Defense Hurt UCC Success On Offense

By Jim Whelan

Union County College knew that they could outscore their opponents. This year team did do that, but on the other end of the court, the Owls still had offense on their mind and let their opponents outscore them.

“We did develop the defense mind and I haven’t instilled it in the players” said Coach Joe Scott. The culmination of the lack of defense came when Union County lost to Rockland County, NY 111-107. Scott scolded his team and told them “I can’t believe a watched a college team score 107 points and lose.” The Owls also beat Bronx Community College 117-100. “We felt they can outscore anybody” said Scott.

By midseason however UCC started to turn things around and started winning games and found themselves in the middle of the pack with a record of 13-9. The Owls defense, or lack of it, haunted them. The Owls also had a better record on the road and letting teams get comfortable at UCC. “If you are going to be an elite team you can’t lose a t home” said the Owl head coach. UCC had to turn things around in order to win their conference and go to the Junior College regionals. The Owls lost 7 of the next ten. “We had difficulty beating the top teams in the conference and we beat the teams we were supposed to beat” said Scott. Union county beat Sussex County and lost to Brookdale to end their season.

Individually, the team did receive some notoriety. Tony Johnson did earn 2nd team all Region. Ethan Williams did league the league in Free throw percentages. Recently, two year starter Vinnie Darpino will finish his career at Kean University. Darpino was a two year starter for the Owls and only missed one practice in his two year career and played in 63 games. “Vinnie is the ideal student athlete. He works had at both.” Replied Scott. Darpino carries a 3.8 GPA.

Former Columbia High School standout, Ethan Williams, also has some offers from NJAC schools and will visit DII CW POST. Williams will play in the EIAC Showcase on Sunday April 13th at Elizabeth’s Dunne sports arena with other unsigned Junior College players and unrecruited High school seniors vying for a spot on a College roster.

Along with Darpino and Williams, the Owls will also be without the services of Tony Johnson and Alex Lamberti. Running a two year program Scott is used to the changeover. Scott has not had much success recruiting within the county. That may change this year. Will Fleneroy of Elizabeth, Steve Alston of Hillside, and Daquan Abdullah of Brearley are all considering to play for the Owls next year. “I like kids who can score and athletic kids” said Scott. Fleneroy was a News Record third team All county performer. Fleneroy can score, tallying 33 points against Union and 28 points against Dickinson High School this year. 6’1 Alston was solid for the Comets and Abdullah came on late in the season. There is not doubt that he fits the mold that Scott wants develop at Union County.

Coach Joe Scott likes the opportunity that Junior College can do to help students academically and athletically. This year’s team could not stop some teams for scoring, but they could score. Losing the cast of players this year was a special group for UCC, but with the current trend of College coaches looking at Union County schools, hopefully Scott can keep a few in county and be better defensively and reach the top of the Conference.

Jim Whelan can be reached at

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