BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Even despite the Panthers again falling behind by double digits in the final period after a back-and-forth first three quarters, Bridgewater-Raritan fought back and played its best 4th quarter to open up the new year against Hillsborough.

Trailing by one possession with under a minute to play, unfortunately, the Panthers could not complete what would have been an epic comeback.
Down 45-33 with 5:35 to go in regulation, Bridgewater-Raritan (0-5) scored eight unanswered points in just under two minutes and held the Raiders without a field goal in this span. This began a 10-1 scoring run that pulled the Panthers to within three points of Hillsborough heading into the game’s final minute. But after the final bucket from Panthers forward Alec Whelan, who led his team with 16 points, Bridgewater-Raritan came up empty despite trailing 48-45 with under a minute to go.

Raiders forward Jared Smith scored the last of his 11 second-half points on a breakaway dunk on the game’s final play to seal the deal for Hillsborough, as the Raiders closed it out from there ultimately prevailed by a final score of 52-45.

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In a game that had the recipe for a shootout early, Whelan went to work right out of the gate for the Panthers. He scored the game’s first four points in the post not even a minute into regulation before Hillsborough forward AJ Strawderman connected from long range to put the Raiders on the board.

After 11 combined field goals from both teams in the opening period, both teams each only made three field goals in a low-scoring 2nd quarter. Bridgewater-Raritan’s Alvin Cheng opened the scoring a minute and half into the period with a layup, and Hillsborough did not score in the period until a tough layup by Holmon put the Raiders in front 17-16 with 4:12 left in the half.

While Hillsborough went to the free throw line eight times in the period, they could not capitalize on their opportunities at the charity stripe, as the Raiders missed six of their eight free throw attempts in the 2nd quarter. The Panthers also missed three of their five free throw attempts in the period, and a bucket from down low by Hillsborough’s William Dixon and a triple from Holmon in the final 1:14 of the half ultimately kept the Raiders up 24-22 at the break.

Both defenses continued their strong showings out of the locker room, as no one scored until just under two minutes elapsed in the 3rd quarter. This came on a fast break layup by Raiders guard Andrew Lauan off of a Panthers turnover to extend Hillsborough’s lead to 26-22. With 5:04 left in the quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan got back to within one on a three-pointer by Zach Letts, and two minutes later, Hillsborough scored the game’s next points on a putback by Smith to extend the lead to 28-25.

Four straight free throws in a span of 23 seconds for Smith extended the Raiders’ lead to 32-25 with 2:03 to go in the 3rd quarter, as a bunch of good looks for Bridgewater-Raritan did not fall. The Panthers took advantage of their opportunities at the charity stripe, however, as Whelan made four straight free throw attempts to cut Hillsborough’s lead to 32-29 with under a minute to play in the period. Raiders guard Adam McCaffery then hit a short jumper to close out the scoring with 11.6 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter, giving Hillsborough a 34-29 lead heading into the final period of regulation.

The Raiders began the 4th quarter by scoring eight quick points in the first two minutes of the period, and Smith’s first field goal of the final period with 5:35 to go capped off a 13-4 Hillsborough scoring run going back to the end of the 3rd quarter. Bridgewater-Raritan again found itself behind by double digits in the 4th quarter after Hillsborough’s big burst put the Raiders up 45-33.

Despite being outscored 87-49 by opponents in the 4th quarter at this point in the young 2019-20 season, however, Bridgewater-Raritan turned this trend around late in game number five.

The Panthers turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor starting with a bucket in the post by Callari, and Bridgewater-Raritan dominated defensively in the paint and around the perimeter. They took advantage of their resulting fast break opportunities, as a steal and a layup by Cheng cut the deficit to seven points with 4:45 go.

Callari then scored again after another stop by the Panthers defense, and after a missed jumper by Hillsborough at the other end, Rishi Mudduluru drew a foul for Bridgewater-Raritan with 3:55 to go before timeout was called.

He split the pair of free throws to make it eight unanswered points for the Panthers, who cut the lead all the way down to 45-41.

Scoreless for the last three minutes of regulation, Hillsborough got back on the board after Smith split a pair of free throws to go up by five with 2:30 to play. Neither team hit a field goal since halfway through the quarter, but Bridgewater-Raritan cut the Raiders’ lead down to one possession on a pair of free throws by Callari with 1:04 to go.

With the Panthers down 46-43 at this point, both teams traded scores on a pair of free throws by Holmon and a bucket in the post by Whelan to keep it 48-45 in favor of Hillsborough with 42.9 seconds to play.

Unfortunately, the Panthers did not score again, as two more free throws by Holmon and a breakaway dunk by Smith on Hillsborough’s final possession put the game out of reach. Despite the aforementioned dunk by Smith giving the Raiders their first field goal in just over five minutes, Hillsborough’s timely stops helped the Raiders hold on for a 52-45 road victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.

Hillsborough’s bench outscored Bridgewater-Raritan by a margin of 12-0, which included Loniewski’s eight points that alone made the difference on Friday night.

Hillsborough 52, Bridgewater-Raritan 45
Hillsborough: Q1- 15; Q2- 9; Q3- 10; Q4- 18; TOTAL- 52

  • Allen Holmon - 17 points
  • Jared Smith - 12 points
  • Camryn Loniewski - 8 points
  • AJ Strawderman - 6 points
  • Andrew Lauan - 3 points
  • Kyle Chedid - 2 points
  • William Dixon - 2 points
  • Adam McCaffery - 2 points

Bridgewater-Raritan: Q1- 14; Q2- 8; Q3- 7; Q4- 16; TOTAL- 45

  • Alec Whelan - 16 points
  • Joey Callari - 9 points
  • Alvin Cheng - 9 points
  • Rishi Mudduluru - 7 points
  • Zach Letts - 4 points

The Panthers (0-5) will immediately go back to work at home against Arts High School. Tip against the Jaguars out of Newark, NJ will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 4 at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

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