BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Just under three weeks ago in a 52-45 loss at home to the Raiders, Bridgewater-Raritan found themselves down by double digits in the second half against Hillsborough before going on a late rally that fell short. Fast forward to Jan. 23 in their rematch on the road, the Panthers found themselves down 15 points early in the 3rd quarter and faced another double-digit deficit against the Raiders.

This time, they were not denied.

Trailing 38-23 a minute into the 3rd quarter after being on the wrong end of a 27-10 scoring run, Bridgewater-Raritan (3-11) then turned the tables on Hillsborough. Rishi Mudduluru scored five consecutive points quickly to begin a 17-2 run that tied the game at 40-40 with 2:35 left in the period. Despite 22 points from Raiders junior forward Kyle Chedid off the bench, Panthers forward Alec Whelan exploded on both ends of the floor particularly in the second half, and a three-pointer by Mudduluru with 3:29 to go put the Panthers up 54-52 with 3:29 to play in a loud, hostile environment.

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The visitors never trailed again from there. A potential game-winning three-pointer from well behind the arc fell short for Hillsborough as time expired, giving Bridgewater-Raritan a thrilling 60-58 win and their first road win of 2019-20.

And while the Panthers had a rough final 10 minutes of the first half, it ended up being just a blip on the radar when the final buzzer sounded.
Hillsborough opened the contest up with a 6-2 lead with one bucket each from Jay Mazuera, Jared Smith, and Allen Holmon, who scored on a putback of a missed free throw. Smith, who dominated on the glass in the previous meeting and scored 12 points in that contest, was virtually shut down in the rematch. Bridgewater-Raritan focused a lot of attention on defense in the paint, particularly utilizing starting forwards Mickey Wasko and Whelan in the middle to lock down the Raiders’ big men.

While all three of his rebounds led to scoring plays by the Raiders, Smith was only held to five points after reaching double figures and dominating in the previous meeting. Even more, including him, Hillsborough’s starting five only managed one three-pointer and 27 combined points as a result of Bridgewater-Raritan’s successful game plan.

The Panthers, on the other hand, fared well in the post in the rematch. Whelan and Mike Pastor each scored from down low to tie the game at 6-6 halfway into the 1st quarter before both teams split the game’s next ten points. This included triples from the Mudduluru of Bridgewater-Raritan and Camryn Loniewski of Hillsborough. A layup plus a foul drawn by Panthers guard Alvin Cheng gave Bridgewater-Raritan a 13-11 lead with 1:58 to go in the period, and the visitors seemed to have an early rhythm that was not present in their previous contest.

But Hillsborough came alive from there.

Chedid scored five straight points on his first buckets of the night off the bench for Hillsborough, and then a pair of fastbreak layups by Holmon and Mazuera followed by two late free throws by Holmon capped off a stunning 11-0 burst by the Raiders to end the quarter with a 22-13 lead over Bridgewater-Raritan.

Hillsborough picked up where they left off in the 2nd quarter, with Chedid also scoring on a fastbreak layup to open the period’s scoring with 6:31 to go in the first half. With the Raiders up 24-13 at this point and having scored 13 unanswered points, Whalen went to the free throw line on the Panthers’ next possession. He split his pair of free throws, giving him his first of what ended up being eight made shots from the charity stripe in the contest.

Two straight buckets by the Panthers then cut Hillsborough’s lead to five just under halfway into the 2nd quarter, but Chedid immediately cancelled this Panthers burst out with a bucket and one plus one more made basket quickly in the post. This extended the Raiders’ lead to 29-19 with 4:00 to go in the half, and after a pair of free throws by Cheng got the Panthers back to within single digits, a three by Holmon and another pair of free throws by Chedid: his last of nine second-period points, put the Raiders up by 13. This margin stood the same in favor of Hillsborough at the break even with both teams scoring once in the final minute, but the home team ultimately took a 36-23 lead into the locker room.

A basket in the post by Smith to open the 3rd quarter then gave the Raiders a 38-23 lead with 7:01 left in the period, but Bridgewater-Raritan came to life from there.

Mudduluru then opened the scoring for the Panthers with five straight points in just over a minute to trim Hillsborough’s lead by a third, and Bridgewater-Raritan forward Joey Callari got on the board with a steal at midcourt and a layup to make it a single-digit deficit with 4:33 left in the quarter.

Trailing 38-30 at this point, a pair of free throws by Pastor and a long triple by Callari capped off a stunning burst of 12 unanswered points by Bridgewater-Raritan in three and a half minutes to make it a 38-35 game with 3:35 to go in the quarter. A questionable blocking foul on Bridgewater-Raritan’s Zach Letts plus the layup by Chedid led to Hillsborough’s first points in this scoring run, but the ensuing missed free throw on top of two previous missed throws by Smith in the quarter ended up being costly for the Raiders.

With Hillsborough clinging to a 40-35 lead at this point, Letts then pulled up and connected from way downtown at the other end, and another midcourt steal and layup by Callari for Bridgewater-Raritan tied the game at 40 a piece with 2:35 to go in the quarter to set up a thrilling final ten minutes that went back-and-forth the rest of the way.

Whelan particularly took over for the Panthers, scoring from down low to give Bridgewater-Raritan their first lead since the opening period before three straight buckets by Chedid gave Hillsborough a 46-42 lead with under a minute to go in the 3rd quarter. A long two by Cheng for the Panthers made it a 46-44 game in favor of the Raiders as the period came to a close at Hillsborough High School.

The Panthers had outscored Hillsborough 21-8 in the final seven minutes of the 3rd quarter, and Bridgewater-Raritan seemed to have all of the momentum from there.

A layup by Mazuera opened the 4th quarter scoring for Hillsborough, and a split pair of free throws at the other end by Letts cut the Raiders’ lead to 48-45 with 6:55 to go. Whelan, who seemingly blocked every single Raiders shot in the paint in the final period, then made the first two of his six total final-period free throws to get Bridgewater-Raritan within one just 30 seconds later.

Another block by Whelan at the other end of the floor led to another pair of free throws for the Panthers 6’ 4” junior forward to put Bridgewater-Raritan in front 49-48 with 5:21 to go. Two straight field goals for Hillsborough in the next two minutes put the Raiders back in front for the final time before an uncontested layup by Letts and a dagger three by Mudduluru gave the Panthers a 54-52 lead with 3:29 to play.

After an answer by the Raiders tied it, a deflected Raiders pass by Mudduluru inside the arc led to a layup and a drawn foul by Cheng to give the Panthers a 56-54 lead with 2:19 to go before Whelan’s final two free throws and last of his team-high 16 points extended the Panthers’ lead to four: their biggest lead of the contest.

Hillsborough did not go away quietly, however, despite the Panthers hanging on late when it counted.

Despite a rebound by Whelan on a long missed jumper by the Raiders, Bridgewater-Raritan was whistled for an offensive foul that gave Hillsborough another chance on that end of the floor. The Raiders cashed in on this extra possession with a long two to cut the Panthers’ lead to 59-56 with 45.6 seconds to play in regulation.

An intercepted pass by Holmon on Bridgewater-Raritan’s next possession then led to a layup to make it a 59-58 game with 25.5 seconds to play, forcing the Raiders to foul Cheng on the next Panthers possession. With Bridgewater-Raritan in the double bonus, Cheng split the ensuing pair of free throw attempts to make it a 60-58 game with under 10 seconds to play.

But the Panthers forced Hillsborough to attempt a long three from way behind the right center portion of the arc as time expired. It sailed wide to the left to quiet the stunned Raiders crowd, and the victorious Panthers erupted onto the court with the final scoreboard reading 60-58 and in their favor.

With their win at Hillsborough, Bridgewater-Raritan won for the first time away from home in 2019-20. They outscored the Raiders 37-22 in the second half, which included the aforementioned 17-2 burst in the third period.

Bridgewater-Raritan bounced back from shooting 6-of-13 at the free throw line in the first half by going 12-for-16 there in the second half, while Hillsborough went 0-for-3 at the charity stripe after the break. Chedid, who only scored two points in the first meeting between the two teams, erupted for 22 of Hillsborough’s 58 points to lead all scorers.

The Raiders did not attempt a free throw in the final period.

Holmon, who scored 10 points for Hillsborough, was the only Raiders player to score in double figures in both meetings after leading Hillsborough with 17 points in the previous contest. Whelan, who had the only pair of double-digit outputs for the Panthers in these meetings, capped off a pair of 16-point performances against the Raiders to lead Bridgewater-Raritan. His big points along with his key rebounds and blocks late in the contest were the difference in the rematch on the Raiders’ home court.

SCORING:
Bridgewater-Raritan 60, Hillsborough 58
Hillsborough: Q1- 22; Q2- 14; Q3- 10; Q4- 12; TOTAL- 58

  • Kyle Chedid - 22 points
  • Allen Holmon - 10 points
  • Camryn Loniewski - 9 points
  • Jay Mazuera - 8 points
  • Jared Smith - 5 points
  • Adam McCaffery - 4 points

Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 13; Q2- 10; Q3- 21; Q4- 16; TOTAL- 60

  • Alec Whelan - 16 points
  • Rishi Mudduluru - 12 points
  • Alvin Cheng - 11 points
  • Joey Callari - 7 points
  • Zach Letts - 6 points
  • Mike Pastor - 6 points
  • Mike Brickfield - 2 points

NEXT UP:
That was certainly a good way for Bridgewater-Raritan (3-11) to start a trip consisting of five straight games away from home.

The Panthers will look to carry their momentum from their first road win into John P. Stevens High School over the weekend. Tip against the Hawks will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 25.

Bridgewater-Raritan will not be home again until Feb. 4 against Hunterdon Central (7 p.m. on this date).

For detailed Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers Athletics schedules and game locations, please see https://bridgewaterraritanhighschool.bigteams.com/.

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