Both teams fight for the rebound as New Providence takes on Westfield in girls basketball. At center is Westfield’s Lillian Scott (20). Reaching in from from left is New Providence’s Emily Molstad, January 13 2015 in Westfield NJ. Kathy Johnson/staff photographer BRI 0114 Girls BKB New Providence-Westfield
WESTFIELD – At some point during halftime Tuesday, the New Providence High School girls basketball team not only remembered who it was, but who it was playing.
After allowing Westfield and senior sharpshooters Lil Scott and Jaqueline Knapp to carve up their defense in the opening half, the Pioneers snapped to it after the intermission, holding the Blue Devils to just 10 second-half points and rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit and from down by 11 points early in the third quarter to claim a 37-36 Union County Conference Watchung Division victory.
“We played with no passion in the first half,” said New Providence coach Cap Pazdera, whose team improved to 8-2. “There was no defense. We might as well have been Swiss cheese. Jaq and Lil are great players, and we talked about it before the game, you can’t let them do what they want with the basketball or they’re going to bury you, like they did. So we challenged them at half to come out and play some defense and play the type of game they’re capable of playing. They came out and played real hard, which was nice.”
“We realized we were a much better defensive team than that, and if we played all together and came out and focused on getting one stop and one rebound at a time, we would be able to get back in it,” said New Providence sophomore guard Katie Kinum, who led all scorers with 16 points. “So we did that exactly; each time we tried to stop the ball, got the rebound and just ran our offense.”
Trailing 30-19 after a bucket by Scott 36 seconds into the third quarter and a pair of free throws Amalia Montes with 5:15 left, New Providence finished the quarter on an 8-0 run, including six points from Kinum.
New Providence finally tied it with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter on a Kinum bucket, but Westfield (5-4) responded with baskets by Hannah Liddy and Scott, the latter of which hit a pretty little fade-away jumper with 3:17 remaining.
But after Sarah Zeto hit a crazy underhanded backdoor layup that had no business going in with 58 seconds to go to draw the Pioneers to within two, New Providence forced two turnovers before Morang sunk one as she was fouled with 17 seconds remaining to tie it and her free throw was all net to give the Pioneers the lead and cap the scoring.
“This game was really good for our confidence, to come back, and to reassure ourselves that we are in the right conference and we can come out and play with anyone.” said Kinum, whose team is playing in the UCC’s upper division for the first time. “Westfield’s a good team and we held our own against them, and we’re really glad we were able to come out of here with a win.”
While the New Providence defense held Knapp and Scott to just four second-half points – all by Scott, who finished with 13 – the Pioneers other biggest second-half improvement came on the boards. Westfield generated a ton of second-chance opportunities in the opening half, including four off offensive rebounds by sophomore Shannon Devitt, who finished with 10, but the Pioneers and junior star Sydney Morang stepped it up in the second half, with the University-of-Florida commit grabbing 10 of her game-high 13 boards after halftime.
“It’s why she’s there, defensively,” said Pazdera, who watched Morang finish with 12 points. “We need her to get those rebounds because we don’t have a ton of height after her. So her getting up there and being able to get those rebounds for us to keep them to one shot is huge. Defensively, we locked Jaq and Lil down, which was great, and then offensively we were just a little more patient, we didn’t throw the ball away, and we converted on most of the opportunities we had.”
“They put more pressure on Jaq and Lil and we had to free them up more by setting screens,” said Westfield coach Liz McKeon, whose team shot just 1-for-11 in the third quarter and 4-for-19 in the second half. “We had the shots, we just weren’t making them.”
Staff writer Simeon Pincus – CNGirlsHoops@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus