NEW PROVIDENCE – The home team’s effort during the game’s first eight minutes gave absolutely no indication of how it was going to perform once the contest continued.
Although the host Pioneers limited visiting Cranford to just one field goal in the first quarter, they found themselves trailing by one.
Both teams were able to drive to the hoop, but the ball wasn’t going in. Turnovers followed, more coming from the visiting Cougars. Two minutes into the second quarter the game was still tied at 5-5, with New Providence scoring the only point after the first period.
Then the Pioneers scored in the lane. Then after making a layup this time they filled the hoop from inside the lane once more.
Then they started to make outside shots.
Before New Providence knew it the Pioneers had put together a 16-0 run, looking like they were going to shut out Cranford in the second quarter. The scoring was distributed by as many as six different New Providence players.
Before Cranford fully realized what happened, the Cougars went from being up by one after the first quarter to being down by 13 at intermission.
Sometimes the knockout punch can be delivered early. It’s then up to the team that did the damage to continue playing with the same intensity afterwards and not letting up.
That’s exactly how New Providence performed in the second half. With the exception of a brief 6-0 run Cranford mustered later in the third quarter, the Pioneers never looked back, their lead never falling below 13 and reaching as high as 25 in the final stanza.
The best part for 14th-year head coach Cap Pazdera was that his New Providence Pioneers delivered a true team effort in beating Watchung Division foe Cranford in this battle of 2-0 squads.
New Providence proved dominant in defeating Cranford 46-23 in Thursday night’s Union County Conference-crossover contest at New Providence’s gym.
New Providence, which this season moved down to the UCC’s Mountain Division, improved to 3-0 after capturing its home-opener. The first two Pioneer wins – also by double-digit margins – came at Valley Division squads Dayton and Elizabeth.
Cranford, which last year defeated New Providence three times in three tries, fell to 2-1 after opening with wins against other Mountain Division schools Scotch Plains and Johnson.
The only other time these teams could face each other this year would be in the Union County Tournament. In last year’s UCT, after Cranford swept New Providence in Watchung Division play, the Cougars eliminated the Pioneers in the first round.
This time in a win against Cranford, nine New Providence players scored, with junior Kaitlyn Cumiskey and sophomore Lindsay Kinum pouring in 12 and 11 points, respectively.
They were the only players to score in double digits.
Meghan Santarelli paced Cranford with five points and produced the game’s only 3-point basket, coming with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter to give Cranford its only lead at 5-4.
When looking back New Providence will be able to say that this was one of the best victories of their 2018-2019 season. That’s because the second quarter will go down as one of the best eight-minute periods they will put together this year.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game because Cranford is talented,” said Cumiskey, a returning starter along with senior teammates Olivia Faucher and Alyssa Nook.
Cranford did not score in the second quarter until there was just 1:15 remaining before halftime. This is how Cumiskey explained her team’s second quarter success, a period New Providence crushed 18-4: “we had to pressure, make them feel uncomfortable and then push the ball up court.
“It was a matter of taking what we learned in practice and executing. The coaches prepared us to not let them get off many shots. We gained a lot of confidence by working together as a team.”
Cranford missed its first five field goals before Santarelli’s 3 was the first one the Cougars made, at that time giving them a 5-0 run for their 5-4 advantage.
After New Providence’s 16-0 run, Cranford was then down 20-5 before the Cougars made their second field goal when junior Chloe Carracino scored inside. Cranford made only two of 20 field goal attempts the first 16 minutes. Returning senior starter Lauren Williamson, who finished with four points, was held scoreless the first half.
“Defense is our specialty and we executed it tonight,” said Pazdera, whose team limited Cranford to less than 10 points in all four quarters. “Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how things go. We lost to them three times last year, but this year is a different season. The key was not letting them get to their strengths.”
During New Providence’s 6-20 campaign a year ago the Pioneers did not gain their third win until Jan. 16.
“Our mentality is different,” Pazdera said. “We’re in a better frame of mind.”
This game turned quickly from what appeared would be a barnburner for four quarters to one that was played rather one-sided for the final three periods.
“We weren’t hitting any shots,” Cranford 12th-year head coach Jacqueline Dyer said. “From the start New Providence wanted it more.”
After the game’s only tie at 5-5, New Providence scored five consecutive field goals to build a 15-5 cushion. Juliana DeGeorge scored in the lane, Cumiskey made a layup, Kinum filled the basket in the lane, DeGeorge hit a jumper from the right side and then Cumiskey made another layup.
DeGeorge followed with a free throw, Cumiskey nailed a shot from the left side and then Faucher produced a steal and layup to put the Pioneers in front 20-5.
“We had no rhythm on defense,” Dyer said. “How we play defensively is where our offense comes from. That hurt us. Not playing well on defense took away from our offense.”
Cranford is coming off a 13-13 season, with Williamson and fellow senior KC Pringle the only returning starters. Pringle finished with a team-leading 10 rebounds and also scored three points and blocked two shots.
“We have a newer team this year,” said Dyer, who lost five players to graduation, including standout Camryn Wichelns. “We have some girls up from JV and players who contributed some on varsity last year.
“Hopefully this is the kind of game we get out of our system now.”
Cranford junior Gianna Toretta had three steals in the first half.
DeGeorge finished with five points in addition to blocking one shot in the second quarter and coming down with two rebounds in the fourth.
New Providence held the ball for the final minute of the third quarter, passing it around both sides of the lane. Then right before the buzzer Kinum found Nook open inside, with Nook putting the ball in as the final seconds ticked off.
That was just another example of how well the Pioneers executed their game plan against one of the better teams they will face this season.
NOTES: New Providence is also scheduled to play Watchung Division schools Roselle Catholic and Westfield back-to-back. New Providence is at RC on Jan. 19 at noon and will then host Westfield Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
The Pioneers will next head to Hudson County to play Trenton Central on Dec. 26 (2 p.m.), Bayonne on Dec. 28 (11 a.m.) and Snyder on Dec. 29 (2 p.m.) at Lincoln High School.
Cranford is next scheduled to play at Mount St. Mary’s Saturday at 1 p.m. and will then play Hillsborough Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. in the Livingston Holiday Tournament. According to Cranford’s schedule the Cougars are to play host Livingston Dec. 29 at a time to be announced.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL AT NEW PROVIDENCE
Cranford (2-1) 05 04 09 05 – 23
New Providence (3-0) 04 18 13 11 – 46
CRANFORD COUGARS (23):
22-KC Pringle, senior, 1-0-1-3
11-Ellie Rokicki, senior, 0-0-0-0
20-Meghan Santarelli, senior, 1-1-0-5
13-Gianna Toretta, junior, 0-0-3-3
10-Lauren Williamson, senior, 2-0-0-4
15-Chloe Carracino, junior, 1-0-0-2
33-Natalia Kruk, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
1-Elizabeth McCaffery, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
24-Olivia Speer, senior, 0-0-0-0
32-Kristen Williams, sophomore, 0-0-2-2
Starters: Pringle, Rokicki,
Santarelli, Toretta, Williamson.
NEW PROVIDENCE PIONEERS (46):
30-Cassandra Barth, senior, 2-0-0-4
5-Kaitlyn Cumiskey, junior, 5-0-2-12
2-Olivia Faucher, senior, 2-0-0-4
1-Lindsay Kinum, sophomore, 5-0-1-11
21-Alyssa Nook, senior, 1-0-0-2
22-Juliana DeGeorge, junior, 2-0-1-5
11-Alexa Boyle, junior, 1-0-1-3
23-Maddy LaMotta, sophomore, 0-0-0-0
15-Amy Maurer, sophomore, 0-0-1-1
3-Marissa Policarpio, senior, 0-0-0-0
21-Reagan Wawzycki, freshman, 1-0-2-4
Starters: Barth, Cumiskey,
Faucher, Kinum, Nook.