If the way Anthony Pizzuti was feeling in the hours leading up to Lyndhurst’s game against Kearny were any indication, Tuesday night was going to be a struggle for the Golden Bears’ junior forward.
What happened instead was a performance for the record books.
In what had to be the game of his life, Pizzuti set a school record by scoring 53 points in an 88-49 victory for Lyndhurst. He broke the record previously held by John Rodriguez, who had 51 in a 2018 win over Harrison.
For his performance, Pizzuti has been named The Observer Athlete of the Week. It was a game that Pizzuti and everyone else in the building won’t soon forget, even if the star performer didn’t see it coming.
“Before the game I just wasn’t, I didn’t (feel well), it was just the opposite (of what you want),” Pizutti said. ”During warmups I felt shaky. But then right when I got in the game I felt good. It was a really weird feeling.”
Pizzuti got some easy baskets early in the game – both in transition thanks to being moved to the top of Lyndhurst’s press on defense and in the halfcourt. With Pizutti feeling good and the points starting to add up, his teammates made sure to continue feeding him the ball in the paint to take advantage.
“After the first half, everything was just falling,” said Pizzuti, who had 30 points by halftime, then followed it up with 17 more in the third quarter. “Everything for me was falling, all of my shots, I made a couple of and-ones. My teammates were hitting me too since I was hot. It felt good.”
“We know that when we need a bucket we can go inside to him and he can probably give us that bucket,” head coach Perrin Mosc said. “It helps out the entire team and takes pressure off the entire team because he can get those buckets in a big spot.”
This winter has seen Pizzuti become one of the state’s breakout performers. After averaging less than 10 points per game as a sophomore, Pizzuti now ranks among the top scorers in the state at 21.8 points per game. In addition, Pizzuti averages 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
Pizzuti has double-doubles in 16 of 23 games this season and has scored 15 or more points in 17 straight games for the Golden Bears, who are 15-8 heading into the final week of the regular season.
“Last season I didn’t have a really good season. I played nervous because I was young and playing on varsity,” said Pizzuti. “But this season, I really got the nerves out. I’m just playing like myself.
“I think I improved on going to the basket and using my body. Last year, I didn’t use my body. Coach tells me to use my body more and I think that’s helped a lot.”
Mosca also praised Pizzuti’s ball-handling skills that allow him to bring the ball up the court and handle the point if necessary.
“I saw him in a couple of games in the fall league, but he ended up hurting his ankle after two games, but I did see some flashes of his athletic ability,” said Mosca. “The way he could jump and control the ball – rebounding and then dribbling the ball. His athletic ability is really something that I didn’t know was going to be as good.”
Pizzuti’s season has had some college coaches inquiring about his post-high school plans, which is a surprise since up until this point, the majority of his focus has been on baseball. As a sophomore, Pizzuti was a First Team All-League selection after going 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA on the mound.
“I’m leaning more towards playing baseball in college, but after this season I’ve become open to (playing) basketball,” said Pizzuti. “Basketball was never my thing, but after this season, I’ve been having a lot of fun. It’s kinda hard right now for me to choose. It’s always been baseball for me and I intend to stick with it, but it’s really hard to choose.”
Regardless of where his future ultimately goes, Pizzuti’s place in the basketball record books is sure to stand for years to come.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)