BRIDGEWATER, NJ - After enduring a three-game losing streak with a trio of excruciatingly close defeats, the Bridgewater-Raritan boys basketball team needed to get back on course in a hurry.
On Saturday, the Panthers broke away from a four-point halftime lead and went on to a 58-48 victory over Somerville to right the ship again.
Senior guard Sterling White scored eight of his 12 points in the third quarter, when Bridgewater-Raritan (8-6) opened the half with 10 straight points and outscored Somerville, 18-11, in the quarter to take a 45-34 lead into the final period.
Senior guard Aaron Gao led BRHS with 15 points and four assists, Justin Bryant finished with 12 points and Dan Banz collected 10 points, six rebounds and three assists in the victory.
Bridgewater looked like it would take control of the contest early in the second quarter, as the Panthers built a 17-10 lead with Doug Collins scoring five of his seven points in the opening salvo. But Somerville fought back to tie the game, 17-17, with 4:56 left in the half, and the Pioneers were still within a manageable four points, 27-23, at halftime.
But White, who had been held to just two points in the first half, came out with a purpose when the second half began. After Gao fed Bryant for a layup to open the third quarter, White stuck a jumper from the right baseline, Banz scored off a dish from Gao, and White drove the lane for a bucket. Bryant, a fullback in football season, then made a strong move on the blocks for a power layup to cap the 10-0 run that gave BRHS a 37-23 lead.
White also sparked the Panther defense in the third quarter, initiating transition with steals at the defensive end that led to high-percentage opportunities on offense. Seven of the eight field goals the Panthers sank in the third quarter came on layups. Somerville never drew closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Cameron Hall and Chris Elwood each finished with nine points for Somerville.
Bridgewater-Raritan had lost three games in a six-day span by three points, two points and one point, respectively, to East Brunswick, Ridge and Rutgers Prep. The upcoming seedings for the Somerset County Tournament, as well as power-point rankings for the state tournament that begins at the end of next month, made Saturday's matchup against Somerville a critical one to win--especially with a Tuesday meeting looming against Gill-St. Bernard's, which has been the county's best team so far this winter and one of the best teams in New Jersey.