MONTCLAIR, NJ - Riding behind a strong third quarter scoring run and an impressive defensive effort the Cedar Grove Boys Basketball Team clawed out a 52-39 win over MKA on Saturday.
“They’re a great team, they have a great record. We came out to play right off the bat and when it came down to it at the end we pulled away and got the win,” said senior Joe Rufo.
Tied at 39 late in the third quarter Cedar Grove made its decisive push for a victory. Aided by points from Joe Rufo, and Mike Pronesti among others the Panthers would push on an 11-5 scoring run to give them a 37-31 lead heading into the fourth.
“All year we’ve been having lapses and our coach told us ‘you can’t have those mental lapses’ so some of us got hot and we gave it to those shooters,” Rufo.
Rufo’s performance was particularly impressive as the senior finished with a game high 13 points. Rufo’s point total came as a substitute player, a role that he’s become accustomed to and thrived at.
“Every player has a role on this team you’ve got to know your role. We have shooters, drivers, defensive players [and] everyone has their role and we stick to our game plan,” said Rufo.
The aforementioned game plan for Cedar Grove was simple, to have fast, aggressive defense that gained additional possessions for their offense. The Panther defensive schemed worked right to plan allowing a mere eight points in the critical first and fourth quarters of the game.
“We defended at a really high level…I think we scouted some guys and looked at what they do on offense as a scheme and I think we really executed on defense,” said Panthers Head Coach T.J Jones.
Cedar Grove struggled early offensively before settling into their rhythm. Joining Rufo in leading the teams offense was Mike Pronesti and Chris Wynne who each tallied double digit points for the Panthers with 14 and 11 respectively.
Honorable mention should also be noted to Sammy Ventola who provided an additional seven points from off the bench. Ventola and Rufo would combine for nearly half of the teams point total for the game, an impressive feat for non-starters.
“They make it easy on games when you can get some production from your bench,” said Jones.
For Cedar Grove the victory improves the team to 6-6 on the season. The team has now won their last two games in a row and will look to continue the winning streak with a softer part of their schedule coming up having two games against teams with losing records in Science Park and Shabazz High School.
“We talk about getting better everyday. This is probably the third game in a row where we’ve played four good quarter," Jones said. "We want to make it four games in a row with four good quarters of basketball with the goal of playing our best basketball in February."