SKILLMAN, NJ – Returning to Montgomery High School after going 0-2 at Cougar Gymnasium over the 2019 holiday break, unfortunately, the third time was not the charm for Bridgewater-Raritan against Voorhees on the second Saturday of 2020.

And on a winter day when the temperature was in the mid-60s, both teams heated up late at Montgomery High School.

That included a monster performance from Voorhees senior guard Joey Scarcia, who led all scorers with 27 points and did not seem to miss from behind the arc. All seven of his triples were critical, with four of them alone coming in a 1st quarter that eventually began an 11-2 Vikings run, putting Voorhees up 23-15 with 3:26 to go in the first half.

Sign Up for Bridgewater/Raritan Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Bridgewater-Raritan responded with eight straight points in the next two and a half minutes to tie the game at 23-23 just before the break, but Voorhees never trailed the rest of the game. They outscored the Panthers 28-14 in the next nine minutes of regulation to go up 51-37 after three periods, and led by as many as 15 points with 3:51 to go to put the game out of reach for the Panthers. Despite the Panthers rallying late with what was a 17-7 game-ending run from there as part of a 25-point final period, as well as at least 15 points each from Zach Letts, Alec Whelan, and Alvin Cheng, time just simply ran out for Bridgewater-Raritan, as Voorhees ultimately hung on for a 67-62 victory.

But after a consistent amount of huge fourth quarters by Bridgewater-Raritan to start 2020 after some early-season struggles in the final period, the Panthers are continuing to improve and trend upwards when it counts.

They actually got off to a slow start against Voorhees and their guard-heavy starting lineup, and Joey Scarcia scored the first of his seven three-pointers early on the way to a 4-0 Vikings lead two minutes into the contest. The Panthers answered with five straight points to go in front in a back-and-forth opening period, which included a post bucket from Joey Callari and the first of four three-pointers for Zach Letts, who led the Panthers with 18 points.

Leading 5-4 at this point with 4:46 left in the 1st quarter, both teams traded buckets until the Panthers took a 10-9 lead two minutes later. During this span, Scarcia again connected from downtown for the Vikings to keep it a one-point game in favor of Bridgewater-Raritan.

Except he was just getting started for Voorhees.

With a long-range bucket by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Arya Trivedi in between, Scarcia connected from behind the arc on back-to-back possessions for Voorhees. His 12 first-quarter points as a result paved the way for a 15-13 Vikings lead after one period at Montgomery High School.

Scarcia only scored one field goal in a 13-point second quarter for Voorhees, but his Vikings teammates began to find their rhythm. And after scoring on their first possession of the 2nd quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan was held scoreless by the Vikings over the next four minutes. Voorhees then went on an 11-2 scoring run to go up 23-15 with 3:26 to go in the half, which led to a Panthers timeout.

Whatever went on in that huddle got the Panthers going on the court, as a running jumper by Letts and a layup by Alvin Cheng quickly cut the Vikings’ lead in half just over a minute later. A pair of free throws by Callari, a Vikings turnover, and a coast-to-coast layup by Letts then tied the game at 23-23 with just under a minute to go in the first half.

Voorhees guard Justin Vernieri then connected from three-point land to break the tie, putting the Vikings ahead for good in the final seconds of the period. A turnover by the Panthers under their basket then led to a putback bucket by Vikings guard Jake Knapp as time expired in the half, giving Voorhees a 28-23 lead at the break.

The Vikings picked up where they left off right out of the locker room, doubling their lead to 33-23 a minute into the 3rd quarter on a three-pointer by Joe Sernas and the first of six second-half field goals from Vikings forward Max Seals. Bridgewater-Raritan then responded with a 7-2 run, which began with four straight points from Whelan and ended with another triple from Letts.

With Voorhees leading 35-30 at this point with 5:10 left in the 3rd quarter, Scarcia had plans of his own for the Vikings.

In the final minutes of the 3rd quarter, he hit one tough shot in the paint and two contested triples on a pair of quick catch-and-shoot attempts. His sixth made buckey from long range quickly ballooned the Vikings’ lead to 14 with 1:30 to go in the period, and it stood at this amount as the period came to a close with Voorhees up 51-37.

His seventh and final triple to open the 4th quarter extended Voorhees’ lead to 56-40 with 7:05 to go. Seals’ fifth second-half field goal in the paint then gave the Vikings a 60-45 lead with 3:51 to play, and this appeared to put the game out of reach for Bridgewater-Raritan.

But the Panthers did not quit, and this set up a wild finish to open up the Saturday slate of games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Montgomery High School.

A layup and one by Alvin Cheng on Bridgewater-Raritan’s next possession cut Voorhees’ lead to 60-48, and the Vikings turned it over a short time later on their next possession. Whelan then capitalized from down low to get the Panthers within 60-50, and the Vikings again turned the ball over under the basket shortly after their inbound-pass attempt. With 2:53 to go, however, the Panthers came up just short from in the paint, and the Vikings called timeout with their lead quickly cut down by a third.

A crazy sequence ensued that consisted of a pair of turnovers on intercepted passes by both teams, but the Panthers struck again with 2:21 to go on a bucket by Brandyn Vaughn. Trailing 60-52 as a result of seven quick unanswered points, Bridgewater-Raritan committed their first foul in this span to put Voorhees in the bonus and send the Vikings to the free throw line.

Seals then went shot a one-and-one for the Vikings, hitting both free throws with Scarcia then following suit with a pair of his own. These free throws by Scarcia were the icing on the cake for his 27-point performance, as Voorhees took a 64-52 lead with 1:26 to go.

But a putback bucket by Whelan, a missed free throw on the front end of the Vikings’ next one-and-one, and a quick triple by Rishi Mudduluru for Bridgewater-Raritan cut Voorhees’ lead to 64-57 with 45.5 seconds to play.

The Vikings then split their next two free throw attempts, and Whelan hit his final bucket on a putback to reach 17 points on the day with 18.8 seconds to go. Trailing 65-59, Bridgewater-Raritan’s next foul put Voorhees in the double bonus, but the Vikings again split their free throw attempts to only extend their lead by one point.

An NBA-range three by Cheng with 5.2 seconds to go capped off a 15-point performance from the Panthers guard, and got Bridgewater-Raritan to within 66-62. But while the Vikings again split what ended up being their final pair of free throws of the day, the Panthers simply just ran out of time while on a 17-7 game-ending run.

Despite being held without a field goal in the final 3:51 of regulation and a big rally by Bridgewater-Raritan, Voorhees ultimately hung on for a 67-62 victory over the Panthers at Montgomery High School.

The Panthers, who only lost by five after trailing by 15 in the final minutes of regulation, went 10-for-18 at the line on Saturday morning two days after missing ten free throws in their 71-64 win over Phillipsburg. Voorhees’ late struggles at the charity stripe contributed to 12-for-19 free throw shooting, with six of their seven misses coming in the final period.

However, after only averaging just over 11 fourth-quarter points in their first four games, in which the Panthers went 0-4, Bridgewater-Raritan has since averaged just over 21 points in the final periods of their last five contests. Even more, after averaging only 45.2 total points per game in their first five games, Bridgewater-Raritan has improved this number to 65.3 total points per game over their last four games, as the Panthers have shown drastic improvements offensively in this span.

But a 37-24 burst by Voorhees spanning the end of the first half and the first ten minutes of the second half, along with big second-half buckets by Scarcia and Seals (39 combined points in the contest), ultimately put Bridgewater-Raritan into too deep of a hole to overcome late in their ninth game of the 2019-20 season.

SCORING:
Voorhees 67, Bridgewater-Raritan 62
Voorhees: Q1- 15; Q2- 13; Q3- 23; Q4- 16; TOTAL- 67

  • Joey Scarcia - 27 points (seven three-pointers)
  • Max Seals - 12 points
  • James Memoli - 10 points
  • Justin Vernieri - 7 points
  • Joe Sernas - 7 points
  • Walter Ader - 2 points
  • Jake Knapp - 2 points

Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 13; Q2- 10; Q3- 14; Q4- 25; TOTAL- 62

  • Zach Letts - 18 points
  • Alec Whelan - 17 points
  • Alvin Cheng - 15 points
  • Joey Callari - 4 points
  • Rishi Mudduluru - 3 points
  • Arya Trivedi - 3 points
  • Mickey Wasko - 2 points

NEXT UP:
The Panthers (2-7), who split their last four games after an 0-5 start to the season, will return home Jan. 14 to face Gill St. Bernard’s. Tip against the Knights out of Gladstone will be at 7 p.m. at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

The Panthers and Vikings both have a pair of games against common opponents under their belts in 2019-2020, with Gill St. Bernard’s defeating Hillsborough and Franklin by scores of 92-28 at home and 74-46 on the road, respectively. Bridgewater-Raritan fell to Hillsborough and Franklin by final scores of 52-45 Jan. 3 and 61-51 Jan 7, respectively, both at home.

Following this contest, the Panthers will travel to Flemington, NJ and division rival Hunterdon Central Jan. 16 to close out the week. Tip at the Red Devils will take place at 7 p.m. at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.

Gill St. Bernard’s defeated Hunterdon Central at home by a final score of 76-40 Jan. 7.

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

Follow him on Twitter (@MrOlivola) for live updates during game days and all things related to Bridgewater-Raritan Panther Athletics. Like The BReeze on Facebook and follow The BReeze on Twitter (@TheBReezeTAP).