NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Westfield boys’ basketball coach Daryl Palmieri rarely second-guesses himself in the middle of the game. With just under two minutes to play and the Blue Devils trailing by one to New Providence, he was all set to take guard David Kane out of the game.
As the substitution buzzer sounded, Palmieri made a quick change and left the senior in for the final 90 seconds. The split-second decision paid off, as Kane scored Westfield’s final eight points to lead a 52-47 comeback victory over the Pioneers on Tuesday night.
“He played like a senior today,” Palmieri said. “The funny thing was I wasn’t going to put him in at the end there. I guess it was a good decision by me.”
However happy Palmieri and Blue Devils were at the end of the game, Westfield was on their heels in a state of panic for most of the second half.
After leading by 13 midway through the second quarter, New Providence cut their deficit to seven when senior Curtis Kyzima capped a 6-0 run with a jumper at the buzzer.
“I thought we saw a lot of good things today,” New Providence head coach Art Cattano said. “We were down 13 today, and last year they beat us pretty good both times. To get within seven at halftime was pretty good.”
The Blue Devils went back up 11 in the opening moments of the third, but the Pioneers responded with a 10-0 run to cut their lead to one late in the quarter. Kyzima, along with fellow senior Jordan Morang, bookended the run with two 3-point plays to pull the Pioneers within one.
Leading by six in the early stages of the fourth, Westfield’s offense came to halt thanks to strong defense from the Pioneers.
Following a couple of steals and big rebounds from center Matt Romeo, New Providence clawed their way. Sophomore guard Kevin Voss hit one of the biggest shots of his career, a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 39.
“He’s a real good guard,” Cattano said. “I wasn’t real happy with our guards earlier. He’s gotten a couple of shots, this is a great opportunity for him against a Group 4 school that plays a lot of pressure. I thought he handed it well. I am very pleased with him.”
Junior guard Dylan Thomas followed with six straight points, including four free throws to give the Pioneers a three-point lead.
However, New Providence was never able to extend their lead past three. Following a couple of giveaways and missed shots, Kane led the Blue Devils into their last minute comeback.
Kane buried the Pioneers for eight points over the final 72 seconds, including a deep 3-pointer to put Westfield on top for good in the final 15 ticks.
“We tend to make a lot of our games interesting in the end,” Palmieri said. “A couple of times we had a lead, but we couldn’t put them away. That’s a credit to them, too. They kept competing.”
Both teams are back in action on Thursday night. Westfield visits Plainfield, while New Providence hosts Dayton, with both games scheduled for 7 p.m.