JERSEY CITY, NJ – Nine days ago at Hillsborough, the Panthers were down by double digits in the 3rd quarter but managed to complete a thrilling comeback.

But on Feb. 1 against Memorial in the third annual Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase at Dickinson High School, they found themselves on the other end of a similar rally by the Tigers.

Memorial rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit and came up with a steal prior to what would have been a game-tying bucket by Bridgewater-Raritan (4-14) as time expired in regulation, giving the Tigers a 46-44 victory over the Panthers.

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This was not the only major rally of the contest, as the Panthers found themselves in an early 9-0 hole in the first four minutes of the game. A floater by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Joey Callari with 4:03 left in the 1st quarter finally got the Panthers on the board before Memorial guard Alejandro Arango quickly answered with a jumper off of the glass to put the Tigers back up 11-2 a minute later.

From there, the Panthers settled in on both ends of the court and took complete control the rest of the first half. Buckets in the paint by Alec Whelan and Mickey Wasko cut Memorial’s lead to 11-6 with 1:23 left in the opening period, and the Panthers’ defense forced the Tigers into tough three-point shots on the rest of their first-period possessions. While the Panthers were also held scoreless the rest of the quarter, Memorial also came up empty to keep the score 11-6 in favor of the Tigers.

But the Panthers, who scored six of the game’s last eight points at this point, rode this momentum into the 2nd quarter.

Bridgewater-Raritan’s defense continued to force Memorial into tough three-point shots that did not fall, leading the Tigers into what ended up being just over a 7:30 scoring drought going back to the final two minutes of the opening period. Bridgewater-Raritan ended up scoring 13 unanswered points as a result capped off by a bucket and one by Rishi Mudduluru and a jumper by Mickey Wasko to give the Panthers a 15-11 lead with 2:34 left in the half. Arango gave Memorial its only bucket of the 2nd quarter immediately afterwards, but seven straight points by Bridgewater-Raritan to close out the half after that gave the Panthers a 22-13 lead at the break.

Out of the locker room and on the wrong end of what ended up being a 22-2 scoring run, the Tigers locked down on defense inside the paint. They held the Panthers to just one field goal by Whelan in the paint in the first four minutes of the 3rd quarter. However, a pair of threes by Mudduluru in this span kept the scoring even by both teams and extended Bridgewater-Raritan’s lead to 30-19 at this point of the contest.

The overdue long-range buckets then finally began to fall for Memorial, as Arango hit a quick pair of three-pointers and Tigers forward Miguel Corombot scored quickly on a putback to make it a one-score game with 3:10 left in the 3rd quarter. Now trailing only 30-27, the Tigers began to dominate on the glass and in the paint; a putback followed by another bucket in the post by Memorial’s Kevin Avila tied the game at 31-31 not even a minute later.

Mudduluru, however, continued to stay hot with his third triple of the quarter to put the Panthers back in front, but Memorial point guard AJ Aviles also caught fire late in the 3rd period and further fueled the Tigers’ rally. He scored Memorial’s next 11 points in the contest starting with a bucket and one and then following up a pair of layups to give Memorial its first lead since the opening period. A layup by Mudduluru capped off an 11-point quarter and a 16-point afternoon by the Panthers forward to lead all scorers, but it was Memorial that found itself back in front 39-36 to close out the 3rd quarter thanks to the heroics of Aviles.

After a turnover by Bridgewater-Raritan to open the 4th quarter, a long-range shot by Aviles with 6:45 to go capped off what ended up being 13 points by the Tigers point guard and a 23-6 Memorial run, giving the Tigers a 42-36 lead. This was the first of only two field goals by the Tigers in the final frame, but Bridgewater-Raritan came up a play short in a period where the Panthers themselves only managed three field goals.
Two of them were scored by the Panthers in the next minute: one from downtown by Panthers guard Gio Nazareno, and the next on a layup by fellow guard Alvin Cheng to cut Memorial’s lead to 42-41 with 5:30 to go. But Corombot, who dominated in the post for Memorial, then pulled up from way behind the arc and hit nothing but net from long range for the second time in the afternoon to cap off a 12-point performance and put the Tigers up 45-41 a minute later.

While this was the final field goal of the contest for the Tigers, Memorial went up for good at this point.

After a missed three on Bridgewater-Raritan’s next possession, they made up for it with a steal at the other end, leading to a layup and a foul drawn by Cheng with 1:35 to play. The ensuing free throw fell through for the Panthers senior guard to make it a 45-44 game in favor of Memorial.
On the Tigers’ next offensive possession, Memorial settled for a short jumper in the paint with three Panthers defenders nearby. The shot did not fall through, giving the Panthers an easy but critical rebound with 55.7 seconds to go and leading to a Bridgewater-Raritan timeout. Twenty seconds later, Whelan and a Tigers defender got tangled up in the paint on what would have been a go-ahead attempt by the Panthers, who were ultimately called for a walk to give the ball back to the Tigers.

At the other end, Memorial dribbled nearly 30 seconds off the clock before eventually forcing a Bridgewater-Raritan timeout with 8.4 seconds to go. The Panthers committed a foul two seconds after play resumed to send Avila, who was 0-for-2 at the free throw line so far up to that point, to the charity stripe for a critical one-and-one attempt.

However, Avila’s first free throw came when it mattered most on the front end of the one-and-one to extend the Tigers’ lead to 46-44 with 6.5 seconds to play. And while Avila missed the second free throw, this ended up paying off for the Tigers.

Bridgewater-Raritan immediately had to go the length of the court following the rebound as a result. With the prior game between Hoboken and host Dickinson ending in a 71-69 win by Hoboken on a three-pointer as time expired in regulation, the stage was set for another potential buzzer-beater on the day by Bridgewater-Raritan.

The Panthers made it just inside the arc and had a chance to tie the game at the horn, but they were denied a chance at this attempt.
Memorial’s defense instead came up with a steal as time expired, sealing a 46-44 victory for the Tigers and a heartbreaking loss for the Panthers despite holding Memorial without a field goal in the final 4:30 of regulation. But Memorial’s Arango, Aviles, and Corombot came up big in what ended up being a victory for Memorial, as they combined for 39 of the Tigers’ 46 points.

Of these 39 combined points scored by the aforementioned Tigers’ trio, 28 of them came in the second half. Even more, 26 of Memorial’s 46 total points came in the third quarter (20 in the final four minutes of the period), which was the difference in their win over the Panthers. What ended up being a tough loss for Bridgewater-Raritan was the Panthers’ first loss of the 2019-20 season in a game where they never trailed by more than nine points. The Panthers’ biggest deficit of their contest against Memorial was the early 9-0 deficit they eventually overcame in the remainder of their big first half.

While the Panthers also were held to a pair of single-digit quarters in the first and final frames, the Tigers won despite also being held to nine points on three field goals combined in the second and fourth quarters.

SCORING:
Bridgewater-Raritan 44, Memorial 46
Memorial: Q1- 11; Q2- 2; Q3- 26; Q4- 7; TOTAL- 46

  • Alejandro Arango - 14 points
  • AJ Aviles - 13 points
  • Miguel Corombot - 12 points
  • Kevin Avila - 5 points
  • Aaron Swann - 2 points

Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 6; Q2- 16; Q3- 14; Q4- 8; TOTAL- 44

  • Rishi Mudduluru - 16 points
  • Alvin Cheng - 8 points
  • Mickey Wasko - 6 points
  • Alec Whelan - 6 points
  • Joey Callari - 5 points
  • Gio Nazareno - 3 points

REMAINING REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:
Heading into the final month of the 2019-2020 regular season, four of the final six contests for Bridgewater-Raritan (4-14) will take place at home with specific games as follows:

Feb. 4 - Hunterdon Central (7 p.m.)
Feb. 6 - at Ridge (7 p.m.)
Feb. 8 - East Brunswick (1 p.m.)
Feb. 11 - Immaculata (7 p.m.)
Feb. 20 - Bayonne (5 p.m.)
Feb. 27 - at Bound Brook (6 p.m.)

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

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