If Tuesday’s showing was any indication as to what New Providence fans will see come Thursday’s semifinal against Cranford, they will be in for quite a treat.
Juniors Katie Kinum and Sarah Zeto combined to scored 42 points as the Lady Pioneers slammed the Crusaders, 59-43.
“Any time we’re on the court we’re looking to prepare for whatever our next step is,” New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said. “In this case, it was the county semifinals against Cranford. We talk about it every day, about everybody’s role, including the seniors. Some of the girls aren’t getting a lot of time, but are making us better in practice and pushing us. Everyday we’re really working towards that goal.”
With New Providence celebrating their four seniors – Kate Kohut, Kelly Jonovich, Megan Mahlstadt and Maggie Roughley - in their last home game of the regular season, the team’s regular starters didn’t see the floor until the second quarter.
Once they did enter the game, it didn’t take long for their presence to be felt.
Kinum immediately reacquainted herself with her ALJ counterparts, scoring 16 first half points on her way to a 29-point, game-high performance. Zeto added 13, including 11 in the second half.
Despite the strong offensive performance, Kinum said there was still work to be done leading up to their game with Cranford, specifically bringing high energy to the first half of games.
“I think it's a lot of us just getting ready to play right away and knowing what we’re going to do,” Kinum said. “I think we’ve been doing a good job but we need to make it to the next step where we step up and everything is all finished, just playing this game.”
The Pioneers will have their hands full on Thursday when they face Cranford for the third time this year. Offensively, the Cougars bring a pair of sharpshooters to the floor in Cerys MacLelland and Lyndsay Pace. The duo has combined to score 60 points in the teams’ two previous games.
Pazdera said the only benefit to playing a team three times is you “pretty much know what to expect offensively from your opponent.”
“[Playing a team three times] certainly helps from a defensive perspective, kind of thinking what things we need to do to win defensively and how they may matchup with us,” he said. “It's the county semifinals, the gloves are off and its ‘do what you need to do’ to win the game and get to the next round.”
New Providence has appeared in the last two semifinal rounds of the Union County Tournament, losing to The Patrick School last year and Roselle Catholic in 2014.
Pazdera hopes this year is different, with a more experienced team ready to take the floor.
“I hope we’re ready to go,” Pazdera said. “We talk about it. We’re mentally preparing. We’re physically preparing. We know Cranford is going to come out ready to fight and play well. We both want the same thing. I just hope we want it a little bit more.”
Tip-off for Thursday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Rahway High School.