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Bruce, Wade, Louis lift Linden past Plainfield BY MIKE KINNEY For the Star-Ledger

Posted Saturday, March 01, 2008 by BY MIKE KINNEY For the Star-Ledger

Bruce, Wade, Louis lift Linden past Plainfield
Saturday, March 01, 2008
BY MIKE KINNEY
For the Star-Ledger
Desmond Wade realized fairly early in the game that his shot -- so effortless and fluid just two nights before -- was just not there.

For many high-scoring guards, that would be a major issue in such an important game. For Wade, who averages 18.8 points and was hot off a 35-point outing, that simply meant a shift in emphasis.

The 5-9 senior just had to make sure that the man he covered struggled all the more, which was indeed what happened.

David Bruce scored a game-high 18 points and took down 17 rebounds and Wade and fellow senior guard Jerelle Louis scored 15 and 11 points, respectively, and led a tenacious defense that sent Linden, No. 5 in The Star-Ledger Top 20, to a 49-44 victory over stubborn Plainfield in the NJSIAA/ShopRite North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 semifinals last night before a capacity crowd of 900 in Linden.

Fifth-seeded Linden, winner of the last two Group 4 titles, will play in its fourth straight sectional final Monday when it faces second-seeded and No. 17 Piscataway at the Elizabeth Dunn Center at 6 p.m.

"Today was like a grind-it-out game. I made some shots early, but later in the game I really wasn't able to make shots," said the Houston-bound Wade, who banged in nine points in the first quarter but ended up shooting only 5-of-21 from the floor for the game. "We had to dig in deep to get this win."

One thing about Wade's shovel. It carries a lot of dried dirt from previous digs. That's why there wasn't a trace of panic from Wade or Louis when Linden's offense began to sputter, and Plainfield was suddenly infused with hope behind the offensive spark of freshman guard Tyrone Johnson and junior forward Khalid Muhammad.

Plainfield trailed, 27-15, with 2:36 left in the first half but fought back to within three points twice in the fourth quarter. Anthony Baskerville hit a free throw to make it 43-40 with 3:28 left in the game and Shaun Blackmon got Plainfield to within 45-42 with 2:35 to go.

Linden turned over the ball with 1:41 to go, but Plainfield gave it back only 19 seconds later. Then, with 1:01 remaining, Romel Bateman fed Bruce inside for a 47-42 advantage.

"That basket was big because we were only up three," Bruce said. "That basket kind of slowed them down and made them lose hope."

Wade deepened the wound with two free throws with 30.1 seconds left for a 49-42 lead. Muhammad closed out the scoring for Plainfield on a putback with 11.1 seconds left.

Fact is, Wade was inflicting pain all along with his tireless defensive play against the talented Baskerville, who managed only three points, 12.1 below his average.

"I think that's what makes Desmond Wade maybe the best guard Linden has ever had," Linden coach Phil Colicchio said. "He has the ability to score like he did the other night. He has the ability to pass and make other people better. And he really has the ability to defend people and shut people down. Desmond is just a special, special kid."

The other Linden players are certainly accustomed to following the lead of that special fourth-year player. On whole, Linden played excellent man-to-man defense to curtail Plainfield's high-charged offense.

Plainfield had opened the season with a 70-66 overtime victory over Linden, then Linden rebounded with a 71-55 victory Jan. 15. Johnson closed with 15 points and Muhammad and Isaiah Epps each scoored nine for Plainfield, which seemed to have to fight hard for all but one, maybe two field goals.

"I think we did a great job of controlling tempo," Colicchio said. "But when you've got senior guards who are battle tested, that's what's going to happen.

"I think we took them out of what they like to do, and that's get the ball up and down the floor."

Plainfield 44: Anthony Baskerville 1-0-1-3, Blackmon 3-0-0-6, Bobatundae 0-0-0-0, Epps 1-2-1-9, Johnson 3-2-3-15, LaRue 1-0-0-2, Muhammad 4-0-1-9, Price 0-0-0-0, Robbins 0-0-0-0. Totals: 13-4-6-44.

Linden 49: Bateman 1-0-0-2, Bruce 8-0-2-18, Freeman 0-1-0-3, Hodge 0-0-0-0, Lewis 0-0-0-0, Louis 2-2-1-11, Wade 4-1-4-15, Wilson 0-0-0-0. Totals: 15-4-7-49.

Plainfield (18-8)12 7 13 12 -- 44

Linden (23-6)21 8 9 11 -- 49

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