CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Despite being in a tough conference, the Cedar Grove Panthers are 5-1 for the season thus far and fresh off the heels of a Holiday Tournament Championship.  Mike Pronesti chalked up 27 points and 23 rebounds to help lead Cedar Grove to the championship title, earning him not only tournament MVP, but also Allstate Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week honors.  The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley, Allstate Insurance Agent, 471 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove. 

"Our season has been going well so far.  We're 5-1 and our number one goal when we started the season was to win the holiday tournament," Pronesti said. "Being MVP and then this all in one week feels great.  I've been working hard in sports my whole life so it's great to be recognized."

After losing to Verona 74-32 in the holiday tournament last year, Pronesti and his team were on a mission for redemption.  

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"Going into the tournament we knew that West Essex had a lot of height so we had to come up with ways to deal with their offense," Pronesti explained.  Clearly the Panthers' plan worked, as they held West Essex to just seven points by the end of third quarter, going on to win the game 40-20 and earning their place in the championship game once again to face Verona.

"The finals game against Verona was a chance for redemption.  We knew it would be a tough game, but we had a lot of energy," Pronesti noted.  "Having another chance to play them meant a lot.  Last year we lost by 40 which killed me.  It was great to come back and win this year."

With the holiday tournament behind them, Cedar Grove is back at it and working hard in practice -- with three home games this week.  "Our biggest challenge as a team is probably height and rebounding.  We let up a lot of second chance points, so we've been working really hard on that," Pronesti said. 

The Panthers defense is the team's biggest strength according to Pronesti -- preventing West Essex from scoring more than 20 points and holding Verona's leading scorer to 18 when he's been averaging more than 20 a game.  

Ultimately a conference title is the goal for Pronesti and the Panthers, and a run in the state playoffs. 

"We know we are in a tough conference, but we have faith in each other and believe we can win it,"  Pronesti said.  "We'd like to have a home playoff game this year and have another chance at Cresskill who knocked us out of the playoffs last year."

The Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley Allstate, 471 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove. 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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