The New Providence High School girls basketball team held its own against Neptune in last Saturday’s season opener, playing well against last year’s NJSIAA Central Group III finalist before falling off in the fourth quarter.
Friday, in their opener at the Len Sepanak Holiday Tournament, the Pioneers showed they’ve learned how to finish, even against late pressure.
Sophomore Sydney Morang posted 26 points and nine rebounds, and senior Casey Trezza added 11 points and five boards, as New Providence held off West Morris’s fourth-quarter rally and advanced with a 47-43 victory at Ridge High School.
“We had to calm down and not play to their intensity,” said Morang, whose team led by 16 points entering the final frame before being outscored 17-5 in the fourth period. “They came out scrappy, they did a good job, but what we have to learn to do is settle down as a team, to take the ball back and not play as fast as they’re making us.”
After Morang scored eight of her team’s 12 third-quarter points to turn a 14-point halftime lead into a 42-26 advantage, West Morris turned up the fourth-quarter pressure with Brielle Kelly leading the way. The senior, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds — include five on the offensive glass — posted eight points in the fourth quarter to get the Wolfpack to the doorstep before time expired.
“It’s just being young, knowing when to put your foot on the pedal and knowing when to take it off,” said New Providence coach Cap Pazdera, who will lead the Pioneers against Ridge or Pingry at 6 p.m. today in the semifinals. “And taking it off doesn’t mean closing your eyes and going to sleep, it means being smarter than we were and not taking some of the shots that we took. I think that will come with more experience.”
New Providence came out firing, with freshman point guard Katie Kinum dropping in a layup off the opening tip. The Pioneers built a 5-0 lead before West Morris could get started, and led by 10 points after one quarter, before an 11-2 second-quarter run gave New Providence a comfortable lead.
The victory, which evened New Providence’s record at 1-1, was not only important as it got one in the win column, but dodging the fourth-quarter rally and avoiding what would have been a colossal stumble should prove a valuable lesson for what is, overall, a young team.
“It showed us what we need to work on,” Morang said. “Just because we won, doesn’t mean we don’t have things to work on. This was a good way to bring us into the season. It was a good start.”
“We bend but we don’t break,” Pazdera said. “We’re allowed to make mistakes and we’re going to make mistakes, and we need to learn from them and get better from them and good things will happen. Playing Neptune was a great experience for us and we certainly wanted to get a win under our belt in this game. This is what it feels like to win and now we can play like we know we can play.”