NUTLEY, NJ -- Sophomore Marty Higgins and junior Anthony Fabiano netted a combined 40 points Thursday night to lift the Nutley Raiders boys basketball team to a 49-38 victory over Cedar Grove.
The victory moved the Raiders to 5-4 (5-1 SEC), while the Panthers fell to 4-5 (3-3 SEC). Alex Michalski led for the Panthers with 16 points.
After the Raiders led, 14-11, at the end of the first quarter, the Panthers managed to start the second quarter by inching the home team by one point. Fabiano added a three-pointer and a free throw to give the Raiders a five-point lead, but Cedar Grove was quick to get just two points behind.
Higgins then dished out one of his four three-pointers and his team was able to prevent the Panthers from scoring for the rest of the half. The Raiders took a 29-16 lead at halftime.
“I feel like we started out strong,” Fabiano said in a post-game interview. “Got the lead early, scored well played great defense.”
After leading by more than ten points during the third quarter, the Raiders allowed the Panthers to trail by as little as six points in the fourth.
“It was a closer game than it looked,” Raiders Head Coach Bob Harbison told TAPinto Nutley. “Teams are going to come at you a little bit and we got to play smarter.”
As the Panthers started to catch up, the Nutley boys racked up a lot of missed shots.
“You got to be able to take good shots, but it’s hard to tell kids not to shoot because then it kind of tightens them up,” Harbison said.
In the game’s final minute, the Raiders added more points and blew Cedar Grove's chance of surpassing them.
“We fell apart a little at the end, but we held it together and got the win,” Fabiano said.
Higgins accumulated 18 points for the Raiders and surpassed 300 career points. Fabiano contributed another 12 and is expected to score his 100th season point in his next game.
The two youngsters -- along with junior Matt Schettino – have been leading the team this season to replace the work of last year’s graduating seniors.
“We lost a bunch of seniors last year and we got to try to find our way without them,” Higgins told TAPinto Nutley.
The three boys have scored a combined 332 points and led the young team’s defense in the past month.
“We kind of got thrown into it,” Higgins added. “None of us are seniors and we’re all just trying to step up.”
The Panthers will host Bernard on Saturday at 3 p.m.