NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J. – Amidst the freezing Jersey night, the New Providence Pioneer boys got hot, beating Arthur Johnson High School in a well-executed home performance. After an up-and-down first half, the Pioneers came out with a strong win to start a two-game win streak, and increase their winning percentage to 47 percent, one game away from the well-desired .500 record.
It was a rocky first-half, with the home and away scoreboard fluctuating as Arthur Johnson and New Providence seesawed for the lead. Both sides missed shots coming into the game, and not until the 6:30 minute mark did the first points register, when the Crusaders drew first blood against the Pioneers.
Coming into the second quarter, the score was tied at 14. Tight defense from both sides led to empty shot attempts. But as the shots kept tipping out of the rim, New Providence never failed to stay scrappy under the basket to fight for rebounds and put it back up for second and third chance points. Arthur Johnson answered back by bulling their way through the paint and drawing numerous fouls for "and-one" conversions.
About two minutes before half time, the Crusaders went on a rushing streak to have New Providence trail by 10 points, 26-16. A successful run-and-gun offense by the Crusaders led to New Providence scrambling to tighten up their own defensive game. The increased Pioneer efforts yielded good results. In the last seconds before halftime, the Pioneers mustered up a couple of fast-break points to bring the deficit to four points. After that, New Providence never looked back.
Right from the get-go during the second half, New Providence Head Coach Art Cattano administered a very effective full-court press, leading to numerous turnovers for the Crusaders. Within the first 30 seconds of the third quarter, New Providence scored a quick six points: a basketball “pick-six”- stealing the ball three consecutive times during Arthur Johnson’s inbounds plays. Not until after the Pioneer flurry were the Crusaders successful in bringing the ball safely across the half court line. But by then, the score was already 28-26 Pioneers, with 7:33 still left in the quarter.
New Providence dominated the tone of the game from then on, keeping their extremely strong defensive pressure.
“We wanted to teach our kids not to lose their focus just because they had the lead,” Cattano said.
It worked. The Pioneer team’s increased pace and defensive pressure for the third and fourth quarters led to more rebounds and more forced turnovers, which translated to more points. In the second half, New Providence scored a total of 31 points, as opposed to the first half, where they scored just 22.
Cattano and the Pioneers led against the Crusaders until the whistle blew for the game's end. The final score was 53-44.
“Defense creates offense,” New Providence junior Curtis Kyzima said. Kyzima finished the game with a total of 26 points.
Turnovers were a huge factor to the win: New Providence forced 13 turnovers for Arthur Johnson leading to extra opportunities to score.
Aggressive rebounding also played a large part, allowing for the conversion of second- and third- chance points. Leading the rebounding category for the Pioneers was sophomore Tyler Curto, who leaped countless times into the paint to grab 11 boards.
New Providence looks to further their win-streak against Roselle Park on Tuesday. It will be another home game, with the Pioneers donning pristine white and green.