SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Union Catholic boys basketball team survived a frenetic finish to edge Plainfield, 61-60, and capture its fifth straight victory in a tough Union County battle on Tuesday night at Union Catholic.
The Vikings, now 6-1 on the season, never trailed in its first game vs. a Union County opponent this season, but had some anxious moments before the final buzzer sounded as Plainfield had a chance to tie the game in the last few seconds of the game..
Union Catholic was clinging to a 61-58 lead with 4.2 seconds left when a three-point attempt by Plainfield's Jamarques Lawrence was off the mark. Plainfield (now 3-4) on the season) grabbed the offensive rebound and converted a layup as the buzzer sounded to cut the deficit to one point.
Union Catholic, which jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter and was in control throughout this hard-fought game, took a 60-53 lead with just 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter when junior guard Elijah Barlow, who led UC with 13 points and five assists, sank two free throws. But Plainfield battled back to set up the dramatic finish.
The Vikings started the game on fire and looked like it might blow the game apart.
Isaac Holmes scored four points, Isaiah Hill and Barlow each drilled a three-pointer, and Matt Tracey scored inside when the Vikings raced ot to a 12-0 lead. Plainfield, which didn't score until 3:54 remaining in the opening quarter, scored six straight points to cut the deficit in half. But UC went on a 9-4 run, keyed by Bradley Young's five points, to take a 21-8 lead. Young, a junior, had a very strong game with 10 points, three steals, four rebounds and tw blocked shots for UC.
With UC up 21-12 heading into the second quarter, senior AJ Sepulveda provided some instant offense off the bench, scoring eight of his nine points in the second period, including two three-pointers. Sepulveda's spark helped UC build a 36-22 halftime advantage.
But Plainfield came storming back in the third quarter, using an 11-1 run to cut UC's lead to 37-33. But after a UC timeout, Barlow and Hill connected on three-pointer to help UC take a 43-37 lead after three quarters.
Holmes, who finished with nine points and three steals, scored on two layups in transition and Austin Squeri scored inside when UC built a 49-39 with 5:57 left in the game. But Plainfield again mounted a comeback as UC was hampered by foul trouble (starters Tracey and Hill both fouled out in the fourth quarter).
UC made some key free throws down the stretch, including one by Holmes to give UC a 61-54 lead, and played great defense on the Lawrence's potential game-tying 3-point attempt to secure the heart-pounding victory.
The Vikings will take on Union (7-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m.at Union Catholic. Union suffered its first loss of the season on Tuesday, 56-53 to Westfield.