CHATHAM, NJ – Jack Cole led the New Providence Pioneers with 22 points and Justin Singer added 18 as the Pioneers defeated Morristown High School 72-69, in overtime, on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Cougar Classic in Chatham.
The end of the fourth quarter was dramatic. The Pioneers were up 64-63 with 2.4 seconds left, and had possession of the basketball.
Singer launched the ball down court, looking for Cole who was breaking toward the basket. However, the ball was intercepted by Shawn Bell of Morristown and Cole was called for an intentional foul on the play when he grabbed his shirt.
“I guess my hand got caught on his jersey and (the referee) thought I was grabbing him. I didn’t really mean to,” Cole said of the play. “I guess I just got caught up in the moment and maybe accidently grabbed him.”
Bell made one of two free throws after that play. Morristown was then awarded the ball with .7 seconds left, but could not get a shot off. The score was knotted at 64 after the end of the fourth quarter.
The Pioneers got off to a quick start in the overtime period. Dave Barletta and Vinny Fuschetto each hit a three pointer on the team’s first two possessions. Cole then converted on a free throw opportunity, and the Pioneers were up 71-66 with 1:30 left in overtime.
“We just wanted to control the ball, slow it down and get good shots like we were doing all game. We just had to relax… and keep our composure,” Cole said of the team’s strategy in overtime.
The Pioneers only allowed five points from the opposition in overtime. Cole had a big block, his eighth of the game, on Morristown’s first possession of the extra period. The score was 72-69 with 49.9 seconds left, when Morristown called a timeout. Some stringent defense and a forced turnover from the Pioneers kept the score at 72-69 as time expired.
At the start of the game, the offenses were clicking in full stride for both teams. Singer had 11 of his 18 points in the first eight minutes of play. Cole scored five, and the Pioneers were up 20-15 after the first quarter of play.
However, the second quarter did not play out as the Pioneers had envisioned. They were getting out-rebounded, especially on the offensive glass, and did not have much of an answer to the fast-paced, physical Bell. He scored 13 points for Morristown in the second quarter, and the Pioneers were down 37-38 at half-time.
“We just knew that they (Morristown) were very athletic. That was a concern,” Pioneers' Head Coach Art Cattano said. “I thought our kids did a good job with it though. We matched up pretty well.”
Responding to adversity to start off the third quarter, the Pioneers did a solid job of gaining the lead. They were able to get a number of easy lay ups coming out of the half-time gate. Fuschetto also hit two free throws to give his team a 47-42 edge with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
Morristown again came back towards the end of the third period. They got a number of transition baskets of their own and continued to dominate the Pioneers in rebounding. The score was tied at 55 going into the final period.
The fourth quarter saw some exciting, back and forth play. However, neither team was able to really gain an advantage. The Pioneers did a good job of spreading the ball out, as they had three different scorers with at least a basket in the quarter.
“I think we have a lot of different kids that can score for us this year. We have some kids off the bench that can help us too,” Coach Cattano said.
The Pioneers had a 64-61 lead with 1:42 left in the fourth quarter. Bell hit a layup in transition for Morristown, before converting on his free throw chance at the end of the period to bring the game into overtime.
The Pioneers have won in both rounds thus far in the Cougar Classic. They will next play at Clark High School on Thursday, January 6th at 4 p.m.