CALDWELL, NJ - A determined and confident Cedar Grove Boys Basketball Team dominated West Essex in the Holiday Tournament by a final score of 40-20 on Thursday afternoon at Caldwell University.

“It’s always good to get a win in the holiday tournament…you only get three tournaments a year so it’s nice to get a win in the first round of any of those,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach T.J Jones.

The Panthers started strong in the first quarter with a swarming defense that held the Knights to just four points for the frame. Seniors Shane Benson and Mike Pronesti combined for nine of the team’s 11 points in the quarter to send Cedar Grove on their way to victory.

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“I think we gain a lot of our energy on the floor from defense…I think when we get big stops or an over the back call  [because] we try to do the little things well [and] stress that as a staff so when we do those things and guys get excited, that kind of defensive energy starts promoting better offense from us,” said Jones.

For Benson it was the start of a special game as the senior began to tear apart the Knights defense. Benson notched a game-high 15 points for the Panthers nearly half of which came during the key scoring period between the end of the first and midway through the second quarter.

“I think our mental switch was there.  I think the confidence was there, our defense led to our offense, we like to bring energy on the defense so we can begin to get transition buckets,” said Benson.

Both teams had a quiet second quarter of play as the defensive intensity rose. The two squads exchanged baskets with Cedar Grove winning the frame 6-3 and taking a 17-7 lead into the half.

“We just brought energy right out of the gate we wanted to be physical and cause turnovers whether they’re five second calls or bad passes…that’s just the energy we like to bring,” said Benson

Cedar Grove knew with a strong third quarter they could put a stranglehold on the game and erase any chance of a Knight comeback. The defensive play of Cedar Grove continued with a shutout of the Knights offense in the third quarter. Benson’s scoring was supplemented by foul shots from Luca Greco and John Guiamano, which gave Cedar Grove a 26-7 commanding lead at the end of the third.

“I think the scouting [report] was a huge thing and we followed that to a T so using that got me and some other guys easy buckets,” said Benson.

Cedar Grove’s victory improves the squad to 3-1 on the season as they’ve now won their last two games in a row. The Panthers will look to win the Holiday Tournament with a key game Saturday night against Verona at 7 p.m. at Caldwell University.

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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