FLEMINGTON, NJ – Playing in their first true road game of 2019-20 since their season opener (a 73-46 loss at Watchung Hills) Bridgewater-Raritan found themselves in a hostile environment at division rival Hunterdon Central.
And even after both teams went scoreless for just over a minute into the contest, the Red Devils turned on the jets from there and never looked back.
Hunterdon Central (6-6) opened up a double-digit lead over Bridgewater-Raritan (2-9) late in the opening period, and despite a brief burst by the Panthers in the 2nd quarter, the Red Devils eventually distanced themselves by as much as 25 points at the end of the 3rd quarter on the way to an eventual 77-58 victory.
Trailing 19-8 after an opening period where the Panthers only scored on four first-quarter field goals, a three by Joey Callari and a pair of free throws by Alvin Cheng, who had 15 points for the Panthers, cut the Red Devils’ lead to six just under a minute into the 2nd quarter.
Tyler Cassella then hit three free throws for Hunterdon Central after drawing a foul from behind the arc, leading to what ended up being a critical five or six-point swing in the Red Devils’ favor. This began a 10-2 run for the home team in a span of 1:15, which included a post bucket in heavy traffic by senior forward Mike Zaragoza, and ended with a pair of free throws by junior guard Brian Johansson. Johansson, who hit a pair at the charity stripe in the opening period, eventually capped off a 10-for-10 first half at the line on eight free throw attempts in the 2nd quarter alone.
His first field goal, a three-pointer, in between was the bucket that extended his output to double digits on the way to a game-high 13 points in the first half. Cheng reached 10 points for Bridgewater-Raritan on a layup with 1:13 to go in the 2nd quarter, but Hunterdon Central went into the locker room up 42-25 over the visiting Panthers. They then opened the 3rd quarter with a pair of putbacks by Ciszkowski to extend their lead to 46-27 a minute into the period.
But led by Whelan, who got going in the 3rd quarter and ultimately led the Panthers with 16 points on the night, an 11-4 run by Bridgewater-Raritan briefly quieted Hunterdon Central’s packed and passionate student section. This cut the Red Devils’ lead to 50-38 halfway into the period, but Hunterdon Central answered the call with the momentum in favor of the visitors.
The Red Devils responded with a 16-3 run in the final four minutes of the period to take a 66-41 lead over the Panthers at the end of the 3rd quarter: their largest lead of the night. The final eight points in this stretch were scored by junior forward Charlie Gillikin, who hit a pair of triples and a bucket from down low to electrify the home crowd.
This capped off an efficient 10-point night for the junior, as Gillikin joined three other of his Red Devils teammates who ultimately finished in double figures. With 3:08 to go and Hunterdon Central up 73-53, both teams emptied their benches with the final outcome no longer in doubt, and the Red Devils improved to .500 on the 2019-20 season with a 77-58 victory over the Panthers.
Hunterdon Central went 21-for-25 at the free throw line, while Bridgewater-Raritan went 14-for-19 at the charity stripe. Johansson and Ciszkowski, who went 11-for-11 at the line and hit eight field goals all in the paint, respectively, finished with 18 points and 16 points, respectively, for the Red Devils to lead all scorers on the night.
The Panthers fell to 0-2 in true road games so far this season with their losses to Hunterdon Central and Watchung Hills, with the latter Warriors (12-1) losing their first game of the season tonight to Gill St. Bernard’s (9-3) by a final score of 57-46.
This result came two days after the Panthers fell to these same Knights at home by a final score 96-50. Bridgewater-Raritan will get a home rematch against Watchung Hills in five days, and will travel to Gill St. Bernard’s for a rematch in exactly two weeks.
Bridgewater-Raritan 58, Hunterdon Central 76
Hunterdon Central: Q1- 19; Q2- 23; Q3- 24; Q4- 17; TOTAL- 77
- Brian Johansson - 18 points
- Matt Ciszkowski - 16 points
- Mike Zarazoga - 12 points
- Charlie Gillikin - 10 points
- Eric Molto - 7 points
- Tyler Cassella - 6 points
- Thomas Menyhert - 4 points
- Conner Hercek - 2 points
- Joseph Sei - 2 points
Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 8; Q2- 17; Q3- 16; Q4- 17; TOTAL- 58
- Alec Whelan - 16 points
- Alvin Cheng - 15 points
- Joey Callari - 12 points
- Garrett Naylor - 3 points
- Mike Brickfield - 2 points
- Mike Pastor - 2 points
- Rishi Mudduluru - 2 points
- Arya Trivedi - 2 points
- Mickey Wasko - 2 points
- Zach Letts - 1 point
- Brandyn Vaughn - 1 point
Six of the Panthers’ next seven contests will be away from home.
This will begin with the Long Branch MLK Classic Jan. 20 at 10 a.m., when the Panthers (2-9) will tip against Red Bank at Long Branch High School. Their lone home game during this stretch will be the aforementioned rematch against Watchung Hills the following night Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
Bridgewater-Raritan will then play five straight games away from home from Jan. 23 to Feb. 1.
For detailed Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers Athletics schedules and game locations, please see https://bridgewaterraritanhighschool.bigteams.com/.
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