For two quarters in Saturday’s NJSIAA North 2 Group I boys basketball semifinal, fourth-seeded Dunellen High School was staying with top-seeded Dayton.
The Destroyers, however, could not keep up with the tempo set by the Bulldogs and it resulted in a 59-41 loss. Dayton will play in the sectional final on Tuesday against second-seeded University.
Dunellen jumped out to an early 10-4 first-quarter lead and went into halftime trailing 19-18 after Dayton’s Anthony Cioffi got fouled and made a foul shot with no time left in the half.
The outcome was determined in the fourth quarter when Dayton came out of its shooting slumber and outscored Dunellen 16-5, taking control of the game.
“The tempo was in our favor in the first half,” said Dunellen coach Bernie Buniak. “We did not want to go up and down with Dayton with the size advantage that they have. In the third quarter, they made a couple shots and they started shooting the ball with confidence.”
Dunellen (19-7) tried to come back in the fourth quarter. Down 15 with 4:30 remaining, the Destroyers called a timeout to calm down. After the timeout, David Johnson drained two three-point shots to cut the lead to nine.
However, Dayton (20-5) regained its composure and held on for the win.
Johnson finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds. Teammate Casey Wenzel had 12 points and five rebounds.
The Destroyers could not contain the shooting of Dayton’s Jared Clayton, who finished with 17 points. Clayton nailed two huge threes in the third quarter to keep the Bulldogs’ momentum going.
“It was a very rewarding season because of the seniors,” Buniak said. “Deon Brown, Dylan Hoski, Casey Wenzel, those three in particular, to see them win another Gold Division Championship, to tie the school record for 19 wins those are great accomplishments those men are going to have for the rest of their lives.”