DUNELLEN, NJ – The Dayton boys basketball team is playing with a lot of confidence right now and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Two nights after scoring his 1,000th career point, junior guard DJ Alicea poured in 30 points and senior guard Jaykwaan Chito added 11 to lift sixth-seeded Dayton to a 59-56 come-from-behind victory over third-seeded Dunellen in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 tournament in Dunellen.
Trailing 48-35 after three quarters, the Bulldogs exploded for a 24-8 fourth quarter to secure the win and advance to Saturday’s semifinal matchup at second-seeded and rival/neighbor New Providence with first tip scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
For leading scorer Alicea,
"This win was big," he said. "We were down 14 with about six or seven minutes left, but my teammates and I fought and got the dub. Big win."
Despite the intensity of postseason play, Alicea has not changed up the way he approaches a game at all.
"I’m playing normal," Alicea said. "Just because it’s states doesn’t mean I change how I play. I hit some big shots and so did my team and we will continue to do so."
Senior guard Vinny Pulice chipped in with seven points for Dayton (17-6), which has won two straight, four of its last five and seven of its last nine games.
Sophomore Drew Johnson scored 19 points, hitting three 3-pointers, and junior Tyje Kelton added 16 points with two 3-pointers to pace Dunellen (20-7), which ended its season with a 12-5 home record and won 20 games for the first time since the 1994-95 campaign.
This was the first meeting between the two schools since a Dayton 59-41 home triumph in the sectional semifinals on March 2, 2013.
Saturday’s semifinal snapshot: New Providence
Senior Greg Meyers recorded a career-high 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead New Providence to an 83-61 victory over seventh-seeded Shabazz in the quarterfinals Thursday in New Providence.
The Pioneers (25-3), who are 16-1 at home, have won four straight and have won 14 of its last 15 games.
New Providence routed Dayton on the road in the season opener for both schools, 66-26, on Dec 14, 2018. The Pioneers went out to a 36-12 halftime lead and never looked back as Sean Dillon had 17 points with four 3-pointers and Dylan Bedder added 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
Dayton has lost six straight games to New Providence with its last win, a 54-53 home triumph on Feb. 10, 2016.
Bulldog Bites: Currently, Alicea has 1,054 career points (554 this season) and is within 150 points for fourth place on the school’s all-time scoring list set by current assistant coach David Steinman (1,204 points, 2004-08) … Alicea has four 30-point performances this season, including two in his last four games… Dayton is 4-6 on the road this season.