BAYONNE, NJ – Offense wins games and defense wins championships.
They’re not quite there or at that level yet, but the Piscataway High School varsity boys basketball team is heading in the right direction and is up for the challenge.
The 10th-seeded Chiefs (16-9) took to the hardwood last night and contained one of the best players in the state of New Jersey. In turn, they left Bayonne with a hard-earned 66-59 victory over the seventh-seeded Bees (14-11) in the first round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament.
Patrick Strazala, a Manhattan College commit, leads Bayonne with 26.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The senior scored his 1,000th point just a few days ago and was voted by fans as the top guard in NJ.com’s latest poll, receiving 35.96 of the votes (15,726).
But, Piscataway did their best and held the dynamic threat to 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought the game plan was solid. We knew they had one of the best shooters in the state and we knew it would be a challenge playing at their place,” Piscataway head coach Darius Griffin told TAPinto Piscataway. “Our philosophy is and always will be ‘defense first’, and we feel if we approach the game from that mindset we will be in every game.”
On offense, D’Ondre Dent netted a game-high 18 points for Piscataway, making two 3-pointers and six free-throws along the way. Jordan Davidson added 11 points and four others scored at least eight in the balanced attack. The Chiefs shared the ball, and like talking and helping on defense, passing the ball around to find the open man rather than taking bad shots is the key to any offense.
That’s what Piscataway did.
“Offensively we had to move the ball and move players,” Griffin said. “We wanted to avoid taking any contested shots and work the ball to the open player. When we play unselfishly and play together, we’re a pretty good team.”
Along with Strazala, Bayonne had three others score in double digits. Jeron Ransom poured in a team-high 16 points while Darius Hillocks and CJ Bazile each finished with 10 apiece.
After a tight game in the first with the score knotted up at 16-16, Piscataway outscored the Bees 38-28 in the next two quarters and led by as much as 19 points in the third.
After losing in the first round of the sectional tournament last year, Piscataway, which hasn’t had a winning season since the 2011-12 campaign (14-13), has now won their first state game since that year. The Chiefs lost to Bayonne in the postseason in 2012.
Known as a football town -- Piscataway just won the Central Jersey, Group 5 title in December -- many of the athletes choose to showcase their abilities on the gridiron rather than the court. Maybe that’s changing.
Either way, Griffin’s squad has their hands full with second-seeded Newark East Side in the quarterfinals on Monday in Newark. East Side blew away 15th-seeded Watchung Hills 83-51 in their first round matchup.
The Red Raiders are 23-3 and are ranked as the No. 8 team in the Garden State according to NJ.com.
“They’re a very good team with some incredible athletes,” Griffin said of Newark East Side. “They’re quick, fast, and play hard as a team. We’re going to have to match their intensity and not let them get out to an early lead playing at home. We respect them but we’re not afraid of them. We have to play a really smart game (on both ends).
“It’s been a long time since Piscataway has played in a game of this magnitude and we’re going to have to trust and believe in each other. We have to try and set the tone early and weather the storm from them.”
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