NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- With point guard Sean Dillon back in the lineup for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks, the New Providence boys basketball team's offense functioned like a well-oiled machine.
Three players scored in double-digits and the Pioneers shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half en route to a 70-59 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood (coached by New Providence graduate Steve Siracusa) Saturday afternoon.
Dillon, sidelined since Jan. 16 with an injury to his right leg and playing Saturday with a protective sleeve on that leg, struggled to find his shot, but he returned to being the high-level facilitator he's been for most of his storied career. The senior playmaker head-faked, ball-faked, feinted and passed his way to 10 assists, including several of the bring-you-out-of-your-seat variety.
And while Dillon's marksmanship may have been off, Pioneers Carsten Schumm, Nick Bisaccia and James Reilly all shot the ball well for the Pioneers. Schumm collected 22 points and 10 rebounds, Bisaccia scored 16 points with six rebounds and three assists, and Reilly came off the bench to hit for 15 points. Tim Walsh contributed five assists and Will Lattmann had eight points in the victory.
Sophomore Jaden Carter had 15 points and Hayden Widder and Justin Guy each scored 14 points for Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which trailed by 20 points early in the second half before rallying to close to within six points with 2:31 left in the game.
New Providence held a 23-19 lead going into the second quarter when Reilly came off the bench to fire in four consecutive 3-point baskets as New Providence opened the second quarter with a 14-3 run to take a 37-22 lead. Three of Reilly's treys came on assists from Dillon and the other on a pass from Bisaccia.
"Reilly has really come on and played well lately," New Providence head coach Art Cattano said. "He was struggling early in the year, but he has grown into his role now."
A young team with only two seniors--one of whom, Owen Kovacs, did not play Saturday as Dillon finally got back in the lineup--New Providence's juniors and sophomores have been forced to grow into their roles with some growing pains along the way.
"The kids have been getting more experience playing without Sean," Cattano said. "We've played some good teams, and I think now the kids are starting to get it."
Bisaccia gave the Pioneers a lift not just with his shooting, but his ability to get open, pass the ball and also hit the offensive board.
"This was definitely a better shooting game for us," Bisaccia said. "Everyone was moving better without the ball. We got more open shots and we made them. Sean is a great ball handler who creates more easy baskets for everybody."
When Dillon came out of the game for a brief stretch in the first half, Cattano said he was happy to get some "good minutes" from reserve point guard Matt Demareski to help the offense run smoothly.
Carter's second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter brought the Raiders as close as they'd get, trailing, 63-57, with 2:31 left. But on New Providence's next possession, Dillon drove into traffic in the line, got himself turned around and flipped a behind-the-head no-look pass to Schumm for a layup that ignited the Pioneers on a 6-0 run to ice the game.
"If we can keep playing like this, we want to make a run," Bisaccia said of the upcoming Union County and state Group 1 tournaments. Saturday's victory over a Group 4 opponent in SPF has helped solidify New Providence's chances of qualifying for the Section 2, Group 1 tournament a year after the Pioneers won the whole thing. Scotch Plains-Fanwood is right on the bubble for qualifying in Section 2, Group 4.