NEWARK, NJ – The New Providence girls’ basketball team’s season came to disappointing close at the hands of a New Jersey powerhouse.
Playing in the North Jersey 2, Group 1 final, Malcolm X. Shabazz High School was too much for the Lady Pioneers on Tuesday, as the Bulldogs continued their dominance over the state with a 56-34 victory.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said. “These guys executed exactly how we wanted to execute. We ‘D’ed’ [sic] them up as hard as humanly possible. Size and a little bit of their speed caught up to us in the end. I’m really proud of my team.”
The Pioneers kept the game close in the first two quarters. Trailing, 6-0, to open the game, New Providence’s Sydney Morang finished the first quarter on a personal 7-2 run to trail the Bulldogs, 8-7, after eight minutes of play.
New Providence fought to take a three-point lead in the early stages of the second quarter when Katie Kinum and Nat Barrett scored six straight points to go up 13-10 with 4:49 to play in the opening half. However, Shabazz battled back with a 10-3 run to recapture the lead at halftime, 20-16.
“It was awesome,” Morang said. “We were working hard and making sure that we didn’t give up no matter what. Every single play we were trying to make sure we limited their opportunities to score, that was working very well for us.”
Shabazz didn’t take very long into the second half to put the game out of reach for the Pioneers. After exchanging baskets in the first minute, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to go up 10 points.
The duo of Zaire O’Neil and DeAshia Jones were too tough inside the paint for New Providence to defend. Add the deep shooting from Ivana Negron and the Pioneers were caught with tough defensive decisions to make and no answers in sight.
New Providence ended the third trailing by 11 points, but it only got worse in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs were able to double their lead to 22 in the final minute.
O’Neil, an ESPN Top 40 recruit who will be attending Georgia Tech, rattled off a game-high 20 points, while Jones added 13.
Morang led all New Providence scorers with 17 points.
Despite their season coming to a close, Pazdera and the Pioneers came away from the loss with a lot to be happy with. They reached their goal of a state final appearance, which they will use as motivation for next season.
“We’re using this to fuel us for next season,” Pazdera said. “The young girls are upset that we couldn’t for our seniors. We’re going to use that in the offseason and work our butts off to try and take it one step further next year.”