TOMS RIVER – New Providence High School girls basketball coach Cap Pazdera has been preaching all season how the Pioneers are a lot more than just a two-player team and that there’s been more to New Providence’s success than just stars Sydney Morang and Katie Kinum.
Sunday, in the NJSIAA Group I final, the Pioneers showed in their biggest game of the year exactly what their coach has been talking about.
With Morang and Kinum going ice cold from the field in the second half, it was time for some of New Providence’s other players to step up, and they did in a big way. Senior Emily Molstad and sophomore Sarah Zeto led the way after intermission, combining for all but two of the Pioneers’ second-half points and grabbing several clutch rebounds, as New Providence held off Haddon Township 32-30 at Pine Belt Arena to capture the state Group I championship.
New Providence takes on Haddon Township, Sunday, March 15, 2015, in the Group I girls basketball finals at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
“We’ve been talking about it all year, that it’s not just Syd and Katie, it’s a five-man effort with the girls on the bench contributing, as well,” said Pazdera, whose team won its first group title since winning two in a row in 2010 and 2011 and will begin its tournament-of-champions run Tuesday. “Today we were lucky to be (the beneficiaries) in that area.”
“I’m glad to step up,” Molstad said. “Same with Sarah and everyone else on the team. We all just work together.”
New Providence shot just 14-for-59 from the field, including 6-for-39 in the second half. Haddon Township outscored the Pioneers 15-2 in the third quarter to erase a 20-7 halftime deficit, with Zeto’s bucket off an offensive rebounds with 1:48 left in the period the Pioneers’ lone points.
Morgan Lenahan, who finished with a game-high 17 points for the Hawks, gave Haddon Township its first lead of the game in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Zeto went coast to coast to tie it and Molstad dropped in a couple of baskets to give the Pioneers back the advantage with 3:57 left.
After two baskets by Sarah Gertzinger re-tied it for the Hawks, Molstad came up with the play of the game, grabbing an offensive rebounds off a Morang miss and putting it back up and in to put New Providence back ahead, this time for good.
“She hit some big shots there at the end,” said Pazdera of Molstad, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds. “All year she’s been the unsung hero doing the dirty work, and she was in the right place at the right time to get us back to where we needed to be.”
“They did an awesome job, obviously,” said Morang, who scored a season-low 11 points, dipping under the 20-point mark for the first time in the state tournament. “Some of us were missing our shots, and when that happened, they stepped up. Emily made some key layups and shots, Sarah drove to the basket and got that really important and-1, and then Emily with that rebounds, I think that’s what really pulled us together. That was the time I think we knew we had that game in the bag. It was a team effort. It was awesome.”
For all New Providence’s offensive woes, trying to figure out the rotating defense employed by Haddon Township, the Pioneers defense did a great job keeping the Hawks off balance, as well, holding them to 14-for-44 from the field, including just seven points in the first half.
“We went into halftime telling the girls there’s no way this team is going to score (only) seven points in the second half,” Pazdera said. “So we knew if we could do some damage on the offensive end and match them bucket for bucket, we’d be in good shape. But they came out and triangle-2’d us, which has been giving us trouble all year no matter what we do. It sped us up, made us feel uncomfortable and they did a great job. But defensively, we were able to keep them in check, minus a few easy layups that they got attacking the basket.”
“Defense (was focused on) not letting Lenahan get open 3s, because that gives them a lot of momentum,” Morang said. “She’s taking, like, halfcourt shots, and that gets their fans going and we wanted to prevent that from happening and them getting a big swing of momentum, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Simeon Pincus can be reached at CNGirlsHoops@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus