Roselle Catholic saw a much stronger and more composed Linden team than they had dominated so completely 11 days earlier.
As a result, the fourth-seeded and undersized Tigers only edged first-seeded and second-seeded Roselle Catholic by just five points at halftime.
But while Roselle Catholic witnessed something very different, senior guard Jamarques Lawrence was also pretty confident that Linden had never seen the best basketball on his team. But he felt it was only a matter of time before some of those impressive traits started to surface.
Lawrence and reserve guard Braxton Jones led the offense with steady hands in the first half and Simeon Wilcher and Akil Watson emerged in the second half to send Roselle Catholic to a 62-47 victory in the semis of the 85th Union County Tournament Wednesday night at Kean Union University.
Nebraska-bound Lawrence scored 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half and Jones scored seven of his eight as RC took a 28-23 lead, Wilcher finished with 12 points and Watson 11 to lead the Lions (22-2) in the final against second-seeded and 17th-seeded Elizabeth at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kean’s Harwood Arena.
“We see it all the time; teams try to get us out of our game. We just had to stay physical, stay calm, stay calm and fight through it,” Lawrence said.
Linden were an extremely patient side in attack and beneficiaries of a Catholic club Roselle who shot poorly in the first half as they executed a zone defense against the much larger Lions. It was a far cry from that Feb. 12 encounter in Roselle, when the Lions battled their way to a 31-point halftime lead en route to an 85-42 win.
Elijah Motley scored 14 points and fellow junior guard Jaylan Hodge had nine points, four rebounds and three steals for Linden (12-10) on Wednesday. The Tigers led, 14-13, after one quarter, but were simply unable to keep the greats of Roselle Catholic or Wilcher, a committed North Carolina, away from the basket the entire game. Few have.
“We just had to play our game. We could use our size advantage anytime, so that’s what we did,” Lawrence said. what they want to do is pack it when we’re driving, so the driving and kicking is there the whole game.”
Lawrence nailed his drives in the first half, and just as deadly on his kicks to Wilcher on the wing or the Watson brothers inside, 6-8 junior Akil and 6-7 sophomore Tarik, who finished with seven points and eight rebounds. .
Lawrence finished with eight assists to go along with his 14 points, including four in the third quarter when Roselle Catholic turned that five-point lead into a 50-30 advantage. Wilcher scored eight points in the quarter with two 3-pointers and a dunk, and the Watson brothers contributed with four points apiece.
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