by Rowan Oberman
A wild comeback in regulation powered the 19th-ranked boys basketball team to an 86–77 overtime win against No. 14 Union Catholic last Thursday at WHS.
In a game of dramatic momentum swings, it seemed like UC had landed the last punch, going up 68–57 with less than three minutes to play. But the resilient Blue Devils responded with a furious 13–2 run over the next minute and a half, capped by a three-pointer by junior Matt Lacorte to tie the game at 70.
Senior Tri-Captain Owen Murray said that despite the daunting deficit, “our players are so experienced at this point that we know no game is over until the buzzer rings.... We just refused to give up.”
The game went into overtime tied at 72, and the Blue Devils picked up right where they left off in regulation. They earned an early 5-point lead and then never looked back, cruising to their 9-point victory.
Lacorte led all scorers with 32 points, and senior Tri-Captain Nick Mele was close behind with 23 points. Murray added in his second triple-double of the year with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
In the first quarter, UC came out with a quick 9–3 lead before the Blue Devils promptly went on an 11–4 run before ending the quarter facing a five-point deficit in a fast-paced quarter. The second quarter played out much the same way, with UC extending its lead to eight points before WHS narrowed it to four at the half. Murray said that the fast pace “always plays to our advantage because we are a guard-oriented team… so we are generally quicker than most teams.”
Throughout the game, WHS launched three-pointer after three-pointer. This was especially true in the third quarter, as nearly every field goal they took was a three. This was largely because of WHS’ five-out offense, where all five players start the possession beyond the three point line. Additionally, the physical play present throughout the game was taken to another level when UC was levied with a technical foul as emotions flew high. Said Head Coach Daryl Palmieri, “There were a few times that we could’ve lost our cool, but they did a great job being mature and keeping focus.”
The win was an important bounce-back game for the Blue Devils, as they came into the game on a three-game losing streak after starting the season 7–0. Said Palmieri: “I think the sense of urgency was key. We knew that this was a game that we needed to win to get back on track.”
This momentum has continued in recent games as the Blue Devils defeated Elizabeth, 55–41, and Union, 75–65. Their next game is scheduled for tomorrow against Scotch Plains at 3:30 p.m. at WHS.