UNION, NJ — A strong Westfield girls basketball team fought hard all night against one of the best teams in the country, but it just couldn’t find the spark to put them past The Patrick School in the Union County Tournament Final Friday night at Kean University. The Lady Blue Devils fell to the Celtics, 51-41.
Entering the highly anticipated game, the Celtics and Blue Devils were perceived as the two best girls’ basketball teams in the county. The most competitive period of game was the first half, when they lived up to their hype and played a tremendous back-and-forth game of basketball.
Shannon Devitt’s big night for Westfield was even bigger in that first half. The senior forward pumped in 10 of her 15 points in the first two quarters, sparking a Blue Devil run that gave them a lead at one point late in the first quarter. Devitt also made things happen down low, creating fouls, where she converted four foul shots in the second quarter to pull Westfield within six points entering the half.
“It all had to do with great offensive reads. They kept changing up the defense on us, so it was difficult for our team, but personally, I think my teammates really helped me out through that; they set me up to make great plays and we all set each other up,” Devitt said.
Also contributing in a big way for the Blue Devils in their strong first half was senior guard Danielle Rinaldi, who popped two 3-pointers in the first quarter to give the Blue Devils key six points to hang with the Celtics, who seemingly couldn’t miss a shot early on.
“Our shots were falling in the first quarter, that’s the difference,” said Westfield head coach Liz McKeon. “Our shots were going in at that point, we went on a little run, and then went flat and our shots unfortunately didn’t go that way the rest of the game.”
The rest of the game was, indeed, a struggle for the Blue Devils.
A huge momentum-killer for Westfield came right out of the half, when The Patrick School allowed Westfield to score just four points. Westfield was able to knock down just one field goal in that quarter, and could not hit a 3-point field goal the rest of the second half.
“When you score four points in the third quarter, that doesn’t help. We struggled a little on offense; the heart was there and it was just some of our shots didn’t fall, they were in and out. Sometimes it goes for teams, it didn’t go for us today,” McKeon said.
The tall, athletic Celtics switched to a zone defense in the second half, as well, which clearly contributed to the Blue Devils’ shooting woes in the final 16 minutes.
“We struggled with fouls; we were just over-anxious tonight, and I think that hurt us. With that being said, we had to do something to kind of keep certain players in the game, and the zone helped us out there,” said Patrick School head coach Damel Ling.
In comparison to the Blue Devils, the Celtics banked in 21 second half points to go along with an incredible strong shooting night from Qadasia Hoopie. Hoopie, a guard, dropped 17 points and converted three 3-pointers for the Celtics. Zaria Dorsey added 13 for Patrick School.
"That’s just been her [Qadasia]. For four years, she’s been a natural-born scorer. Once she gets it going, they kind of recognize that you’ve just got to keep feeding her the ball," Ling said.
While Westfield couldn’t knock down many shots in the second half, lack of heart and hustle certainly wasn’t the case. The Blue Devils created steals and crashed the boards hard, displaying why they are one of the state’s best teams — even if they were having an off-night shooting. Not only were they fighting hard, but the Blue Devils were receiving a full-team effort from every player on the court.
“Whether it’s defensively or rebounding, Sam Stravach came off the bench and did a great job. Danielle Rinaldi — nobody has more heart than her. Molly Ryan was sprinting up and down the court, blocking shots when girls wouldn’t even see her coming. Grace Elliott is one of the main reasons we got to where we are today. Jeanna Ioria — when she’s in there, her intensity and ball movement. Everyone did everything they could; you don’t have to score points to make an impact,” said coach McKeon.
The loss will surely leave a bad taste in Westfield’s mouths before they being the Group 4 State Tournament on Monday.
“It hurts a lot. I remember in third grade, I was in the bleachers watching Erin Miller and her team win in ’08, so I wanted to come and do that this year. … We’re going to take this as motivation to go as far as we can in states,” Devitt said.
The Lady Blue Devils can begin their next quest on Monday, when they host Columbia in the first round of the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 State Tournament.