NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- Torrid perimeter shooting, crisp halfcourt passing and stifling defense enabled the New Providence boys basketball team to win its last regular-season home game, 64-38, over Caldwell Tuesday night.
The Pioneers (8-15) won their third game in a row and handed Caldwell (17-5) just its fifth loss all season.
Sophomore guard Nick Bisaccia sank five of the Pioneers' 13 3-pointers and finished wity 17 points and four assists. Senior point guard Sean Dillon finished with 13 points, nine assists and five rebounds for New Providence, which is 7-4 in its last 11 games.
But as precisely and harmoniously as the offense clicked, one of the most pivotal performances for New Providence came from a player who didn't even sink a field goal. Junior center Carsten Schumm, who scored all seven of his points at the foul line, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked four shots and kept Caldwell's deliberate halfcourt offense from ever gathering any steam.
"We had so many new players playing together at the beginning of the season that it took some time for us," Schumm said of New Providence's defense, which took awhile to gel but certainly appears to have done so by now. "A lot of defense is actually talking. Once we started to figure it all out we've been playing great defense. We're all learning to play together now."
"Our defense is much better now," New Providence head coach Art Cattano said. "All season, we have talked about it, and we have continued to work on it every single practice. We really talk a lot about defensive angles, and where we are off the ball. That's where I think we've improved a lot, is our defense off the ball."
Caldwell had a 7-3 lead when New Providence went on a 15-3 run to end the quarter and take an eight-point lead. Bisaccia had five points, Dillon had four points and two assists and Will Lattmann hit a 3-pointer in the spurt.
Dillon had four more points and two more assists, and Matt Demareski, Tim Walsh and Bisaccia each canned a 3-pointer in the second quarter, as the Pioneers extended to a 33-18 lead at the half.
The two teams came in as a study in contrasts: Caldwell prefers to run a patient, deliberate halfcourt offense, willing to take as much as a minute at a time off the clock working for a good shot. New Providence wants to amp up the tempo, run when the opportunity is there, and take an open shot when one presents itself.
"We controlled the game," Schumm said. "We thought we could shoot better than them, and we knew they liked to play slow."
"Caldwell plays very low-scoring games," Cattano said. "We got out on them and made them go a little quicker, and they missed some shots."
Caldwell's top scorer, forward Hank Morgan, finished with 16 points, but Schumm and Lattmann (three blocks) challenged him regularly when he approached the lane and made him work for his shots. Elsewhere, the Chiefs struggled to knock down perimeter shots against the Pioneers' man-to-man defense.
"I said earlier in the season that Schumm made a huge jump from last year to this year," Cattano said. "Well, he's also made a big jump from the beginning of the season until now. He's really gone up hill, and if he keeps progressing like this, he's really gonna be something next year."
But New Providence, after a difficult first month to this season, is in no hurry for next year to come just yet. The Pioneers have one more regular-season game, at Mountain Lakes Friday night, before they open state tournament play with a Section 2, Group 1 first-round game at Whippany Park next Monday. The Pioneers won the section--and the state championship--with a senior-laden cast last season.
"We're looking forward to finishing strong," Cattano said. "We've played a great schedule this season against very tough teams. Other than Dayton, we have not played any Group 1s all season."