WESTFIELD, NJ — One play can change everything in basketball. This was the case on Tuesday when New Providence junior Sydney Morang converted a layup and game-winning free throw in the final minute to put the Lady Pioneers (8-2) over the Westfield Lady Blue Devils (5-4), 37-36.
New Providence found themselves down by two with 20 seconds left in the game when Morang got the ball down low and converted a layup despite being fouled. Morang sunk the ensuing free throw to put the Pioneers ahead 37-36 with only 18 seconds left.
Westfield held the ball for the remainder the game, in hopes of making the last shot. Lillian Scott, who led the Blue Devils with 13 points, attempted a potential game-winning three as time expired.
Scott's open 3-pointer hit off the back of the rim and into the waiting hands of a New Providence rebounder, sealing the Pioneer victory.
“We played very little to no defense in the first half, and Jackie [Knapp] and Lil [Scott] just basically did whatever they wanted with us,” said Pioneers head coach Cap Pazdera. “We told them in order to win we had to make that stop, and we kind of challenged them to come out and do that in the second half and they definitely did that.”
New Providence finished on an 18-6 run after both teams struggled severely to make shots during the second half.
“They played great, they played their hearts out,” said Westfield head coach Liz McKeon, who said she was proud of the team but disappointed in some of her coaching decisions. “This is on me. They didn’t do anything wrong.”
After taking a 26-19 lead at the half, the Blue Devils had a chance to put the Pioneers away following many steals by Jacqueline Knapp, but they failed to convert on most of the ensuing possessions.
Westfield’s poor shooting opened the door for New Providence sophomore Katie Kinum. She caught fire and tallied a game-high 16 points, including eight straight, that pulled the Pioneers within three points heading into the fourth quarter.
The game went back and forth from there on out. This included a huge steal by Knapp who passed it down to sophomore Hannah Liddy, all alone on the other side of the court. Liddy easily put it in to give Westfield a 34-32 lead. Scott hit a jumper on the Blue Devils’ next possession to make it 36-32, when Pioneer Sarah Zeto made an incredible layup which is what pulled them back within two.
“We need to come out with that passion right away; that passion needs to be there in the first half,” Pazdera said. “We have to come out with that passion and play two halves of that instead of just making it hard on everybody, only playing 16 minutes.”
Westfield’s next game will be at Summit on Thursday at 7 p.m., while New Providence hosts Patrick School (Elizabeth) on the same date and time.
Eric Storms is a sophomore at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.