PISCATAWAY, NJ -- The Piscataway High School boys and girls basketball teams played their first round games in the mini four-team Greater Middlesex Tournament Pods on Wednesday in Piscataway.
Both teams secured their first wins of the shortened season.
In the early contest, the Lady Chiefs convincingly defeated New Brunswick, 46-17.
After the final buzzer sounded, Piscataway began officially celebrating, but Coach Chris Puder said the team was on its feet on the bench in anticipation and excitement during the second half.
“They played hard. We've battled in so many games. It finally paid off,” Puder said. “It's good for the girls to end the season like this. We have one more against Highland Park. They were very happy at the end. They were up off the bench. They stayed positive this whole time.
“With all they've gone through and to have a full season, we really bought in and wanted to play for each other. So it was good to finally get a win. It was very nice.”
Senior Mia Rose led Piscataway (1-12) with 17 points. On many occasions, she was able to get in transition and make layups. Classmates Tori Fisher, who got hurt a few games ago, and Kaelonn Wilson, who missed the whole season due to injury, haven’t been able to play. Rose, herself, is a little banged up, but has fought through it.
“She's the last senior standing,” Puder said. “She's dealing with a couple injury things too, but there was no way she wasn't gonna play, and she said there's no way we're losing today. This was totally on her. She was the difference-maker today.”
Piscataway played suffocating defense, not allowing New Brunswick (1-9) any clean shots. The Lady Chiefs were able to turn the Zebras over on numerous occasions whether it was with steals or travels, and they turned that defense into offense on the other end.
“Defense was good. We were able to apply pressure to the ball. When we finally started attacking the basket, we really took over,” Puder said. “Shots weren't falling, so we attacked the basket. Our defense helped that too. Once you make a couple shots, it's just a confidence thing.”
The Lady Chiefs led 10-2 at the end of the first quarter, but two 3-pointers by New Brunswick made it 10-8. That was as close the visitors got the rest of the way. Rose made three straight buckets and then, in the second half, Piscataway went on a big 15-0 run to pull away.
“In the locker room, I told them if it got sloppy, they are going to hang in it. If we slow down the offense and attack we'll be fine,” Puder said. “As long as we rebound and get out we'll be fine. Get the steal and focus on that first pass and get on a fast break. We've really played pretty good defense all year.”
Piscataway rounds out its season in the Pod final on Friday at 4:00 p.m. against Highland Park, which beat Woodbridge Academy in its first round game.
The boys team edged Sayreville, 48-47, in the nightcap and won in dramatic fashion.
Aaren Austin hit a pull-up mid-range jump shot with about 3.5 seconds to go. That came right after Sayreville made a free throw to go up by one. The Bombers missed the second foul shot and there was a tie-up which gave the ball to Piscataway for a chance to win.
The Chiefs have now defeated the Bombers two games in a row, though the last meeting came back in 2015.
“It’s been a tough year, but it was good to finally get the win,” coach Darius Griffin, Sr. said.
Piscataway will take on South River in the final on Friday away at 4:00 p.m.
The Asjha Jones/Lisa Guarneri Pod is named after two Piscataway greats, who led the Lady Chiefs to the 1997 Tournament of Champions final. Jones was a high school All-American, went onto to star at UConn, before going to the WNBA and enjoying more playing time overseas and winning an Olympic gold medal. Jones is Piscataway’s all-time leading points scorer (2,266) and rebounder (1,256). Guarneri scored 1,186 for Piscataway and went on to play for Illinois and Virginia Tech in college.
The Jackson Family Pod is named after Roger and Kenny Jackson, who scored 1081 and 1,078 points, respectively, at South River, and their nephew, Deon, who netted 2,307 points for the Rams. Each won Central Jersey sectional titles while Kenny also won a county crown and state title. Kenny and Roger both went on to play football for Penn State and Kenny also made it to the NFL.
For the full schedule of events, click here.
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