PISCATAWAY, NJ -- The Piscataway High School boys varsity basketball team got back in the win column on Saturday with a 63-51 victory over Monroe in a Greater Middlesex Conference -- Red Division battle in Piscataway.
The win for the Chiefs (12-2, 8-1) versus the Falcons (4-9, 3-6) comes after an 82-66 setback against St. Joseph’s of Metuchen on Thursday.
“It feels good, but we still have to play better,” Piscataway head coach Darrius Griffin said. “Monroe did a great job. They slowed the game down and tried to lure us to sleep. We had to speed the game up, and once we did that, then everything started going our way.”
Monroe and Piscataway implement very different and clashing styles of play. Monroe likes to move the ball around and play slow, half-court basketball while Piscataway likes to get out in transition. Monroe also plays more zone on defense. Piscataway pressures and traps, forcing turnovers which leads to fast break opportunities.
Early in the game, particularly the first quarter and mostly the second, the Falcons did a good job playing the game their way. Griffin was hot during the break between the first two quarters when Piscataway, which was playing uninspired, low-energy ball, trailed 9-5 thanks to a few 3-pointers by Michael Kides, who ended up with a game-high 18 points. Kides made five triples in the contest.
“As long as you’re patient with it, it’s okay,” Griffin said of Monroe’s slow-paced brand. “But when you start to become undisciplined, and you start to reach (on defense) because you’re trying to make things happen, that’s when you can fall into a trap. We tried to trap them. They had a great game plan for their team. Their coach is a good coach.”
Piscataway picked up its intensity in the second quarter, utilizing a full court press to help speed the game up. After being down at most by seven points at 12-5, the Chiefs took their first lead at 14-12 with 3:32 left before halftime on a Mattias Arrindell 3-pointer. Keshawn Grant and Antonio Chandler followed with a layup each of their own and just like that, Piscataway led 18-12.
But, Monroe didn’t go away. Kides nailed a 3-pointer from left side at the buzzer. Piscataway led 23-22 at the break.
The Chiefs outscored the Falcons 40-29 the rest of the way as their offense got going. Piscataway forced a few turnovers which turned into buckets at the other end and was constantly pushed by Griffin to move quickly and speed up the game. Grant and Arrindell were also clutch from the foul line as the pair made five and three points respectively.
Piscataway led by over 20 points in the fourth quarter before mass substitutes came in for both teams. Grant finished with 13 points while Arrindell had 11. Chandler and Jordan Davidson, who made three shots from behind the arc in the contest, both totaled 13 points as well. The whole team -- and the crowd -- erupted when seldom-used players like Andre Emden, David Benitez, and Angelo Manalaysay all scored.
“At the beginning I didn’t like anything because we were moving as slow as they were, but once we sped the game up, and started to do things the right way (it was better),” Griffin said. “We’re really good inside, and if we can get our bigs going, usually it then opens up the perimeter and that’s how we want to play.”
Monroe’s 51 points were the least amount of points an opponent scored against Piscataway in four games. During their last three games, the Chiefs, who all have warmup shirts that say “Defense First” gave up 88, 95, and 66 points. They got two wins in those three games, but that won’t cut it come tournament time.
“It is encouraging, but we have to do that consistently,” Griffin said on holding the Falcons to 51 points. “And that’s something we talk about every day. We have to get better on that end. Every team is playing their best ball now, so we have to make sure that we are keeping pace.”
Fritz Frage added 15 points for Monroe as well.
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