Rally To Defeat Ramblers On Second Half Surge, 61-55
By Greg Machos
February 2, 2008
RAHWAY, NJ—In the nightcap of the 2008 Kowal Games, Rahway, one of the last three undefeated teams in the entire state of New Jersey besides Holy Spirit (17-0 as of Saturday) and St. Anthony's of Jersey City (15-0 as of Saturday), was taking on Carteret in a renewal of a neighborhood rivalry that began last season when the Indians traveled up to CHS, and defeated the Ramblers, 67-53 on February 6th. Rahway, which resides in the Mountain Valley Conference, and Union County, entered Saturday night's contest with an unblemished 16-0 record while Carteret, which had been sitting atop of the rough and tumble GMC White with a 12-5 mark, had their nine game winning streak snapped on Wednesday night courtesy of Monroe, 56-50. One thing Carteret had going for it on this night was the fact that two players, Demetrius Washington-Ellison went on a football recruiting visit to Maine and Erik McCloud had not been feeling well, and missed Thursday night's contest according to the Saturday edition of the Home News-Tribune.
Both Washington-Ellison and McCloud represented the Indians two biggest players, and their absence from this contest meant that Carteret junior forward, Robert "Double-Double" Jackson, and his senior frontcourt mate, Brian Williams had a good chance of coming up with big games, which always gives the Ramblers a chance to win. The last time GMC Hoops saw CHS in action was on Tuesday, January 22nd at home against North Brunswick, where it literally suffocated the Raiders in a 51-29 victory. In the contest, Jackson had a monster performance with 21 points on 10 of 18 shooting from the floor, and a free throw, and 15 rebounds including nine on the offensive glass. Williams chipped in with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while Al Tampa, senior swingman, who was the quarterback on the 2007 Central Jersey Group II Champion Ramblers, also contributed with 13 points and 8 rebounds. In this contest the trio would be key again by combining to score 42 of Carteret's 55 points while pulling down 32 of the team's 39 rebounds. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be enough as Rahway's Indians found a way to compensate for the loss of their two big men. Through the combination of defense and crowd energy, which fed off each other, Rahway turned a 41-29 deficit at the 4:07 mark of the third into a 52-43 lead with 4:25 to go in the game on a decisive 23-2 surge. Carteret showed some heart by rallying with a 7-2 burst over the next 2:37 to pull within four at 54-50 with 1:48 remaining.
However, Rahway scored two straight baskets for a 58-50 lead, and closed the game with a 7-5 run for the 61-55 victory to remain unblemished while the Ramblers dropped their second straight. Pivotal play in this dramatic turnaround, a five second violation late in the third period. What would seem to have been a small play amongst a game full of big plays, was crucial. Not only did it provide a much needed defensive stop for the Indians, but the inspired play of the Rahway defender on Carteret to force the turnover galvanized the partisan crowd and the home team, which had already begun to chip away at the deficit. The Indians, which have always had great talented, but never enough to really compete with the big boys of Union County such as Linden, Plainfield, Elizabeth, and of course, St. Patrick's, used defense as their means to get back into the ball game after a lackluster showing in the first half. In the first two periods, Rahway only shot 10 of 31 from the floor for 32.3 percent including 3 of 11 from beyond the arc for 27.3 percent. Carteret on the other hand, went 13 of 24 in the first two quarters for 54.2 percent, and outrebounded the Indians by a 20-10 margin including an 8 to 4 edge on the offensive glass. But, the Ramblers went away from the focal point of their offense, which was Jackson, particularly when the team needed him most to produce. In the first half, Williams was brilliant driving and slashing to the basket only to dish to either Jackson or Tampa for the layup underneath. Over the final two periods, the senior forward seemed to forget how to do that.
In the third and fourth quarters, Carteret went 9 of 19 from the floor in the second half while committing 16 turnovers. On the other side of the ledger, Rahway clicked on 15 of 26 shots while only making eight turnovers. Much of that had to do with the floor generalship of junior point guard, LaDante Berry-White, who handed out six assists while swiping four steals. For the game, Carteret shot 22 of 43 from the floor for 51.2 percent including 2 of 8 from long distance for 25 percent. At the line, the Ramblers made 9 of 15 shots for 60 percent as they couldn't take advantage of the dismal performance by the Indians at the charity stripe (6 of 16 for 37.5 percent). Rahway ended up making 25 of 57 attempts for 43.9 percent including 5 of 17 from beyond the arc for 29.4 percent. CHS committed 22 miscues on the game while Rahway had only ten. Leading the way for the winners was junior guard, Jose Pena-Benjamin, who made 9 of 20 shots including 3 of 9 from three point land, and a foul shot for 22 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. Teammate, Ronnie Sawyer chipped in with 17 points on six field goals, and a 5 of 7 showing at the foul line, which was pivotal since his teammates were a combined 1 of 9. Sawyer also added 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists. Meanwhile, for Carteret, Jackson continued to play superbly despite his absence during a critical juncture of the ball game. The junior canned 8 of 12 shots from the floor, and 2 of 4 at the line for 18 points while pulling down another 15 boards for his patented double-double.
Williams chipped in with 4 of 8 shooting from the floor, and 5 of 7 at the line for 13 points along with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Tampa added 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting including a three pointer while hauling in 8 rebounds, handing out 2 assists, and drawing one of the team's two charges. Combined, Jackson, Williams, and Tampa went 58.6 percent from the floor. The rest of the team went just 5 of 14 for 35.7 percent. To view the rest of the individual statistics from both teams in this particular contest, check out the stat page from this battle in the GMC Hoops Game Stats section. Looing at the rest of the team statistics, Carteret outrebounded Rahway 39-25 overall including a 16-11 edge on the offensive glass. The Ramblers also had more assists (12-11), and charges (2-0), but the Indians countered with more blocks (3-2), and many more steals (14-5). Both teams registered double-digit points in each quarter in this contest, but the big difference was Rahway's 24-12 showing in the fourth, which contained the crescendo of its mammoth 23-2 tidal wave to take over the game for the victory. Carteret outscored the Indians in each of the first two periods while the third ended in a tie, and the home team had its big fourth quarter effort. In the opening period, both teams shot well, but the Ramblers were slightly better going 6 of 11 overall, and made 3 of 5 from the foul line while Rahway made 6 of 14 shots including 1 of 3 from beyond the arc. Both teams combined for two turnovers in the period with CHS making both of them in a rather well played quarter.
LaDante Berry-White opened the scoring in the game with a jumper at the 6:38 mark of the first for a 2-0 lead. Forty-three seconds later, the Ramblers got on the board as Tampa fed Williams inside for a layup as the senior forward was fouled, but he missed the bonus free throw for a 2-2 tie. On the missed foul shot though, Tampa grabbed the offensive board, and put it back in for a 4-2 Rambler lead at the 5:47 mark. Nearly a half minute later, Williams got an offensive rebound himself, and followed it up by making a short baseline jumper from the right side for a 6-2 lead with 5:24 to go in the period as Indians head coach, Mike Conroy called a thirty second timeout. Following the stoppage, Rahway would rally back though with six of the next eight points including two layups by Pena-Benjamin, and a layin by Sawyer to tie things up at 8-8 with 3:40 remaining in the first. Carteret would reclaim the lead as Williams stepped up to the charity stripe at the 2:56 mark, and made two free throws for a 10-8 score. Over a minute later, CHS went up by four as Williams dished to Tarik Owens for a layup from the left side, and a 12-8 lead at the 1:45 mark. The Indians responded again with five unanswered points in just a 39 second span as Donte Dennis struck for a three pointer from the right wing, and then Sawyer got a theft for a layup, and a 13-12 lead as Rambler second year head coach, Jose Rodriguez called for time with 1:06 left in the frame.
After the timeout, Carteret scored the final three points of the stanza as Jackson got a layup off an assist by Alvin Rodriguez at the 45 second mark, and then made one of two at the line for a 15-13 lead heading into the second. In the final period before the intermission, the Ramblers remained hot from the floor by making 7 of 13 shots including a three pointer while Rahway grew much colder going just 4 of 17 from the field. Marcus Hawkins got things started in the second with a layup for Rahway that tied the score at 15-15 at the 7:12 mark. On the very next Rambler possession though, Williams made one of two at the lead to put his team back out in front, 16-15 at the 7:01 mark. The lead, which switched hands some nine times in addition to four ties in the game, continued to go back and forth as Pena-Benjamin connected on a three pointer from the right side for a Rahway 18-16 lead at the 5:50 mark. Carteret would take the lead back, and for the remainder of the first half with a 7-0 spurt over a span of 1:27 as Tampa knocked in a three pointer from the left wing off an assist by Byron Merricks, and Williams followed suit with a layup, and then a dunk for a 23-18 edge with 4:23 to play in the opening half. The spurt grew to 9-0 when Tampa drove down along the left side of the key for a layup that made the score, 25-18 as the Indians called for time again with 3:35 left before intermission.
The Ramblers would add another field goal for an 11-0 tear, and a 27-18 lead before Rahway put a halt to the run with a score at the 2:30 mark for a 27-20 lead for the visitors from Middlesex County. The Indians then closed out the half with a 5-4 showing the cut into the Carteret lead a bit further at 31-25 at the break. Looking at the first half scoring, Williams made 4 of 7 shots from the floor, and 3 of 5 from the line for 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. Jackson was also 4 of 7 from the field, and made 1 of 2 at the charity stripe for 9 points and 8 rebounds while Tampa made 4 of 6 shots including 1 of 3 from long distance for 9 points as well along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a charge. The three Carteret players accounted for 29 of their team's 31 points, or 93.5 percent of the offense. On the other side of the ledger, Pena-Benjamin led Rahway with 4 of 10 shooting including 2 of 5 from three for 10 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal. Moving on to the halftime stats, the Ramblers clicked on 13 of 24 shots for 54.2 percent including 1 of 5 from three while the Indians were only 10 of 31 from the floor for 32.3 percent including 3 of 11 from beyond the arc for 27.3 percent. CHS also made 4 of 7 at the line while Rahway didn't attempt a single free throw. Turnovers were close with the home team from Union County getting the edge (6-2). Rebounds were all Carteret with a 2 to 1 edge overall (20-10) and on the offensive boards as well (8-4).
In other statistical areas, Carteret handed out more assists (9-5) and drew more charges (1-0) while Rahway had more steals (4-1) and blocks (2-1). Returning to action in the third period, the Ramblers began the second half with a 10-4 spurt over the first 3:53 of the third for a twelve point 41-29 lead with 4:07 left in the period. Carteret began the frame with six of the first eight points including a field goal by Merricks, and a drive and dish by Rodrigueze to Tampa for a layup, and a 37-27 lead with 5:49 to go in the stanza. CHS then added another field goal for an 8-2 run, and a 39-27 advantage before Pena-Benjamin drove in for a layup to put an end to the spurt, and close the gap again to ten at 39-29 with 4:21 to play in the period. Williams then capped the second half opening run with a pair of free throws for the 41-29 edge with a little more than halfway to go in the third. Unfortunately for Carteret fans, that is where the came slowly started to turn. Over the next 1:29, the Indians scored four straight points all set up by steals from Berry-White for a 41-33 Rambler lead at the 2:28 mark. Despite two missed free throws by Pena-Benjamin at the 16 second mark, Rahway would get four of the final six points to end the period as Sawyer drove the left side of the Indian frontcourt for a bank shot that pulled his team to within six at 43-37 entering the fourth and final quarter.
Like a snowball rolling down hill, Rahway's momentum continued to get bigger and bigger as play commenced in the fourth. The Indians scored the first four points of the frame in a 1:05 span to pull within a bucket as Saywer scored on a layup, and then Hawkins canned a short jumper to make the score, 43-41 at the 6:55 mark. Forty-three seconds later, Pena-Benjamin handed out an assist on a layup by Dennis that tied the game, and brought the throng of Rahway fans into a frenzy with 6:12 to go. Twenty-seven seconds after that, Rahway took the lead for good with a crushing four point play as Berry-White passed to Pena-Benjamin for a three pointer from the right side as he was fouled for a 47-43 lead with 5:45 remaining. The Indians didn't stop there as they got five more points for a 52-43 advantage at the 4:25. Seemingly down for the count, Carteret showed some courage by getting up, and rallying for seven of the next nine points over about a minute and a half. Rene Godfrey sparked the comeback bid with a three poiner from the right wing, and then Jackson followed suit with a layup. Then, Merricks added a free throw to help cap the run, and close the gap to just four at 54-50 with under two minutes left. However, after a Rahway timeout, the Indians put the game away with two straight scores for a 58-50 lead, and were never threatened again as they emerged victorious by a score of 61-55.
With the victory, Rahway remained undefeated at 17-0 overall while Carteret fell to 12-6 including a 1-2 mark against non-conference foes.
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