WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield High School boys basketball team got off to a hot start and held on late to defeat the Plainfield Cardinals, 47-39, in front of a packed gym at Westfield High School on Friday.
The Blue Devils opened 2020 play with a 17-6 first quarter led by nine points from senior Jake Walsh. Walsh put in 17 points on five 3-pointers, and Westfield bounced back from a one-point loss to Rahway in the John “Butch” Kowal Holiday Tournament final to close out December.
Plainfield got within four in the fourth quarter after trailing by double digits, but Westfield senior Griffin Rooney made some key free throws down the stretch to lift the Blue Devils to 3-2 on the season.
“We’ve been in tight games for a long time now,” said Westfield head coach Jim McKeon. “I’d like to see us a little more savvy with the ball, but we did enough to win, which I’m happy about. It’s a learning process as the year goes on. We made plays when we had to.”
Westfield started to get a little separation after Walsh hit a triple followed by one from Jack Spellman.* That gave the Blue Devils an 11-4 advantage with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Walsh buried another perimeter shot later on as Westfield led by double digits after one quarter.
The home team had a stifling defense that caused Plainfield to turn the ball over.
The Cardinals used an 8-0 run to get within three at 17-14 after DaRon Montgomery put in back-to-back baskets.
Declan McCauley scored a pair of field goals to give the Blue Devils a 22-17 advantage later on, and then a Walsh 3-pointer had Westfield up eight at the break, 25-17.
Walsh talked about how important it was to get a favorable lead in the early stages.
“Plainfield is a very good team,” he said. “They press and they make you uncomfortable. We needed to get a nice lead in the beginning.”
Westfield went back up by double digits after Andrew Echausse knocked in a 3-pointer to start play in the third quarter.
As the teams continued to go back and forth, Westfield built a 35-21 lead midway through the third after Logan Howland finished inside, Spellman made a layup and Walsh connected on his fifth 3-pointer.
Plainfield was loose with the ball, and Westfield was able to capitalize.
After the Cardinals’ Jamarques Lawrence hit a 3-pointer, Plainfield saw itself down by 12 through three quarters, 40-28.
Lawrence led Plainfield with 16 points.
Plainfield rallied in the final period, however. Tahmir Ellis scored consecutive baskets that put the visitors within six at 40-34.
Westfield had trouble offensively in the fourth quarter, as well as with turnovers.
Credit that to the Plainfield full-court press as well, which seemed to intensify in the final eight minutes.
A Spellman free throw with 2:58 remaining finally got Westfield on the board in the fourth quarter. Rooney then went 1 of 2 at the charity stripe as the Blue Devils held a 42-34 lead.
A Tyejaun Taylor floater cut Westfield’s lead to just six with 3:20 to go. Lawrence had an offensive rebound and putback which made it a 42-38 game with 43 seconds remaining, but then Rooney finished things off at the foul line.
“When the time came, he stepped up in the big moments,” McKeon said of Rooney. “If we want a guy at the line, it’s him or Walsh.”
Howland had 10 rebounds and two blocks for Westfield. Rooney had eight rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
Plainfield fell to 3-2. The Cardinals came into Friday with just a one-point loss to Union. The Union County squad won three straight following that season-opening defeat.
Westfield is 3-2 with the other two victories in dominating fashion over Pope John and Johnson. The Blue Devils have lost two games (Summit and Rahway) by a combined six points.
“We’re still building,” McKeon said. “We’ve had ups and downs. That’s how the game goes. This is a great group of kids that really want to win. Plainfield is legit. They win a lot of games every year. They are physical and they’re fast.”
Westfield is back in action on Tuesday against Union with a 4 p.m. tip.
Editor's note: The story was updated to correct Jack Spellman's name.