NEWARK, NJ – When head coach Darius Griffin and the rest of the Piscataway High School varsity boys basketball team hopped on the bus to head up north to Newark for their NJSIAA/ShopRite North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 quarterfinals matchup with Newark East Side yesterday, they knew that when they got back on that same bus a few hours later their season would either be finished or they pulled a gigantic upset and lived to see another day.
Unfortunately for the 10th-seeded Chiefs the former happened as the second-seeded powerhouse Red Raiders, a top 10 team in New Jersey, dominated their way to a convincing 86-30 victory to advance to the semifinals where they will meet sixth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan on Friday.
East Side had four players in double figures and were clearly the superior team. Shamir Johnson netted a game-high 25 points and Elijah Olaniyi scored 20. In addition, Amadu Benbaw and Darnell Brodie added 10 points each.
The Red Raiders used their size to their advantage even with a game plan by the Chiefs to prevent that from happening.
“It was a tough game for us. Newark East Side was a very good team,” Griffin told TAPinto Piscataway. “They were bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than we were. Our game plan was to play zone but because they were taller and stronger, they just kept going inside (anyway) and getting whatever they wanted.”
Johnson also took advantage of the zone by doing work on the perimeter. The junior drained five 3-pointers in the game.
Piscataway hung around in the first half as East Side led 36-22, but after the break was when the Red Raiders clamped down on defense holding the Chiefs to only eight points in the third quarter and scoreless in the fourth while they racked up 50 points.
D’Ondre Dent and Mattias Arrindell totaled 12 and 10 points respectively to lead the way for Piscataway.
Dent, a senior, finished the year as the team’s leading scorer averaging 13.1 points (according to NJ.com). The captain was also a workaholic defender.
“(He) has been a four-year starter for us and he was one of our team captains this year,” Griffin said. “We relied heavily on him all season and he never let us down. Dent was our best defender and played the best offensive player (on the other teams) every game. He took it as a challenge and never let us down. He’s a true leader and has the talent and leadership skills to play for someone at the next level.”
The Chiefs (16-10) finished the season with a winning record for the first time since 2011-12 and won their first state tournament since that same year on Monday. Griffin loses Dent who laid the foundation of the upswing, but returns a young nucleus in juniors Jordan Davidson (9.3 points per game), Keyshawn Grant (9.3), Parris Washington (2.8) and Arrindell (11.5) and sophomore Tyree Barba-Bay (2.6).
“I’m very excited about our team next year,” Griffin said. “Remember, we accomplished many things this year for the first time in a long time and I think that the returning core players will benefit from it greatly next year.
“We have to continue to work hard now because the expectations are going to be higher and the only way for us to meet and exceed them is through hard work during the offseason which starts now.”
Businesses: Advertise with TAPinto Piscataway. Click here for more information.