PISCATAWAY, NJ -- About seven miles and a 15-minute drive separates Piscataway High School and Franklin High and the two neighboring town rivals met on the hardwood on Saturday as the Chiefs’ boys basketball team defeated the Warriors at home, 71-62, before a rowdy crowd.

The win moves Piscataway to 12-9 while Franklin drops to 12-8.

“In every sport, it’s a rivalry game. Our towns are so close. It’s a really big win and it was good to come out with a ‘W’ today,” Piscataway guard Tyree Barba-Bey said. “The crowd was electric.”

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Barba-Bey led Piscataway with a game-and-career-high 25 points. The senior guard drained four 3-pointers along the way and got out in transition and converted another four buckets from the floor and five foul shots.

“My team was finding me and I was just knocking down my shots,” he said. “Even when I wasn’t open or missing at times, I was able to find others and do other things.”

Barba-Bey hadn’t reached double figures in three games. He also scored over 20 points for the first time since netting 22 points back in late December.

“He’s been playing better. He clearly has a lot of talent. He’s one of the best guards in the county,” Piscataway coach Darius Griffin said. “He is the best rebounding guard. This kid grabs 10-12 rebounds a game for us.”

The game was back and forth in the first half with Franklin leading 17-16 at the end of the first quarter. Piscataway was up 36-35 at the half.

But the third quarter belonged to the Chiefs. Piscataway outscored its opposition 25-13 in the frame as it got out in transition and pushed the tempo.

“We’re a fast team and that’s what we want to do,” Barba-Bey said. “We want went to get up the court and go and keep it consistent.”

Piscataway is at its best when it uses its athleticism, speed, and depth and gets out into the open court. However, the Chiefs have to harness it at times and make smart decisions according to Griffin.

“We want to be quick, but under control at the same time,” Griffin said. “Some of my guys don’t know how to decipher that yet. There are times when you go fast and times where you need to slow it down. We have to get better at that. But I like the energy. We have to make sure we do a good job defensively and get back and not let the other teams run with us.”

Piscataway led by as much as 14 points early in the fourth quarter and then started to milk clock. However, it also missed free throws and couldn’t extend the advantage and cash in. Because the Chiefs like to go fast, moving the ball around in the half court and slowing it down

“That’s what we got to work on,” Barba-Bey said. “Fast is what we know, so we have to work on the end of the game when we slow it down.”

Part of the late game struggles had to do with foul trouble on Piscataway as Griffin had to use more of his bench.

“Two of our guys fouled out and I had to play other guys more minutes and some guys who aren’t normally out there in the fourth quarter,” Griffin said.

Antonio Chandler didn’t have his best game for Piscataway, but he still managed 13 points. He threw down a pair of two-handed slam dunks and drilled two 3-pointers. Off the bench, Khristian Hernandez dazzled with his quickness getting to the rim, adding 11 more points. Carlos Edmundo also chipped in with six points and Andre Emden, Daryl DeCohen, and Jordin Martell all chipped in with four points as well. Mark Davis made two free throws to round out the scoring. As a team, the Chiefs made 16 shots from the charity stripe.

Dominic Bacallao-Wright scored a team-high 19 points for Franklin. Tacy Brown and Jared Williams joined him in double digits with 14 and 10 points apiece. Bacallao-Wright scored 10-of-his-19 from the free-throw line. The Warriors totaled 20 points from the foul line.

Both teams combined for 36 points from the line.

“I thought the energy level was good. I think we are starting to peak, but not collectively as a team. I think certain players are starting to peak. It’s almost playoff basketball time,” Griffin said. “Once the counties start and the state tournament starts, it’s one and down. We’re trying to get to that level where we are playing out absolute best as a team.”

On the horizon is the start of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament for Piscataway. The Chiefs recently were awarded the No. 5 seed and have a bye into the second round. Their first game will be on Feb. 14 at home against either 21st-seeded Piscataway Tech or 12th-seeded J.P. Stevens. The NJSIAA state tournament, Piscataway is North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4, tips-off on Feb. 25 and Piscataway, which is the 12th-seed, will travel to fifth-seeded Linden.

“Our goal is go as far as we can in the county and take it one game at a time and hopefully that’ll be good enough,” Griffin said.

Thus far, Piscataway has played a challenging schedule both within the conference and out of it. For one, Franklin is the No. 6 seed in N2G4. Piscataway has also played Linden, Elizabeth, West Orange, Barringer, and Hillsborough aside from GMC slate.

Griffin is hoping the tough schedule Piscataway has faced will pay off within the next few weeks.

“I believe personally we’ve played the hardest schedule so far including non-conference out of any team in the county. Hopefully those teams that we’ve played will prepare us for the tough road that we have ahead,” Griffin said. “Just like any other team too, we want to make sure we take it one game at a time and not look ahead. Anybody can knock anybody off. Bad call here, miss shot there when you usually make it can be the difference.”

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.

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