WHIPPANY, NJ -- Displeased with his offensive performance recently, New Providence junior Carsten Schumm made a decision to focus on his defense at the start of Monday night's playoff game against Whippany Park.
The 6-foot-7 center turned in a generational performance on the glass and on defense, and had one of his best offensive games of the season, too. Schumm grabbed 25 rebounds, blocked eight shots and scored 20 points as the Pioneers advanced in the opening round of the Section 2, Group 1 state tournament with a 65-55 boys basketball victory over Whippany Park.
Senior point guard Sean Dillon finished with 21 points and seven assists, sophomore swingman Will Lattmann scored 11 points and hounded Whippany Park's top scorer into a rough shooting night, and sophomore guard Nick Bisaccia totaled 10 points and five rebounds for New Providence (9-16), which will play University High School in Newark in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday.
Just how dominant was Schumm's control of the boards? He outrebounded Whippany Park all by himself, 25-23. Overall, New Providence had 37 rebounds.
"My offensive game has been slow the last couple of games," Schumm said, "so I came in thinking about stressing my defense first to get going and to let my offensive game come to me and not force it. Starting with defense first helped me tonight."
Although Whippany Park (12-14) is a perimeter shooting team to begin with, Schumm relegated the Wildcats to a jump shot-only team with his ability to block shots, and he turned them into a one-and-done shooting team by eliminating their ability to get any second-chance opportunities on their offensive glass.
"Carsten certainly changes the game with his rebounding and shot-blocking," said New Providence head coach Art Cattano, who was unable to confirm whether Schumm's 25 rebounds was a school record. "And when he does block shots, he keeps the ball in play, like Bill Russell was famous for when he played for the Celtics."
Whippany Park actually had the early momentum in this game, though, getting out to a 12-6 lead before New Providence scored 10 straight points late in the first quarter to go ahead. Dillon sank two 3-pointers and Schumm scored four points in that run.
Dillon, the wondrously creative ball handler and playmaker, drew Whippany Park's defense out toward him by hitting three of four 3-point shots in the first quarter. Once the Wildcats were forced to respect Dillon's outside shot, the senior spent the rest of the game shaking, baking, spinning, head-faking and driving past their defenders, also dishing off to help Schumm to a nine-for-13 shooting clip from the floor.
With the score tied, 20-20, early in the second quarter, the Pioneers seized control of the game with a 14-2 spurt. Dillon started it by taking a give-and-go pass from Tim Walsh for a layup. Lattman buried a 3-pointer, then scored off a steal for a 27-20 lead. Dillon then used a deft crossover move to drive for a layup and a 29-20 lead with 4:14 left in the half. Whippany Park interrupted the run with two foul shots, but the Pioneers scored Bisaccia canned a baseline jumper and then knocked down a 3-pointer for a 34-22 lead.
Meanwhile, Whippany Park senior swingman Cameron Burke, who came in averaging 16.6 points, ended up scoring 20 points, but Lattmann's defense on him helped Burke struggle to a seven-for-23 clip from the floor. Whippany Park attempted 39 3-pointers and made 11 of them.
"Lattmann has become our best individual defender," Cattano said. "He's another sophomore who has really come on, and he had a strong game tonight."
New Providence hit 27 of 51 shots, six of 18 from '3'.
"We're playing with sense of urgency now," said Dillon, who missed five games in late January with a muscle pull. At one point during his absence, the Pioneers' record sank to 1-11. Dillon is the only player active now who played for the Pioneer team that won the NJSIAA Group 1 state championship last season.
New Providence is 8-5 in its last 13 games now.
"Without me in the lineup in January," Dillon said,"other kids had to step up and take on more responsibility, and they showed that they're more than capable of doing that. We're playing our best basketball at the right time now. We just need to keep taking it one game at a time."
"We have been learning how to play together," Schumm said. "We're getting it down now. We played with a lot of intensity in this game."