NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – New Providence boys’ basketball head coach Art Cattano thought the Pioneers’ state tournament opener against Weehawken was over with one minute left on the clock.
His senior forward Bryan Sherman just hit a layup to put the Pioneers up by 10, so Cattano did what any coach would have done, he put some of his reserves in to close out the Indians.
A couple of turnovers and Weehawken baskets later and the Pioneers starters were back on the floor fighting for their tournament lives.
However, clutch free throws from Jordan Morang and Curtis Kyzima in the final seconds propelled New Providence into the North Jersey 2, Group 1 Elite 8, beating the Indians, 51-45, on Tuesday.
“I thought we weren’t as smooth as we were in the first half,” Cattano said. “When I called the timeout with four minutes to go, normally I like to save those timeouts for the end if its close. I said ‘This is an important timeout because we were looking shaky. Let’s settle down and run our stuff, show them we can handle pressure.’”
The Pioneers made only one basket from the floor in the fourth quarter and were scoreless for the first four minutes of the period, but 13 converted free throws later made the offensive woes go away.
“It made it a little exciting, a little fun,” Bryan Sherman said. “Stuff happens, they hit a few shots. We had to go back in and finish what we started.”
Sherman started the game on an offensive tear, scoring eight of the Pioneers’ first 10 points to get New Providence on top 15-12 after one.
Once he cooled off, Kyzima and Morang picked up right where he left off. The two seniors led the way offensives. Kyzima hit three key 3-pointers throughout the game, while Morang’s game-high 17 points kept the Indians out of reach.
“It seems like its somebody different every night,” Cattano said. “We’ve just been doing a lot of shooting, so it seems to be paying off. I try to let them know that at some point going to cool off, so lets be patient and get the ball inside more. I thought overall we did a nice job.”
New Providence has a quick turnaround to prepare for fifth-seeded North Arlington in the tournament’s second round on Wednesday.
Sherman said the team won’t let the late struggle effect them in the next round.
“I think we just look at this as a win,” Sherman said, “And bring our attention to North Arlington tomorrow.”