WEST CALDWELL, NJ -- A strong second-quarter propelled the Caldwell boys basketball team to a 62-51 Senior Night victory over West Essex on Tuesday.
“These rivalry games are fun to play, but even more fun to win,” said Caldwell head coach Mike Fess.
The Knights dominated the opening quarter of the game. Chris Corbo produced eight points in the frame as West Essex took an 18-10 lead after one period.
“We knew [West Essex] would come out in the first half and give us their best, and they did it,” said Fess.
Eventually Caldwell righted the ship in the second quarter with a complete 180-degree turnaround. Hank Morgan and Cristian Talavera combined for 15 points in the second quarter to spark the Chiefs on a 21-6 run for a 31-24 halftime lead.
“Defensive rebounding limited them to one shot and that was what we were saying we needed to do to win the game; it was that simple,” Morgan said.
Morgan continued to impress after a slow start for the remainder of the game. The senior finished with a game-high 20 points in what will be one of his final home games as a Chief.
“I was just getting comfortable. It’s Senior Night, so there’s a lot of distractions that you need to zero out,” said Morgan.
Morgan provided the ability both inside and outside the paint, however Talavera was a decisive factor, running the offense from the point guard position. Talavera finished the contest with 11 points of his own.
“[Talavera] is such a great complement, it really gives everybody else a break when he can just go to the basket and get two points pretty much anytime,” said Morgan.
Ultimately, a change in defensive approach befuddled a Knights offense that was surging in the first quarter. Caldwell would limit West Essex to one-shot possessions along with a handful of turnovers in both the second and third quarters.
“We switched to zone and tried to quicken the pace a little bit, and I think we did a good job,” said Fess.
In the third quarter, Caldwell eventually pulled away, utilizing its size and skills inside the paint. Mike Giannetta collected eight of his 12 points in the third quarter.
“[Giannetta] can [get points in the paint] and he’s learning as we go. He can shoot a little bit from the outside, but we like him around the rim, and he was strong getting to the basket. That opened it up for the other guys,” Fess said.
Caldwell (14-3) has now won four of its last five games. The Chiefs hope to continue rolling with the stretch run of their season upcoming with seven games in just two weeks’ time.
Daniel Brener finished with 15 points and Corbo netted 14 for West Essex (10-8).
“We’re looking to just focus on the next game being a conference game. You try to enjoy every one provided you win. You try and live in the moment, and we’re trying to approach it that way,” Fess said.