CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Heading into the 2020 season the Cedar Grove boys basketball Team is looking to put their best foot forward against the competition.

    “Every year we play to win…of late I feel that we should be competitive in our division, if we come and we defend at a high level there should be no buts about it that we should be able to compete for a league title,” said Head Coach Thomas Jones.

    As with every season the goal for the Panthers is to continually build throughout the year to ensure the squad is peaking at the right time.

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    “At the end of the day I think our biggest goal is to play our best basketball at the end of February and early March,” said Jones.

    This year the Panthers will be led by returning scorer Brandon Dietz. Dietz was a tough matchup for opposing defenses last season scoring double digits in at least a third of his games. 

    “[Dietz] was one of our leading scorers last year.  He shoots the ball well off the perimeter, a real long athlete, he kind of brings some length at the defensive end,” said Jones.

    In the front court Nico Mihalik will be a presence inside the paint for Cedar Grove. The junior is a solid rebounder who has added key skills to his game that will only grow with increased playing time.

    “[Mihalik] is a returning second half of the year starter…he had a nice offseason putting some weight on to be strong enough to play in the post and defend in the post,” said Jones. 

    Taking the reins in the backcourt for the Panthers will be Anthony Bilotta. Bilotta was a sixth man of sorts last season, but will be the starting point guard on opening night and will facilitate the group’s offense.

    “[Bilotta] was kind of our backup point guard in the beginning of the year who found himself in a bigger role towards the end of the year…he morphed into our point guard towards the end of the year,” said Jones.

    When Bilotta needs rest the group will look to their backup point and swing guard Justin Masino. The junior will play solid defense and contribute steadily on the offensive end.

    “[Masino] is going to be a nice backup point guard to [Bilotta] and will be able to give him some air when he needs it,” said Jones.

    Another key role-playing piece for Cedar Grove will be sophomore Eric Mazal. Mazal has shown a great aptitude for the game in limited action and will move around the court in various positions.

    “[Mazal] has a high basketball IQ and we think he’s going to help us a lot off the bench,” said Jones.

    A host of juniors and sophomores round out the squad’s grouping for 2019 and all will factor in one way or the other. Jones is committed to playing the hot hand to ensure maximum results.

    “We have a bunch of young guys, and we’re just looking to get better over the course of the season,” said Jones.

    As the season rapidly approaches the group is working on their chemistry and understanding of the offense to get ready for opening night.

    “Right now our biggest issue is controlling the pace of flow.  We almost have to slow ourselves down because we are so athletic.  We’re working offensively on controlling our pace and defensively we’re working on team rebounding,” said Jones. 

    Cedar Grove will open the season Friday evening on the road against Eagle Academy. This marks the first time in school history the two teams have crossed paths.

    “It’s the first time our program is going to play their program at all…I’ve got some eyes on them, they are athletic, they’re strong, they are a high-paced offense, but I think our athletes can match up with them,” said Jones.

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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