SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- With the graduation of its top three scorers, the Union Catholic boys basketball team was counting on several players to raise their level of play heading into this season.
Isaiah Hill, Elijah Barlow, and Matt Tracey all showed they are ready to assume much larger offensive roles by delivering great performances on Friday night to spark Union Catholic to a 62-48 over Sinai Christian Academy of Linden in the season opener for both.
Hill and Tracey each scored 17 points, and Barlow finished with 16 as the trio combined for 50 of UC's points.
Hill said that the graduation of Jaheim Tanksley, Nahshon Battle, and Justin Archer, the top three scorers from a team that finished 19-7 last season, has motivated himself and others to step up their game.
"Those guys were great players for us and we learned a lot from them,'' said Hill, who electrified the home crowd with multiple high-flying dunks. "So now it's time for guys like myself and rest of my teammates to step up,'' said Hill. "We want to let people know that we are still here.''
Union Catholic got off to a fast start vs. Sinai Christian when Barlow, who scored 10 points in the first quarter, canned a pair of three's when the Vikings opened a 7-2 lead. After Sinai Christian cut it 7-6, Hill scored on finger-roll and followed with a dunk to build an 11-7 lead. UC closed out the first quarter with Bradley Young buried a three-pointer as the Vikings took a 20-16 lead. That was as close as Sinai Christian would get.
In the second quarter, Tracey, who plays much bigger than his 6-1 frame, took control of the game with his tenacity and long-range shooting as he scored UC's first 10 points of the period, including back-to-back three-pointers to give the Vikings a 30-18 advantage. Tracey also came up with a team-high five steals and grabbed five rebounds.
Isaac Holmes threw down a massive jam for UC and Hill drained a three to give the Vikings a 35-24 halftime lead.
The Vikings, who made seven of 16 three-point attempts, opened the third quarter with an 11-4 spurt with Hill scoring six points it that run to extend the lead to 46-28. Barlow drained a three from the corner with a few ticks left in the quarter to give UC a 49-34 lead entering the final quarter.
Austin Squeri began the fourth quarter with a three and Hill made the crowd jump out of its seats with a breakaway jam as the lead ballooned to 20 points.
Hill, who finished with a team-high five assists, said the Vikings executed their game plan and it was a perfect way to start the season.
"We moved the ball and ran our offense well, found the opener shooters, and we were able to dictate the pace of the game and get everyone involved,'' said Hill. "It was a great way to start what we feel is going to be a great season. I think we will surprise a lot of people.''