they should have won on the road against Summit (they lost in final seconds 46-43) last Saturday, but the Raiders will have the opportunity for revenge next Friday, Feb. 19.

“Going into this week I knew we had four games, so I texted coach Anderson, I was like, because going into this week we were 1-3, we're going 4-0,” junior Jaden Carter said. “I don't care who we play or what happens, we're going 4-0.  If we win tomorrow then I’m staying on my word. So I made a promise to him and I plan to keep my end of the bargain.”

This is the first time head coach Steve Siracusa and the Raiders have had a winning record through seven games since the 2017-2018 season. They are a team that’s getting hot at the right time during a shortened 15-game season with eight, winnable games remaining. The Raiders made a statement this week; a brash and powerful one to all of Union County informing opponents they are no longer a-bottom-of-the-conference opponent.

“We're not to be taken lightly,” Carter said. “I think last season going 5-20, people took us as a joke. Going into the offseason I knew that had to change whether I was impacting the team or someone else was. I knew it had to change regardless of the situation. And I think we're doing a great job with that right now.”

Schumann along with Carter and seniors Liam Mahr, Hayden Widder, and Raul Lugo powered the way for the Raiders. Carter, Mahr and Lugo each led the team with 10 points, respectively, while Schumann’s physical presence in the paint was felt throughout the game.

“Damon has been a big X factor for us this season with just his effort and energy off the bench, and then he is just that utility guy that ends up doing a little bit of everything for us,” Siracusa said. “The best quality I like about him is that he is a true competitor that goes out every night and plays his hardest and doesn't care who the opponent is.”

As Siracusa and his staff have drilled into his team the importance of team defense all season, the Raiders have evolved into a scrappy unit forcing turnovers and then creating fast break points on the other end of the court.

“I think shooting could come and go from game to game but defense is always about being consistent and so that's why we harp on it and expect it from our guys every game,” Siracusa said.

Along with pushing the pace, creating turnovers defensively was critical to the 13-5 run the Raiders went on at the start of the third quarter. That upped the Raiders lead to 41-24 and they never looked back.

“Our coach [Siracusa] talked about [at halftime] how the game could be decided early in the third quarter,” Schumann said. “Within the first four minutes [he said] we'll be able to determine obviously how it’s going to go. So we took that personally and just decided to go out and dominate in the beginning of the third.”

Basketball becomes easy when you play tremendous defense and convert enough opportunities on the other end of the floor. Siracusa and the Raiders are finding basketball really easy right now as they look to build upon their momentum away at Oratory Prep (1-5) on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 2pm.

“It’s just a lot more fun playing with everyone, seeing everybody score, everybody getting happy, and everybody playing good defense,” Schumann said. “It’s just a different type of energy out there.”