WARREN, NJ – It is officially basketball season in 2019-20 in the Garden State, and the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers Boys Basketball team opened up its new campaign at Watchung Hills High School Thursday with a loss to Watchung.

Things started off slowly for both teams as they began to settle into a regulation game for the first time this school year, as the visiting Panthers and home Warriors scored only seven combined points in the first 4:02.

But it was the home team that got hot first out of the gate and never looked back.

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Leading only 5-2 just over halfway through the first quarter, a 10-2 run by Watchung Hills (1-0) the rest of the period gave the Warriors an 11-point lead to close out the opening quarter. Bridgewater-Raritan senior guard Alvin Cheng, who led the Panthers with 16 points, scored to open the 2nd period before both teams traded buckets over the next four possessions.

But with his home team leading 21-10 at this point with 5:05 left in the first half, Watchung Hills senior guard Michael Bressler led the way and stole the show, scoring 12 of his game-high 31 points in the 2nd quarter, as the Warriors closed the half on another big 14-5 run to go up 35-14 over the Panthers at the break.

From there, while the Panthers continued to improve their scoring output each period, the Warriors continued to dominate on both sides of the ball the rest of the way, and Watchung Hills maintained a comfortable lead they never relinquished. They extended their lead to as much as 66-32 with 5:30 to go, when Bressler hit his final bucket of the night and from long range before being pulled with the rest of his fellow Warriors starters to a roaring home crowd.

Watchung Hills closed the game out from there on the way to an eventual 73-46 season-opening victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.

Joey Callari added 12 points for the Panthers, with eight of those points coming in the final period, to give the visitors a pair of double-digit scorers on opening night.

SCORING:
Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 4; Q2- 10; Q3- 12; Q4- 17; Total- 43
Alvin Cheng- 16 points
Joey Callari- 12 points
Brandyn Vaughn- 6 points
Sam Cohen- 3 points
Rishi Mudduluru- 3 points
Mickey Wasko- 2 points
Alec Whelan- 1 point
Watchung Hills: Q1- 15; Q2- 20; Q3- 24; Q4- 14; Total- 73
    Michael Bressler- 31 points
    Jack Dwyer- 11 points
    Trevor Bokach- 9 points
    Patrick Stefurak- 8 points
    Chad Martini- 7 points
    Reecie Kirchofer- 4 points
    Aaron Marmolejos- 2 points
    Alex Strehle- 1 point

NEXT UP:
With their loss at Watchung Hills, the Panthers fell to 0-1 to open up the 2019-20 season. They will take on crosstown rival Somerville in their home opener at Bridgewater-Raritan High School Dec. 23. This contest will be the tail end of a home varsity doubleheader with the Bridgewater-Raritan girls basketball team, who will also play at 1 p.m. against Somerville on the same court.

Tip for the boys against the Pioneers will be at 3 p.m. Dec. 23 following the aforementioned game for Panther Girls Basketball (0-1), who also fell to Watchung Hills on opening night by a score of 53-26.

Follow James Olivola 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).