CLARK, NJ - Union High School senior Nneka Moneme scored 13 points to help the Farmers defeat the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders by a final score of 50-47 in overtime Saturday morning in Clark. Moneme added a basket and two key free throws in the extra quarter to lead her team to the win.
“It was a very hard-fought game,” Union head coach Justin Meyer said. “Johnson fought hard in that second half and we had to just stick with the program, stay strong, believe in each other and finish some plays down low.”
The Farmers led 9-4 three minutes into the game, but the Crusaders hung around, connecting on shots to keep the game close. The Farmers led the Crusaders 20-15 after the first quarter.
The first two and a half minutes of the second quarter saw no baskets made, but the two teams getting good looks. Johnson junior Amy Wysocki hit a three-point basket, cutting the Farmers lead to 20-18.
Ya’Niyah Dickerson drained a buzzer beating three-point basket to put Union ahead of Johnson 29-20 at halftime, capping a 9-2 scoring run for the Farmers.
As the second half started, the Crusaders would fight back. Rosenmeier drained back-to-back baskets and junior Danielle Hartzler drained a three-point basket to cut the Union lead to 29-27, as the Farmers subsequently called a timeout.
Off the timeout, ALJ junior Kristina Palella drained a basket off the inbound pass to even the game 29-29. Rosenmeier connected on another basket to put Johnson up 31-29. Palella would drain two free throws to make the 33-29 Crusaders, extending it to a 13-0 Johnson run.
The Union Farmers battled back, as Dickerson connected on back-to-back shots to tie the game 33-33, the game becoming a tug-of-war between the two teams. Wysocki put the Crusaders in front 35-33, before Union junior Allison Slater drained a basket and was fouled. She missed the free throw and the score was 35-35.
Union sophomore Brianna McNair scored a basket with one minute left in the third quarter, to put the Union Farmers ahead of the Johnson Crusaders by a score of 37-35 after the third quarter. McNair finished with 13 points for the Farmers.
“In the second half, we really had to bring it back since we were down,” Moneme said. “Winning this game shows the county what we’re made of since they’re ranked No. 10 in the county and we aren’t in the top ten, so we really had to bring it back and show the county what we’re made of.”
Johnson struck first in the fourth quarter, when Palella and senior Sabrina Parin drained back-to-back baskets, putting the Crusaders ahead 39-37.
Rosenmeier put Johnson ahead by four points with another basket with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter. She finished with 20 points in the morning game for the Crusaders.
Union would battle back, Moneme drained a basket to cut the Johnson lead to 41-40 with 2:34 left. Both teams would score a free throw each, before Moneme tied the game for the Farmers with 26 seconds left.
Johnson had a last minute opportunity to eke out the win, but couldn’t control the basketball as the clock expired, sending the game to overtime.
Dickerson banked home a shot and was fouled (missed free throw) to put the Farmers ahead 44-42 Union.
Rosenmeier connected on one free throw, the deficit now 44-43 and scored a basket to give Johnson a 45-44 lead.
McNair made it 46-45 Union with two free throws with 2:27 left in overtime.
Moneme scored for the Farmers to make it 48-45 with 1:40 left. She later connected on two free throws, the score now 50-45, with 45 seconds left in the extra period.
Rosenmeier continued to keep her team in the game, scoring another basket and being fouled on the same play, cutting the lead to 50-47. With a chance to get closer, the Crusaders turned the ball over and the Farmers would secure the win.
Despite the slow start to the third quarter, Slater talked about how huge it was to get the win against the Crusaders, who battled back in the second half.
“We started off slow in the season and we have just been progressing over the last couple of days,” Slater said. “We have been doing very well and when they came back in the second half, we were [moving slow]. When they came back, it was really nerve-wracking, but we pulled it through and I’m proud of all my teammates.”
She finished with ten points before fouling out late in the game, having accumulated five fouls.
Turnovers at critical points of the game slowed down the Crusaders’ momentum, allowing the Farmers set up scoring chances. “
“We have to continue going out, playing hard and try to not let the star player get the ball in the paint,” Johnson head coach Joe Marino said. “Just keep working hard, move your feet and good things will happen if you don’t turn the ball over.”
Palella scored 13 points for the Crusaders in the loss, while Wysocki would add seven points for her team.
The Union Farmers (5-6) head out on the road for a game Thursday afternoon at Westfield HS 4:00 p.m.