CLARK, N.J. – There was a look of desperation and anger in the eyes of the New Providence boys’ basketball team as they walked off the floor following a loss to rival Gov. Livingston on January 11. Realizing they let the game slip away, the Pioneers decided they would not beat themselves again.
Since that dreary Saturday afternoon, the Pioneers have played like a new team, winning their last five games, including Friday’s 54-29 victory over Arthur Johnson High School.
“We’ve just been playing really well,” New Providence’s Dylan Thomas said. “We definitely limited our turnovers and just been taking good shots. I think we just started to learn how each other played. We learned our tendencies and what we do. It’s a really great group and we just have a lot of chemistry.”
Similar to their last four games, New Providence played team-basketball against the Crusaders, seeing eight players make the score sheet, including a game-high 13 points from senior Curtis Kyzima and 10 from Thomas.
Despite all five starters scoring in the first quarter, the Pioneers led by only three after one. However, the Pioneers turned on the jets in the second period, going on a 14-4 run to increase their lead to 28-15 in the final two minutes of half.
Off the bench, Thomas sparked the second quarter surge, scoring half of his points in the period. With the game still within reach for Johnson halfway through the quarter, Thomas scored five straight points, including a 3-point play to give the Pioneers their largest lead of the game.
“I just like to play with a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “I get a lot of fouls called because I’m so active with my hands. I get great feeds from Tyler and Curtis. Its really a whole team thing.”
New Providence head coach Art Cattano said Thomas has embraced his role as the first guy off the bench, which was a concern coming into the year.
“He definitely gives us a spark, plays very aggressive,” Cattano said. “He’s a good offensive player. We were kind of wondering who would fit where, that stuff kind of works itself out.”
Leading by only eight at halftime, the Pioneers defense came out of the break on fire, allowing only nine points over the last 16 minutes of play. Offensively, New Providence opened the second half on another 14-4 run which effectively took the Crusaders out of the game by the fourth quarter.
Once the reserves came , the Pioneers relentless defense didn’t go away. The second-team gave up only one point in the fourth, a free-throw in the final two minutes of regulation.
“I was not too happy at halftime,” Cattano said. “We were up 13, then a kid hits a 3 and then they score right before the half to get them excited. You don’t want a team getting a little momentum going in [at halftime]. I was glad with the way we responded to start the third quarter. We played a little smarter and defended.”
New Providence will look to continue their winning ways on Monday when they play the first of two games next week against Hillside.