BRIDGEWATER, NJ – With both the Bridgewater-Raritan Panther boys and girls basketball teams opening up their 2019-2020 campaigns with losses to Watchung Hills, a golden opportunity to bounce back awaited at home against crosstown rival Somerville to open up the holiday break Monday.
While the girls Panthers team used a big second half against the girls Pioneers team to propel them to their first win for the season, a big fourth quarter by the Somerville boys ultimately denied Bridgewater-Raritan the doubleheader sweep despite big third periods by both Panthers teams.
Trailing 15-12 at the break in their contest, the Lady Panthers (1-1) exploded for 19 third-quarter points out of the locker room and never looked back. Bridgewater-Raritan added 15 more points in a relatively even final period, with 11 of those points coming from opportunities at the free throw line. Madison Bray led the Lady Panthers with 15 points, while Corinne Nickel added 10 off the bench for Bridgewater-Raritan in a 46-37 victory over Somerville.
The boys (0-2), however, went toe-to-toe against Somerville before the Pioneers pulled away in the final period. In a game that was much closer late in the third quarter than the final score indicated, Bridgewater-Raritan trailed 26-18 at the break, with 12 of the Panthers’ first-half points coming from forward Joey Callari who made three shots from long range. Three more of Bridgewater-Raritan’s seven made shots from behind the arc came in a third period where a 15-8 run by the Panthers cut Somerville’s lead to 34-33 late in that quarter.
Somerville guard Joseph Blount then responded with the fourth of his five three-pointers on the final possession of the third period, which began a game-ending 26-6 run for the visiting Pioneers. This included 13 fourth-quarter points on five made field goals by Pioneers forward/center Ethan Hilliman, who finished with a game-high 25 points, as Somerville exploded in the final period on the way to an eventual 60-39 win over the Panthers.
Somerville 37, Bridgewater-Raritan 46
Both girls teams started out slowly on offense to open up the doubleheader, with Panthers guard Bray opening the game’s scoring 3:21 into regulation. Somerville guard Meghan Pedrani, who led all scorers with 19 points, quickly answered a short time later before Bridgewater-Raritan’s Danielle Orecchio hit a three-pointer to give the Panthers a 5-2 lead not even a minute later. Pedrani ultimately scored the first eight points for the Pioneers, as the sophomore Pioneers guard hit back-to-back triples to give Somerville a three-point advantage. Bridgewater-Raritan’s Corinne Nickel came off the bench and added a basket for the Panthers, while an answer by Somerville guard Kylie McLaughlin led to a 10-7 advantage by Somerville at the end of the first period.
The first points for either team in the 2nd quarter also came exactly 3:21 into the period, when a three-point attempt by Bray bounced four times on the rim before eventually falling through for the Panthers, tying the game at 10-10. Neither team scored for another two and a half minutes after that, until McLaughlin split a pair of what ended up being the game’s first free throw attempts to give Somerville an 11-10 lead with 2:07 left in the half. Just over a minute later, a jumper by McLaughlin extended the Pioneers’ lead to three before forward Brianna Soto scored in the post for Bridgewater-Raritan to keep it a one-point game.
A pair of free throws by Pedrani with 35.9 seconds left in the half ended up being the final points before the break, and Somerville went into the locker room with a 15-12 lead over the Panthers.
But the hungry Panthers did not even need the whole third period to exceed their scoring output from the first two periods.
While both teams were scoreless for the first three minutes out of the locker room, a three-pointer by Bray began a stretch of 14 unanswered points for the Panthers in a span of about two-and-a-half minutes. This included a basket by forward Lauren Sullivan, a split pair of free throws by Sullivan and guard Jackie Salvatore, a pair of baskets by Orecchio, and a three-pointer by Nickel.
Trailing 26-15 at this point, Somerville finally got on the board with 2:48 left in the 3rd quarter after Pioneers guard Ilana Hambro split a pair of free throws and Pedrani followed suit eight seconds later.
From there, it appeared Somerville found its rhythm again, as a layup by Pedrani cut Bridgewater-Raritan’s lead to seven before a pair of free throws by Salvatore extended the Panthers lead to 28-19 with 1:48 left in the period. A pair of made free throws by Pioneers forward Abi Umbenhaur along with a basket by Hambro got Somerville back to within five points, but a late three-pointer by Salvatore capped off a 19-8 third period for Bridgewater-Raritan, who led 31-23 going into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Two fouls were called on Somerville in the first 51 seconds of the final period to put Bridgewater-Raritan in the bonus, and 11 fourth-quarter points from the charity stripe from there ended up being the difference for the Lady Panthers. Somerville rallied to get as close as 39-35 with just under two minutes to go behind six 4th-quarter points by Pedrani and five by Hambro, but Bridgewater-Raritan kept on drawing fouls and making their free throws to close out the game.
The Panthers improved to 1-1 with their eventual 46-37 victory over Somerville.
Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 7; Q2- 5; Q3- 19; Q4- 15; TOTAL- 46
- Madison Bray- 15 points
- Corinne Nickel- 10 points
- Danielle Orecchio- 8 points
- Jackie Salvatore- 6 points
- Lauren Sullivan- 4 points
- Brianna Soto- 3 points
Somerville: Q1- 10; Q2- 5; Q3- 8; Q4- 14; TOTAL- 37
- Meghan Pedrani- 19 points
- Ilana Hambro- 8 points
- Kylie McLaughlin- 5 points
- Abi Umbenhaur- 5 points
Somerville 60, Bridgewater-Raritan 39
For the second straight game, while the Panthers got off to a slow start offensively, they continued to improve their scoring output following a five-point opening period against Somerville. But a good start on defense helped the Panthers settle into what ended up being their first home game of 2019-20.
Neither team scored until 1:37 into regulation, when Pioneers starting guard Kyle Rolon scored a two-pointer after both teams came up empty on their first two possessions. Bridgewater-Raritan forward Alec Whelan then answered a minute later to put the Panthers on the board and tie the game. But a split pair of free throws by Somerville’s Kyree Hinton and a layup by Austin Sasiak began a stretch of seven unanswered points for the visitors. Trailing 9-2 with 1:32 left in the opening period, Panthers forward Joey Callari hit the first of his team-high three triples off of the bench, while Pioneers guard Joseph Blount followed suit from behind the arc off the bench for the first of his five shots from downtown.
Blount’s first basket from long range was the final field goal of the opening quarter, as Somerville led 12-5 when the first-period buzzer sounded.
His second bucket from downtown began the second quarter, giving the Pioneers a ten-point lead before a basket at the other end by Whelan got the Panthers to within 15-7 with 5:59 left in the half. But Blount again hit from behind the arc on the Pioneers’ next possession for his third triple in as many long-range attempts, giving Somerville an 18-7 advantage with 4:59 left in the half.
Callari matched Blount blow for blow off of the bench for Bridgewater-Raritan, as the Panthers sophomore forward hit his second triple in as many attempts. After Pioneers forward/center Ethan Hilliman’s first field goal, and after Panthers guard Alvin Cheng got on the board with a pair of free throws, Bridgewater-Raritan trailed 20-12 with 3:39 left in the half. A transition bucket by Somerville’s Sean Reilly put the Pioneers back up by ten before Callari’s third three-pointer in as many attempts cut Somerville’s lead to 22-15 with 3:01 left in the period.
However, the Panthers were held without a field goal the rest of the half, and baskets by Hilliman and Sasiak gave Somerville a 26-18 lead at the break. Callari and Blount led Bridgewater-Raritan and Somerville with 12 points and 9 points, respectively.
But four days after Watchung Hills outscored the Panthers 24-12 in the third quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan put up a solid third quarter out of the locker room against Somerville.
Whelan and Zach Letts each hit three-pointers to open the period, cutting Somerville’s lead to 26-24 with just over a minute into the period. The Pioneers then got a tough basket in traffic from guard/forward Kyree Hinton along with an electrifying dunk by Hilliman that energized the visiting fans. Trailing by four at this point, Cheng then added a triple of his own to get Bridgewater-Raritan to within 30-29 and force a Somerville timeout with 2:50 left in the period.
Both teams alternated baskets from there, with Hilliman scoring on dunks and in the post for Somerville, and Whelan and Cheng scoring for Bridgewater-Raritan to stay within 34-33 with under a minute left in the period. However, Blount’s fourth long-range bucket for Somerville in the final seconds of the period extended Somerville’s lead to 37-33 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
But the Panthers were denied the lead despite rallying to get within one point twice, and then everything went right for Somerville on both sides of the ball in the final period.
The Panthers were limited to only two field goals in the final quarter, which included a three-pointer by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Rishi Mudduluru and the Panthers’ seventh triple of the game. Hilliman ended up taking over in the final period for Somerville, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points on five field goals and making all three of his free throws. Blount added his fifth and final three-pointer for the Pioneers along the way, while a pair of buckets by Hinton and one more by Rolon ended up putting the game out of reach for Bridgewater-Raritan in the closing minutes.
Somerville finished the game on a 26-6 run going back to Blount’s three-pointer late in the 3rd quarter, and the Pioneers’ defense only allowed two points in the final 3:55 of regulation on the way to a 60-39 victory over the Panthers.
With the loss, the Panther Boys fell to 0-2 to open their 2019-20 season.
Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 5; Q2- 13; Q3- 15; Q4- 6; TOTAL- 39
Joey Callari- 12 points
Alec Whelan- 12 points
Alvin Cheng- 7 points
Zach Letts- 5 points
Rishi Mudduluru- 3 points
Somerville: Q1- 12; Q2- 14; Q3- 11; Q4- 23; TOTAL- 60
Ethan Hilliman- 25 points
Joseph Blount- 15 points
Kyree Hinton- 8 points
Austin Sasiak- 6 points
Kyle Rolon- 4 points
Sean Reilly- 2 points
Bridgewater-Raritan will play in another doubleheader Dec. 27 at Montgomery High School in the Cougar Classic, with the Girls (1-1) opening things up at 4 p.m., and the Boys (0-2) following suit on the same floor against the Cougars at 6 p.m.
The boys’ next contest after that will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 28 against BCIT-Medford, while the girls’ following game will be at Allentown (NJ) High School Dec. 30 to close out the calendar year.
For detailed Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers Athletics schedules and game locations, please see https://bridgewaterraritanhighschool.bigteams.com/.
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