CHATHAM, NJ – The New Providence boys’ basketball team looked different over the last two games of the Cougar Classic.
Gone were the continuous forced shots and turnovers. In their place were smart passes and open shots.
After losing their first three games of the calendar year, the Pioneers rallied to win their last two, including Tuesday’s 65-44 drubbing over Nutley at Chatham High School.
Like Monday’s victory over Hanover Park, the entire team got involved in Tuesday’s celebration. Twelve players scored for New Providence, their highest total of the year, led by a team-high 10 points from seniors Dylan Thomas and Tyler Curto.
“I was really pleased with our effort against Hanover Park because I had seen them play and thought that could be 0-4 if we don’t play well,” head coach Art Cattano said. “We got a lot of kids in, just like we did today and early. Hanover Park did the same thing and I thought our subs were a little bit better then there’s, which made the difference last night.”
The Pioneers ripped apart Nutley’s defensive scheme, opening the game with a 14-3 run that took the life out of their opponents. Like every good team, New Providence’s strong defense led to their offensive success.
Right out of the gate, the Pioneers pressed Nutley’s guards in the backcourt, which caused multiple turnovers and fast break points leading to a 16-7 lead after one.
“We didn’t get out to the best start in the first three games,” senior guard Kevin Haggerty said. “Today and yesterday we really started to click. When we do that, we’re really going to be dangerous. Playing team defense, we were sloppy. We found something these last three days that we’re trying to hold on to.”
After missing most of last year due to a broken wrist, Haggerty has meshed well with his teammates in the first five games, adding a second ball handler to the floor in addition to Bryan Joyce.
Haggerty said having two strong guards on the floor, whether it be he and Joyce or juniors Kevin Vass and Jason DiBenedetto, will help both the offense and defense be successful.
“We can run more,” Haggerty said. “We have a lot more freedom with what we can do on offense now.”
The spread to the Pioneers offense forced Nutley into tough decisions, defend strong in the paint or the 3-point line. Unfortunately for them, the Pioneers had an answer for both.
Five different New Providence players scored in each quarter and only six times throughout did the same person score back-to-back baskets. This made the Pioneers dangerous in every aspect of the game.
“Its very important,” Haggerty said. “You’re going to see that a lot this year. Everyday it could be someone’s day. We’re like that where we’re going to feed the person who is hot or we’re just going to play as a team and all have 10 points and win that way.”
New Providence has over a week to prepare for their next game. The Pioneers go for a .500 record on January 8 when they host Summit in their home opener at 7 p.m.