CLARK, NJ -  New Providence High School seniors Katie Kinum and Sarah Zeto stole the spotlight in the Pioneers’ season opener on the road. Kinum scored 16 points and Zeto added 14 points to lead the New Providence Pioneers past the Johnson Crusaders girls varsity basketball team by a final score of 43-36 Saturday afternoon. The home opener was Johnson head coach Joe Marino’s debut game.

“This is a great win for our team,” New Providence head coach Cap Pezdura said. “Joe does a great job with his kids, as you see, he's only had them for half the season. They play hard. You know when you play here [in Clark], you're going to get the game of your life. The girls give 110 percent.” 

The Crusaders and the Pioneers played a close game in the first eight minutes of action, with both teams cashing in on their scoring chances, with the Pioneers leading 11-9 after the first quarter.

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“They’re a tough opponent for us,” Kinum said. “To come together at the end and play through it, we really showed that we have a lot of potential and we are a close team that we could do a lot of great things this year.”

The Pioneers controlled the first three minutes of the second quarter, going on a 5-0 run to build their lead to 16-9. The Crusaders struck back, as junior Danielle Hartzler drilled back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 16-15.

On the afternoon, Hartzler finished with 12 points for the Crusaders in the loss.

Junior Amy Wysocki connected on two free throws to give Johnson the 17-16 lead, but New Providence would close out the first half on an 8-0 run to build a halftime lead of 24-17.

As the second half started, both Johnson and New Providence continued to connect on baskets, but it was the Pioneers who maintained a slight advantage throughout the third quarter. Johnson junior Tina Palella scored six of her 11 points to keep her team within reach of the lead.

The New Providence Pioneers led the Johnson Crusaders after the third quarter by a score of 31-25, but the fourth quarter would show the Crusaders’ fight.

Trailing 35-25 with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter, Hartzler drilled a three-point basket to cut the lead to 35-28. The Crusaders continued to battle in the waning minutes of the game. Senior Meaghan Gallagher completed a three-point play to cut into the New Providence lead, down to 37-31. In the game, Gallagher finished with seven points. 

Palella cashed in two free throws to make it a 37-33 game with 2:19 left in the game.

Trailing 39-33, Hartzler connected on her fourth three-point basket of the game, making it 39-36 with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the end, New Providence escaped with the win after connecting on free throws to make the final score 43-36.

New Providence senior Hannah Caminiti added nine points in the victory for the Pioneers.

Marino, who took over the Johnson team on Nov. 15, gave his players credit for their hard-fought battle.  

“Our girls work hard and that's the main thing, our girls don't quit,” Marino said. “As long as our girls don't quit and keep fighting, we'll be contenders. We just got to make our shots. We have to make our shots when we have the opportunities.”

The Johnson Crusaders (0-1) play next Tuesday night on the road at Rahway HS at 7:30 p.m.

The New Providence Pioneers (1-0) face off against Mastery Charter North HS (PA) tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at Matawan HS.

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