WESTFIELD, NJ -- In a regular-season girls basketball matchup between two teams that have a chance to meet for the county championship in two weeks, Westfield defeated New Providence, 48-45, on Saturday.
It was just the second loss all season for New Providence (20-2).
For New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera, one of the missions on Saturday was, "Don't give too much away."
And while that's usually good advice for any basketball team in terms of avoiding turnovers and unforced errors, Pazdera meant something entirely different when he used those words.
"We knew going into the game that we'd get some information on them and they would get some on us, so we made sure not to use the whole playbook today," Pazdera said. "I always want to win, but if we do end up seeing them again, I'd rather lose this one and win the next one."
Westfield (16-5) is the top seed, and New Providence the No. 2 seed, in the Union County Tournament. Both teams will play their first tournament games on Tuesday. While not a lot was at stake Saturday, the game was nonetheless contested with just as much effort and intensity as a tournament game, even if the playbook was a little "dumbed down" for strategic purposes.
Amy Maurer scored 19 points for the Pioneers, who rallied from a seven-point deficit in the first half to take a lead, and came back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game. After trailing, 40-31, with 4:20 to go, New Providence went on a 10-1 run to tie the game with 2:10 left, 41-41, on Maurer's 3-point basket.
Westfield went ahead for good with 1:14 left on a 3-pointer by Ali Lisanti. Westfield went ahead, 48-41, but the Pioneers scored five points in the final 17 seconds on a jumper by Meghan Lamanna and two foul shots by Juliana DeGeorge with three seconds left. When Westfield then missed the front end of a one-and-one, Maurer grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 0.7 seconds left. But the Pioneers had to go the length of the court, and the well-designed long inbounds play did not produce a game-tying 3-pointer.
Lamanna finished with 12 points, six of them in the fourth quarter. Lindsay Kinum handed out five assists to go with six points for New Providence.
Westfield had a 17-10 lead early in the second quarter before the Pioneers went on a 17-6 run to open a 27-23 lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter. New Providence scored the first eight points of the second half and held Westfield scoreless until 2:18 was left in the third quarter. From there, however, the Blue Devils stole the momentum and built a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Both teams gave one another some trouble with their full-court pressure at times, and Westfield's size advantage kept New Providence from controlling the boards.
"They run a nice zone press and play solid man-to-man defense," Pazdera said of Westfield. "We have to make some better decisions, but we did some things well, we came back, and we learned a lot. Maybe a loss like this keeps them motivated."