SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The best start in program history came to an end Tuesday night as the Raiders boys basketball team was defeated by Roselle, 61-54, at home. Before suffering its first loss of the season, Scotch Plains-Fanwood had reeled off 13 victories to open the 2016-17 campaign.

“It was a great start,” said SPFHS head coach Steve Siracusa. “It was a lot of fun, we got a lot of buzz throughout the community which was a huge lift for our program and team. And I’m proud of the start of the season.”

Although the Raiders ultimately couldn’t hang with the Rams, it was their game to lose after the first half. Setting a physical tone early against Roselle, both teams crashed the boards hard and had bodies flying all over the paint. At the end of the first two quarters, SPFHS was well in control, holding the Rams to just three points in the second quarter to bring a 24-14 lead into the locker room.

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After coming back out to the third quarter, the game was handled by the Rams. Coming out with an immediate offense filled with shots from beyond the arc and second chance layups, Roselle rushed out to a 15-3 run in the first 2:35 minutes of the period to capture the lead for the first time since the opening basket. Led by junior Jason Smith’s nine points in the third, the Rams were able to score 27 points, almost doubling their first half total.

“Our defense played terrible the second half,” said Siracusa. “No questions about it. (Roselle) scored three points in the second quarter, 14 in the first half. And then we think we can just come out there and walk out and win the game. But we didn’t play defense and I’m very frustrated with our defensive performance because that is something we’ve preached since Day One.”

A big part of the comeback for Roselle was its consistency on the boards, but Siracusa didn’t believe that their height had anything to do with pulling down more rebounds than the Raiders.

“I don’t think the size was a big impact at all,” said Siracusa. “I think the heart that they had tonight and the will that they wanted to get every rebound and ball was the difference between Roselle and us tonight.”

The fourth quarter didn’t go as easily for the Rams, as Raider sharpshooter and senior Teddy Willmott drilled a three to open up the quarter and another later on in the quarter to keep SPFHS close. But Willmott and his 13 points couldn’t stop Roselle who began to stretch out their lead to five with 3:20 left in the game and never allowed the Raiders to inch back.

For the team, perhaps full focus wasn’t on the duel with Roselle and instead was on a date with their cross-town rivals, Westfield, on Thursday.

“I think part of the problem was some of our players and within the school were focused on Westfield,” said Siracusa. “But we have to take one day and game at a time.”

Next up for the Raiders will a Thursday night home game against the neighboring Blue Devils. The game is expected to sell out, with tickets already on a pre-sale. As for Roselle, the Rams will head back home to face Governor Livingston on Thursday.

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