BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - So much about sports is about winning the mental game – the ability to overcome adversity or challenges posed one’s own self-confidence.
This contest had all the makings of classic contest: 6’6” New Providence Pioneer center Jack Cole faced off against the building legend of 6’9” Berkeley Heights Highlanders' center Kevin Ferguson, whose key play pushed his team to a top-5 Union County ranking recently.
Cole took on and overcame Ferguson by leading the Pioneers to a 41-37 victory over the Highlanders.
"I thought I did alright,” Cole said after the game. “Sometimes he (Ferguson) got into position for a lob but I did a good job boxing him out. I tried to get him as far away from the basket as I could because he’s pretty long and big.”
The win moved the Pioneers to 8-0 on the season, an accomplishment achieved through smart and scrappy play.
“We definitely worked hard over the summer and we like where we are and just want to keep getting better,” Cole said.
Cole led all Pioneer scorers with 15 points on the night and eight rebounds. Ferguson led all Highlander scorers with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The close fought centers' match mirrored the game. After the Highlanders got off to a quick start, they controlled the ball and the scoreboard for most all of the first period. The second period didn’t bring about much scoring, ending with the score tied at 18.
In the third period the Pioneers began to break away and ended the eight-minute quarter up 28-22. The fourth period was the hardest fought, although the Highlanders never closed the gap closer than a three-point deficit.
“Jack had a much better second half and I thought Ferguson did a great job on in the first half, “ said New Providence Head Coach Art Cattano.
It is expected that these two players will continue to play key roles for their squads this season. “Jack is a quiet leader," Cattano said,"who does a lot on the court.”
It is that kind of play that winds up sparking others to rally for wins.
“There is good chemistry on the team,” Cattano said, “and we have been shooting really well. If there is any weakness we have it's free throws. Every one of our starters is shooting well so we’re over 50 percent, but on the line we are about 60 percent. Right now we are in first place, but with so many games ahead of us we're going to take it one at a time."