NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ- It was a heartbreaker on Valentine's Day for the Pioneers. The New Providence boys basketball team was eliminated in the second round of the county tournament with a 56-41 loss to Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
In order to gain revenge on offensive juggernaut New Providence Wednesday night, Scotch Plains-Fanwood needed to play flawless defense, distribute the ball offensively, and find increased scoring production with the absence of their star forward Jack Brady.
The Raiders blew the Pioneers out of their own gym in the Union County Tournament second round, avenging a double OT loss on Feb. 3.
Lamont Cruse ran the point guard position and dished out 12 assists, brought down 10 rebounds, chipped in six points, and also had three steals to lead the Raiders the victory over New Providence. Tommy Drubulis scored a game-high 14 points, all in the first half, while Ryan Muench and John Petris each chipped in 10 points. Muench added seven rebounds.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood advances to play Roselle Catholic — the top ranked team in New Jersey, No. 22 rated in the country, and fresh off a one point loss to No. 1 nationally ranked Montverde Academy — in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Raiders held New Providence to just two buckets from downtown and only 13 total field goals.
New Providence, having dropped 82 points the night before against Morristown Beard, entered the game scoring an average of 70 points per game and on a 10-game winning streak.
A display of defense brilliance was put on by the Raiders, whose trademark all season has been limiting teams to under or around 40 points. Forcing fast shots while contesting them, eliminating almost every second chance, and creating turnovers, the Raiders stymied all of the Pioneers’ potent scoring options. That was especially true in the first half, when the Raiders held their opposition to just six buckets and 17 total points.
The high powered offense of New Providence runs through Dylan Bedder, 6 foot, 6 inch big man averaging nearly 20 points and 18 rebounds a game. But Bedder, the Pioneers' leading scorer for the game, was limited to just eight points on two field goals by the Raiders’ tenacious D. SPF also held Greg Meyers, owner of 47 three-pointers, to no threes, and Brian Kelly, a 300-point scorer, to just one field goal.
Drubulis drained a trio of three balls while John Petris added another, and the Raiders quickly took away New Providence’s notoriously strong home crowd by staking a 19-10 advantage after one.
SPF led for the entire game and by as much as 20 points after two free throws from Cruse at the 6:10 mark of the fourth quarter.
New Providence never really made much of a comeback threat, but the Pioneers did cut the Raiders’ 34-17 halftime lead into a 44-29 one after three quarters. The Raiders would respond with an 8-0 run to open up the fourth quarter and break it wide open.
Taking advantage of New Providence's 13 total team fouls, Scotch Plains-Fanwood shot 12-of-16 (75 percent) from the foul line. Nine of those makes came during the second half, where the Raiders spent a healthy amount of time in the bonus situation. New Providence is also a good foul shooting team and hit 13 shots from the stripe.
To match up against Roselle Catholic in the round of eight, the Raiders will face a team that presents a deadly combination of size, quickness, and future NBA talent. But if the Raiders can match their flawless first half play from Wednesday, things could get interesting in the quarters.
"There's no excuses. It doesn't matter we played last night. We've done that before. We just got beat by a real good team tonight," said Pioneers head coach Art Cattano, "I thought they played harder than we did, got a lot of loose balls, rebounds, things like that. I think it was an overall better effort by them, and not a real good effort by us.”
Next, New Providence will host Gov. Livingston on Tuesday, Feb. 20 with a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.