Basketball Update: Pirone Returns, Rams Sweep Season Series Against Hillside.

Gabriel Costa and Thomas Hunt

After a tough road stretch in which losses to Cranford and Westfield were suffered, the varsity hoops team returned home for an in-conference rematch against rival Hillside. In the December 15th Season Opener, the Rams were able to defeat Hillside by a mere 3 points. Due to this the team was prepared for another close game of utmost importance within the Mountain Division. This game had an added sense of anticipation for the Rowdies, as this was also the return of Mike Pirone from a lingering ankle injury. Although back from injury, Mike would not start and would only play limited minutes. Rather, the starting lineup included guards Asher Bradley, Greg Jones and Max Cook – with John Pirone and Patrick Conniff filling out the 4 and 5 spots.

Starters Max Cook, John Pirone and Asher Bradley (Image via Oratory Prep Basketball)

Just after tip-off, the scoring started in familiar fashion with a Greg Jones corner three to put the Rams up 3-0. Both sides were defensively sound, which led to a first quarter score of just 11-8 in favor of the Rams. In the 2nd, Hillside took a 14-13 lead before a John Pirone corner three off of a Max Cook assist reclaimed Oratory’s lead. Soon after, Greg Jones would intercept a pass and convert on a transition layup, placing the Rams ahead 19-14 with 4:12 remaining in the half. Lightning would then strike twice just before the half as Greg Jones would tip off yet another pass, weave through traffic and convert in transition to put the Rams up 23-19 heading into the locker room. In the 3rd quarter, jump shots from Juniors John Pirone and Patrick Conniff would give the Rams a 29-21 lead. John Pirone would later hit his third three of the game off of a Nick Servitto assist to put the Rams up 38-29 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Down by 9, the Hillside Comets would not go away in the 4th quarter as double-doubles from Delroy Smith and Dartangnon Siddons would help bring it to a one-possession ball game. Mike Pirone would then appear in the box score for the first time since December 15th, with a crucial finish at the rim. With little time remaining, the score stood at 44-43 with the Rams in the bonus and Mike Pirone heading to the line. He proceeded to knock down both free throws, and put the Rams up 46-43. Now with 24 seconds remaining, tactical defense was played by Sophomores Max Cook and Asher Bradley, intentionally fouling and not allowing Hillside to develop a play. This ‘foul-play’ continued until just one second remained on the clock where a solid shot contest led to an airball, and the Rams walked out with the W. The scoring was led by Greg Jones (18) and John Pirone (11). The Rams now stand at 4-2 in the Mountain Division, one spot behind first place Scotch Plains-Fanwood.