SUMMIT, NJ- Defense was the name of the game Tuesday afternoon as New Providence edged Oak Knoll 37-33.
With a playoff-like atmosphere, Oak Knoll jumped out to a 15-8 lead thanks in part to balanced first quarter scoring. All five starters scored for the Royals, with Kelly McAloon leading the team with five points, three of which came on an “and-one” conversion as the first quarter ended. Freshman Sydney Morang paced the Pioneers with six points.
The second quarter was just as close as the Royals outscored the Pioneers 10-9. Keegan Kelly and McAloon each scored three points in the quarter. Meanwhile, the Pioneers saw five players contribute to keep the game close, including two free throws from Casey Tezza to cut the Royal lead to 25-17 right as the half ended.
Although the Pioneers were down at the half, Morang and her teammates were still positive.
“We knew we could beat them because we had beaten (Oak Knoll) at home the first time, so we needed to not let the crowd affect us,” Morang said.
Morang and the Pioneers responded in a big way as they outscored Oak Knoll 13-2 in a pivotal third quarter. Cassandra Squeri and Morang scored all 13 points in the quarter, with Squeri providing an exclamation point to the comeback as she scored her 1,000th career point.
Squeri acknowledged that getting to 1,000 points was in her head throughout the game.
“I was thinking about it too much in the first quarter, but my teammates were telling me to keep shooting and to keep playing hard,” she said. “The accomplishment isn’t about me, it has always been about my teammates and it is a tribute to them.”
Pioneer head coach Cap Pazdera cited their ability to contain Kerri Moran, the Royals own 1,000 point scorer as the key.
“We knew we had to contain Kerri because she is a great player,” he said.
“We picked it up defensively in the second half and really made sure we were improving our help defense on Kerri,” Squeri added.
The final quarter saw both teams score 13 points combined as each team traded baskets.
Ultimately, New Providence took advantage at the free throw line and some clutch shooting by Morang to pull out the victory. Morang scored five of her game-high 18 points in the final quarter to propel the Pioneers to their 12th win of the year.
Oak Knoll’s Moran tried to bring her team back, however, it was to no avail as she would miss three free throws in the fourth quarter and a layup with 15 seconds left.
She finished with a team high 10 points, while McAloon chipped in with eight points. Kelsey Quinn aided the Pioneers with six points, including two free throws in the final quarter.
Both teams are now 12-2 on the year.