Union sizzles in beating West Middlesex
Union (65) Vs. West Middlesex (60)
Dec 11, 2009
By JOE SAGER
It was exactly the type of opening game the Union High boys basketball team wanted.
Tonight, the Scotties hope for a repeat performance.
Union battled its way to a hard-fought 65-60 win over West Middlesex last night at the Neshannock Early Bird Tournament.
“What a great way to start the year, two Class A teams going at it,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “West Middlesex always has a reputation of playing hard and getting after it. It was a good test for our kids and they stepped up.”
While it was nice for the Scotties (1-0) to come away with a win, they were thrilled with the overall game experience they endured against the Big Reds (0-1). Union graduated three starters from last year’s squad and was hoping to plug those holes. So last night’s battle was a good test.
“We played some scrimmages, but didn’t play a team as physical as them. We came out there and showed them what we could do. I was pretty happy for us,” Union senior guard Anthony Thomas said. “No one believed in us but us, but we went out there and did what our coaches told us to do.”
The Scotties took a 16-14 lead after the first, but struggled a bit in the second quarter when West Middlesex went to a box-and-one defense to try to neutralize Thomas. The defensive shift worked as the Big Reds posted a 30-26 halftime edge.
“They went box-and-one and it surprised me a little bit. I didn’t think we’d get it this early,” Smialowski said. “We were a little bit hesitant. I told the kids they couldn’t be that way. They needed to step up and knock some shots down and that’s what they did in the second half.”
Indeed. Five different Union players scored at least a point in the third, as the Scotties stormed to a 40-36 edge at the buzzer.
“We needed that because we started struggling in the second quarter,” Thomas said. “When we started hitting shots, they had to get out of that box-and-one. That’s when we thrived.”
Thomas sizzled in the fourth quarter as he tallied 11 of his game-high 26 points.
“I know I am going to have to score some points for us to get some wins,” he said. “That’s what I had to do.”
Union built its lead to 11 points, 60-49, with 1:27 remaining. However, the Scotties struggled at the foul line as they cashed in on nine of their last 15 attempts down the stretch. But, they held off a hard-charging West Middlesex squad for the triumph.
Andre Jones tallied 16 points for the Scotties, while Anthony Forletta added 11.
“Anthony Thomas is hard to guard. We are expecting this from him all year. He’s going to carry these guys. There’s no doubt about it,” Smialowski said. “But, these other guys have to step in and fill these roles and a lot of guys did. Andre did a great job and knocked some big shots down. Anthony Forletta battled underneath the hoop all night.”
Union battles Neshannock tonight at 7:30 in the championship game. West Middlesex, which received 14 points from Marcus Murray and 13 from Christian Douglas, meets Shenango in the 6 p.m. consolation bout.