Solid Run By Seventh Seeded Chiefs Comes Up Short In The Final
UNION, NJ–On Wednesday night, the 2011 Kean Spring League came to an end with its two semifinal games and championship game in the playoff round. The lone GMC team still remaining, Piscataway, continued to finish strong as it advanced to the Championship Game against Shabazz. However, the Chiefs were unable to overcome the Bulldogs’ size, athletic ability, and defense.
Building on the momentum from its quarterfinal win over Newark Central on Monday night, P-Way took on Roselle on one of the two semifinal games. Seeded third, the Rams from Roselle gave the Chiefs all they could handle. The Union County school trailed Piscataway by a score of 24-16 late in the first half, but closed out the period with the final seven points, and then struck for a three pointer at the 19:45 mark to open the second half with a 26-24 lead. From there, there were 17 lead changes and two ties while neither team had a lead bigger than four points.
Trailing the Rams by a score of 35-31 with 14:23 left, P-Way finished the game with a 19-12 surge including the final five points from sophomore Thaddeus Dalton to come away with the 50-47 victory. Dalton had 8 points in the second half while junior Jelani Jackson led all scorers in second half scoring with 10 points on four field goals, and had two conventional three point plays that turned a 35-31 deficit into a 37-36 lead. Donovan Kirkland also chipped in with 4 points over the final 20 minutes.
Dalton was the hero though with a three point play of his own at the 39.9 second mark for a 48-47 lead. Then, he came up with a huge rebound at the 28.8 second mark, and then after Marcus Freeney missed a front end of a one and one, and Kirkland missed on the follow, Dalton put it back in with 13.5 seconds left for the 50-47 victory. In the final against Shabazz, the Chiefs took an early 5-2 lead at the 17:31 mark of the first half, but the Bulldogs surged back out in front with a 13-5 spurt over the next 2:36 to take a 15-10 lead. The South Side Newark school would never trail after that.
Sophomore Marcus Freeney fought off first half leg cramps to lead the way with 15 points including seven in the opening half, and eight in the final period. Jackson chipped in with 14 points including 10 in the first half. Four came on a rare four point play when the junior was fouled on a three point attempt with 1:11 to go in the first half to close the gap to 34-29. Fellow junior, Greg Davis chipped in with 8 points including two threes. Piscataway trailed 45-31 with 14:13 to go, and was behind 46-33 with 12:29 left, but didn’t give up.
With sophomores such as Clarence Morris contributing with energy and coming up with scores on offense and nice plays on defense, the Chiefs rallied with an 18-10 surge over the next 13 minutes to pull within five at 56-51 with 1:13 to go. Morris then got a steal to give P-Way a chance to pull within one possession, but Jackson didn’t get a kind roll on a shot attempt with 50 seconds to go, and Shabazz scored the final three points for the 59-51 win. The size advantage down low for the Bulldogs limited the Chiefs to just eight points in the paint.
Despite the loss in the Championship Game, Piscataway had a superb run through the eight team field in the Kean Spring League playoffs. The run actually started with the Chiefs getting a hard fought 50-47 victory over Westfield in the final game of the regular season last week to lock up the seventh seed in the playoffs. P-Way then got a nice team effort to defeat Newark Central in overtime (66-62). Donovan Kirkland continued to have an impressive spring with 17 points in the win while Davis led the way with 23 points including six three pointers.
Freeney chipped in with 9 points while he and Jackson came up with big steals and nice dishes for assists. Davis buried back to back threes for a 54-46 lead with 5:52 left, and the Chiefs led by eight again at 58-50 with 2:30 to go. However, a problem that plagued Piscataway all game came up again at the worst possible time. The Chiefs had a lot of turnovers against Newark Central’s fullcourt pressure, and it led to a number of rallies. With 14:30 to go, P-Way led 40-28 only to just about give it back with several turnovers coming in the way of Blue Devil steals for a 12-2 run over a span of just 2:27 to close the gap to 42-40 at the 12:03 mark.
Then, after the Chiefs reasserted their control with a 10-4 spurt including Davis’ threes for the 58-50 lead with 2:30 left, Newark Central battled back again with nine straight points over the next minute and a half for a 59-58 lead with just under a minute to go. Davis would bail out his teammates with one of two from the line at the 2.6 second mark for a 59-59 tie heading into overtime. In the extra session, Jackson got a basket, and handed out an assist on a basket by Dalton for a 63-60 lead with 1:24 to go. Davis then put the game away with a trifecta that made the score 66-60 with 48 seconds left.
This game was perhaps the best one of the playoffs involving the Chiefs. There were only four lead changes and three ties in the contests, and Piscataway had the biggest lead of the contest at 12 points, but P-Way couldn’t put the Blue Devils away. Brandon Waiters led all scorers for Newark Central with 27 points.
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