PISCATAWAY, NJ -- State tournament action began on Tuesday night for both the Piscataway High School varsity boys and girls basketball teams.
And both teams were able to come out with wins in the first round of their respective North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournaments.
In a double-header of sorts, the third-seeded Lady Chiefs, fresh off their Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship last week, topped 14th-seeded Linden, 51-40. The fifth-seeded boys squad then defeated 12th-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan, 69-58, getting somewhat of revenge when the Panthers topped the Chiefs this past fall in the North 2, Group 5 football tournament.
Against Linden, Piscataway (22-4) held a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Tigers roared back for 14 points in the second compared to only five for the home team, putting the Lady Chiefs on upset alert. However, the Lady Chiefs’ effort on the defensive side of the ball made all the different.
Piscataway outscored Linden, 19-6, in the third and 13-10 in the fourth to hang on and advance. LaNiya Miller also netted a game-high 21 points with four rebounds, two blocks, two assists, and one steal as she once again came up big in tough spots.
“We switched defenses, stayed on our feet, and held them to one shot on the offensive end,” Piscataway coach Chris Puder said of the deciding third quarter. “We played with confidence.”
Yamirah Bennett added 10 points and three steals while Saniya Myers tallied six points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and four steals as well for Piscataway. As for Linden, Rosibell Arias Peralta had 13 points and Renee Rocha had 12.
With the win, Piscataway moves on to host sixth-seeded Franklin in the quarterfinals at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Franklin, the No. 7 team in the NJ.com Top 20, might be the best No. 6 seed ever. The Warriors are the defending overall Tournament of Champions state champs and are rounding back into elite form. The Warriors lost a couple games early in the season to out of state foes and to in-state top-ranked teams in now No. 1 St. John Vianney, No. 4 Rutgers Prep (twice), and Rumson-Fair Haven. Franklin however avenged the two losses to Rutgers Prep with a big 19-point victory in the Somerset County Tournament final.
The 18-7 Warriors have won 10 straight games and feature standout Diamond Miller. Only a junior, Miller had 27 points in Franklin’s first round blowout win over 11th-seeded East Orange. She also scored her 1,515th of her career which made her the program’s all-time leading scorer as she passes her sister, Adreana, for the top spot. Miller also shattered her own single-season points record of 561 she set in 2016-17. She now has 1,520 career points and 587 this season.
Diamond and LaNiya also happen to be sisters as well.
“No, it’s not going to be weird,” LaNiya Miller said. “We’ve played together ever since we began playing basketball and we always are playing against each other so I’m excited.”
And in order to win, the Lady Chiefs will have to bring their ‘A-game’.
“We have to pick up our intensity, take care of the ball, and rebound,” Puder said. “Really, everything.”
In the boys’ win over Bridgewater-Raritan, Jordan Davidson returned back to form scoring a team-high 19 points. Davidson, who scores 13.7 points per game, had reached double digits only once in the five games prior.
Keshawn Grant was a factor inside as he netted 17 points while Mattias Arrindell added 12. The Chiefs (22-3) did damage once again from the free-throw line, making 14 foul shots compared to just five for the Panthers.
Bridgewater-Raritan took a 21-15 lead into the second quarter, but the Chiefs surged ahead, outscoring the opposition, 40-18, in the second and third quarters combined to take a 55-39 lead.
“We started playing better defense and executed our plays better,” Piscataway coach Darrius Griffin Sr. said of the middle two stanzas.
Sterling White deposited a game-high 21 points for Bridgewater-Raritan.
With the win, Piscataway advances and travels out to take on fourth-seeded Millburn at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday as well.
The Millers are 23-3.
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