Before the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls’ basketball team hosts Watchung Division arch rival Westfield Thursday at 4 p.m. the Raiders will be working on trying to break a full court press without turning the ball over.
Because of an inability to push the ball up court against a swarming-from-every-angle full court defense put forth by Morris County power Randolph Saturday night, a nip-and-tuck game turned into a rout well before halftime.
Buoyed by an inside game that led to easy layups and then an immediate hand-in-the-face defense, Randolph – after trailing by one point following the first quarter – scored the first 15 points of the second quarter to take the lead for good en route to a commanding 67-39 non-conference triumph.
Scotch Plains junior guard Taylor Sebolao scored the final six points of the first quarter to give the Raiders their second and final lead of 12-11. She made her first two free throws, went to the hoop and made a one-hander in the lane and then came up with a steal at midcourt and poured in a layup.
Despite committing 12 turnovers in the first eight minutes, the Raiders actually had a one-point lead.
Randolph went to a full court press immediately, right after the first basket it scored when Taylor Lusardi banked a shot in from short range. Lusardi finished with 12 points.
The Raiders survived Randolph’s full court press in the first quarter, but could not get past it in the second. The Rams were led by sophomore 6-foot guard-forward Aliyah Huland El, who paced all scorers with 21 points in just three quarters.
Huland El, one of the best sophomores in North Jersey and also an excellent volleyball player, scored six points in a row and eight total in the second quarter. She produced back-to-back inside field goals following steals off Randolph’s full court press right in front of its basket.
“She’s better than anyone in our county,” Sebolao said. “She can dribble, shoot and attack. She can do it all.”
A young Scotch Plains team turned the ball over 10 more times in the second quarter and was outscored 17-2 to trail 28-14 at intermission. Passes were getting batted away and the ball was just plain stolen by a Randolph player before the Raiders could put two passes together to get the ball past mid court.
“We have to make sure we set screens and make cuts,” said Sebolao, who is a three-year starter and who made great strides during last year's 15-9 season.
“We got frantic against their big guards and allowed them to take the ball away,” Sebolao said.
Scotch Plains saw its record even at 1-1, while Randolph improved to 2-0. Both teams won Friday night, with Scotch Plains opening with a 44-40 Union County Conference-Watchung Division home win over Plainfield and Randolph downing rival Roxbury 54-39 at home.
Scotch Plains, behind a big third quarter after it trailed by 10 points at the half, won at Randolph 45-43 last year. However, on Saturday night, the Rams made sure they were not going to be beaten the Raiders a second straight season.
“There are ways to break a press and ways not to,” said third-year Scotch Plains head coach Jennifer Ryan. “It all comes down to execution. They have to believe in what we’re telling them. They had their heads down, so it’s a maturity thing.”
An inside basket by junior forward Tara Sweeney gave Scotch Plains its first lead at 6-4, with Sebolao earning the assist. However, Scotch Plains could not get its offense into any kind of rhythm to get Sweeney the ball more. Randolph’s defense had a lot to do with that.
Scotch Plains freshman center Thabitha Dwunfour was held to six points, although she did manage to come up with two blocks and three rebounds.
“We have the ability to do what is necessary,” Ryan said. “It comes down to focus, execution, understanding the game plan and having to do your job.”
Scotch Plains may be without one of its players for the next two games after that player was ejected in the third quarter for what one of the referees determined was a “blatant elbow foul.”
As of Saturday night, that decision still had to be determined. Scotch Plains has the perfect opponent to bounce back against. Westfield, which split division games against the Raiders last year, opened Friday afternoon with a 54-37 loss at Watchung Division foe Linden.
“Thursday’s game could set the tone for the rest of the season,” Sebolao said.
NON-CONFERENCE GIRLS’ BASKETBALL GAME AT SCOTCH PLAINS
RANDOLPH (2-0) 11 17 26 13 - 67
SCOTCH PLAINS (1-1) 12 2 7 18 - 39
RANDOLPH RAMS (67):
20-Ashley Pledger 4-0-0-8
13-Maria Meizoso 1-1-1-6
22-Ali MacKay 5-0-0-10
23-Taylor Lusardi 4-0-4-12
25-Morgan Rachmeil 1-0-2-4
21-Aliyah Huland El 9-0-3-21
1-Mallory Grey 2-0-0-4
31-Emily Fletcher 0-0-2-2
Starters: Huland El, Fletcher,
Lusardi, MacKay, Grey
SCOTCH PLAINS RAIDERS (39):
23-Taylor Sebolao 6-0-5-17
15-Madison Maisel 0-0-4-4
24-Thabitha Dwunfour 3-0-0-6
13-Alyssa Riporti 0-0-0-0
22-Mykala Porter 1-1-0-5
14-Alexis Venable 0-1-0-3
12-Katie Harper 1-0-0-2
20-Tara Sweeney 1-0-0-2
21-Christina Karpel 0-0-0-0
10-Destinee Edwards 0-0-0-0
25-Christine Charles 0-0-0-0
5-Ashley Martinez 0-0-0-0
Starters: Dwunfour, Harper,
Sweeney, Sebolao, Riporti