Pinelands Regional Boys Basketball Team Has Good Night Against Barnegat
The Pinelands Regional High School boys basketball team had a good night on Friday, the best of its 2016-17 campaign. Helped by a hot start from behind the three-point arc, the Wildcats dominated the visiting Barnegat Bengals. The ’Cats broke out to a 23-11 lead by the end of the first quarter and extended it to 31-13 midway through the second stanza. Barnegat then steadied itself but could never cut the margin to less than seven, with the final score being 64-55.
The solid win was somewhat surprising. Pinelands came into the game with a 1-13 record, including a 0-6 B South mark. Barnegat, on the other hand, was 9-3 overall and 5-2 in divisional play, only one game behind B South-leading Donovan Catholic. And the Bengals had mauled the Wildcats, 51-39, in both teams’ season openers back on Dec. 16.
The ’Cats’ record, though, was rather deceiving. Nine of their losses were by six points or less, including three one-point affairs, two of which were with B South rivals Manchester and Lacey. A shot here, a shot there, and Pinelands could have had a respectable mark.
The shots were certainly falling early for the home team early on Friday. It seemed as if the Pinelands gym roof was leaking because the Wildcats were raining threes, hitting seven out of their first nine long-range attempts. Sophomores Anthony Diaz and Andrew Schulz had three each during the run that put Pinelands up by 18; junior Caden Sundermann chipped in with one.
Barnegat did cut the Pinelands lead to 33-21 by the end of the first half. But Pinelands made another mini-run to open the second half by changing its game plan, eschewing outside shots and attacking the basket instead. Senior John Garris scored twice from close to the hoop to put the ’Cats up 37-21. “Crisp passing,” I wrote in my notebook.
The Bengals resorted to a full court press. The move did create some turnovers, but it also allowed Pinelands to drive the lane before Barnegat could set up its half-court defense. So the Wildcats were able to maintain a 45-32 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Pinelands nursed its lead in the final stanza, slowing down the action to take time off the clock. Barnegat responded as trailing teams do in such a situation and started fouling, hoping the Wildcats would miss their free throws. They didn’t. Pinelands went 13 of 15 at the line in the final quarter, salting the win away.
Diaz ended up leading the Wildcats with 23 points. Schulz added 15 while senior Chris Burke contributed 11. Mike Revello led the Bengals with 21 points while Sean Morris had a dozen and Carson Francisco hit for 11.
— Rick Mellerup