PISCATAWAY, NJ -- The Piscataway High School boys basketball team fell at home to South Brunswick, 57-52, in a Greater Middlesex Conference - Red Division contest on Thursday night.
South Brunswick (5-2, 4-0 GMC Red) made plays late and withstood missed free throws at the very end to hold off the feisty Chiefs (2-6, 1-3).
Trailing by nine points at 48-39 with 5:45 to go, Piscataway would whittle its deficit down to just two at 50-48 with 2:26 to go. Denzel Taylor made a layup, was fouled, and converted the and-one free throw and Johnathan Livingston laid it in off the window prompting a Vikings timeout. The Chiefs would steal the inbounds pass, but they would miss a driving layup attempt and South Brunswick’s Devin Strickland made a layup in transition on the other end.
Strickland would make two more layups as the Vikings quickly increased their lead back up to eight at 56-48. Piscataway then started intentionally fouling and South Brunswick missed three straight free throws in the bonus giving the home team a chance, but the comeback ultimately fell short.
Despite the loss, Piscataway coach Darius Griffin Sr., whose roster consists of mainly first-year varsity starters and players compared to the Vikings which returned six of their top seven scorers, was pleased with his team’s efforts against the No. 7-rated team in the whole GMC by NJ.com as well as the Home New Tribune.
The Chiefs had won the last four matchups between the schools.
“Actually, I’m proud. We don’t have any experienced kids and South Brunswick is one of the best teams in the county and for us to play the way to be within striking distance with time ticking off, I’m very proud,” Griffin said. “I saw growth tonight. So, from that perspective, I’m very happy.”
“We still have to get in the gym and work hard. This is only our eighth game of the season. We still have (a lot of season) left. If we continue to work hard and improve, Chris, the way we’re doing now I like our chances.”
The Chiefs trailed by nine at halftime as they missed a multitude of shots. They also looked out of sync. But after the break, they turned it on.
Livingston finished with 19 points while teammates Keshawn Peterson and Will Corley netted 14 and seven points, respectively. Taylor added six.
“I think the confidence grew,” Griffin said. “We put a great game plan in place, I think, and I think their confidence grew when we went in at halftime and we down by only a couple of points. It sort of woke them up and had them thinking ‘we can do this’.”
Coming into the season, Piscataway’s roster went through a major overhaul with only three returning players who saw limited action and they are still adjusting to the higher level of hoops.
“Experience is something you can’t buy,” Griffin said. “South Brunswick is a good team. When you have so many new guys who have never played on this level before there is a learning curve. It is a challenge. Nobody really knows what it’s like to play at the varsity level until you actually do it. You can talk about it, you can show film, and you can do all of those things, but until someone is in the heat of the battle you don’t know how they are going to react.”
Piscataway is near the bottom of the GMC Red, but there’s still a lot of ball to be played and a chance to get better. The Chiefs next play Tuesday, Jan. 14 at home against Monroe before back-to-back games away and back in Piscataway against East Brunswick on Jan. 16 and Jan. 18.
“Right now, I don’t even care about the standings. I just care about day by day improvement,” Griffin said. “As long as I can see that, the standings will take care of itself. I’m not even worried about that. If I see improvement every day, that’s what a coach really looks for.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
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