NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- After Meghan Lamanna shot New Providence into a double-digit lead with her torrid touch from the perimeter in the first quarter, the Pioneers finished Belvidere off with their withering press in the third quarter.
Lamanna drilled five 3-pointers and scored 19 points, and six different Pioneers players came up with at least two steals as New Providence defeated Belvidere, 49-33, in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 1 tournament Friday evening.
The victory sends the top-seeded Pioneers to the sectional championship game, which they will host Tuesday night against either Glen Ridge or Arts High School. New Providence (26-3) is undefeated on its home floor this season.
Lamanna hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points to help stake New Providence to a 17-7 lead after one quarter. But the Pioneers, who thrive most effectively in a fast pace fueled by their pressure defense, found themselves bogged down in a slower pace in the second quarter, when Belvidere (16-11) shot the ball well, slowed the contest down with its 2/3 zone defense, and closed to within two points, 23-21, before Amy Maurer canned a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left for a 26-21 halftime lead for New Providence.
Maurer finished with 13 points, as she and Lamanna combined for 32 of New Providence's 49 points. That hardly implies, though, that the victory was a two-girl effort. Five different Pioneer players contributed at least two assists, and they all played a big role in the furious fullcourt pressure that broke the game open in the third quarter.
After Brieann Opdyke put back a rebound to start the third quarter for Belvidere and cut the margin to 26-23, New Providence went on a 12-0 run and blanked Belvidere for the rest of the quarter. Lamanna took a pass from Cumiskey and buried a 3-pointer, then Lamanna returned the favor with a nifty baseline pass that Cumiskey turned into a layup and a 31-23 lead. Lindsay Kinum turned a steal in the press into a layup with 4:21 left. Maurer turned a pass from Kinum into a baseline jumper before, with 47 seconds left, Lamanna took another pass from Cumiskey and knocked down a '3' for a 38-23 lead.
"Our press was suffocating them in the third quarter," New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said. "You could tell they were starting to get frustrated going against our press."
A common thread in a lot of those third-quarter plays that helped to break Belvidere was Cumiskey, who had two points, two assists and at least three steals in the 12-0 run.
"Kaitlyn was the reason we got a lot of those steals, whether she was making the steal herself or causing a deflection," Pazdera said. "Everyone out there did a good job in the press tonight."
Cumiskey, a senior who is one of the greatest players in the history of New Providence's girls lacrosse program, has had to forestall the start of her lacrosse pre-season because of the girls basketball team's advancement. Lacrosse practice started Friday--although not for her.
"I saw some of my (lacrosse) teammates out there (in the hall) before our game and after their practice," said Cumiskey, who finished with six points, five assists and four rebounds in addition to her multiple steals.
"We wanted to use the press against them to forced turnovers and get easy layups," Cumiskey said. "I'm usually up front in the press. We're trying to force teams to get the ball to the corner and then get traps. It's been working really well so far (in the state tournament)."
Juliana DeGeorge finished with four steals and Grace Kelly came up with three thefts for New Providence, which maintained a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter.