NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- In its preparation for the Section 2, Group 2 state tournament next week, the Caldwell boys basketball team took on a pair of Union County opponents to start this week and came away with a split.
A strong fourth quarter enabled the Chiefs to close out a 45-39 home victory over Dayton of Springfield Monday night, but a hot New Providence team defeated Caldwell, 64-38, when the Chiefs went on the road for the second of back-to-back games Tuesday night.
Caldwell came back after trailing, 18-15, at halftime against Dayton. Senior forward Hank Morgan led the Chiefs with 14 points and sophomore Cristian Talavera finished with 12 points.
While Monday's game was contested at Caldwell's preferred patient pace, on Tuesday, New Providence (8-15) turned the game into a higher tempo affair than Caldwell usually plays. After Talavera hit a 3-pointer to give Caldwell an early 7-3 lead, New Providence--the defending Group 1 state champion--scored the next 10 points to take a 13-7 lead that the Pioneers would build upon with torrid shooting and a fast pace.
New Providence hit 13 3-pointers in the game. Morgan finished with 16 points--all in the first three quarters before both teams used their benches extensively in the fourth quarter--for Caldwell, but the Chiefs were unable to shoot consistently from the perimeter to bring the focus of the New Providence defense away from Morgan.
Caldwell (17-6) will host Rutherford in the first round of the Section 2, Group 2 tournament Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Chiefs are seeded fourth, Rutherford 13th. Hackettstown and Newark Central are the top two seeds in the section. Caldwell has one regular-season game left, Thursday at Verona, before the state tournament begins.
Morgan, a 6-5 swingman with a good outside shot and a strong baseline game, is averaging 18.8 points per game, including a career-high 32 last week in a loss to Glen Ridge.