NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Lady Pioneers could have gone one of two ways in the third quarter of Friday’s section semifinal against Secaucus.
New Providence trailed by 10 points with 4:05 to play in the third period and sophomore sensation Sydney Morang was stuck on the bench with four fouls.
Instead of crumbling under the pressure, the Pioneers kicked their game into an unseen gear. New Providence responded with a huge offensive run to take the lead and later defeat the Patriots, 58-55, to advance to Tuesday’s state sectional final.
“To be honest, when she went out of the game, we weren’t playing well,” New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said. “We turned the ball over three times in a row and didn’t get a good shot off. It seemed like the focus is on [Secaucus]. To be honest, I thought this would open things up a little bit and calm down.”
With Morang on the bench, senior Nat Barrett and freshman Hannah Caminiti took control of the floor, leading the Pioneers on a 12-0 run to take a two-point lead in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter.
Secaucus answered back quickly with a 7-0 streak to reclaim the lead, 49-44. However Morang and freshman Sarah Zeto sank seven clutch free throws in the final five minutes, while Katie Kinum added four late points, to seal the Pioneers’ victory.
Morang said the team would not have won the game if it weren’t for the New Providence’s strong bench play.
“I got nervous, but I knew my team could do it,” Morang said. “I’m not the only one on the team, there are other girls on the team. I know who can step up, and that’s exactly what they did. They took the role into their own hands and I’m perfectly OK with it if that’s what needed to happen.”
The victory propels the Pioneers into Tuesday’s sectional final where they’ll face off with No. 1 Shabazz. The Bulldogs have been a state powerhouse in recent years, with numerous former players currently competing at the college level.
Pazdera doesn’t know how well New Providence will matchup with Shabazz, but knows they’ll be ready.
“That’s a good question,” Pazdera said. “I don’t know yet, but we’re going to figure it out though and we’re going to give them our best.”
Tip-off at Malcom X. Shabazz High School in Newark is currently scheduled for 7 p.m.