CEDAR GROVE, NJ - The Cedar Grove and Verona girls basketball teams put on a thrilling show in their fifth annual “Hoops For Hope” basketball game with Cedar Grove coming out on top 47-42.

    “I saw a lot of people there who have never been to a basketball game….it’s a town wide event,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach Bill Scanlon. 

    This year’s game benefited Nick Storms, a relatively new resident to the Cedar Grove community. Storms, a second grader at South End Elementary is battling cancer and has been living in the town for less than a year, but the community has made him and his family feel at home.

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    “All our friends that we’ve met, the school, the whole community has been extraordinary we’re beyond moved by what everybody has done,” said Jacqueline Storms, Nick’s mother.

    The Panthers team took him under their wing this season allowing him to help out at practices and watch as the team makes a run toward a State Title. 

    “We all love him,” said Ryan Cannataro.

    The game itself was a classic that the capacity crowd thoroughly enjoyed. Verona would battle to keep the game within grasp. The Hillbillies ultimately would get a key three-point lead by an impressive drive from Melanie Naeris.

    “When Verona and Cedar Grove play each other we know it’s always going to be a fight to the end,” said Verona Head Coach Samantha Battista.

    Naeris’ layup in the final minute showed the catalyst the senior is for the squad as a whole. Naeris finished the contest with a team-high 13 points all coming from off the bench.

    “[Naeris] is a phenomenal leader I think this whole room felt it when she got on the court the energy just completely lifted up and that’s what she does for our team,” said Battista. 

    Cedar Grove would not be denied, however answering back in the final 20 seconds. Jessica Green launched a game-tying three pointer that broke her personal cold streak and sent the game to overtime.

    “You can’t think about the last play…[Green] is a shooter, and we always say shooter’s shoot and she shot, and she made a big one,” said Scanlon.

    In the overtime period Cedar Grove showed their grit and determination to move onto victory. Cannataro would take a steal the length of the court for the initial go-ahead score for Cedar Grove. Cannataro’s back-to-back steals sparked a seven to two scoring run that propelled the Panthers onto victory. Cannataro finished with a game-high 17 points on the evening.

    “We were in it since the beginning of the game, we never back down, we don’t let our mistakes get to us--we kind of just fight through it,” said Cannataro.

    Despite the loss the Verona squad still feels they are trending in the right direction as they move towards the opening round of their State Playoffs. The 5-17 Hillbillies will take on Caldwell in the North 2 Group 2 State Playoffs on March 3.

    “I think this game has proven just like all season we’re not a pushover, yes we’ve had a losing season, but we’re still giving everyone a run for their money,” said Battista.

    Cedar Grove’s victory will look to give the group playoff-like experience playing in front of a big crowd. The 16-7 Panthers will take on Hasbrouck Heights in the North One Group Once State Playoffs on March 2.

    “We haven’t beaten Verona in a long time…. it’s not the season defining game but it’s something that they will look back on,” said Scanlon.

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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