Pizzuti sets school scoring record as Lyndhurst boys basketball advances in NJIC Tournament

As Anthony Pizzuti got closer to the Lyndhurst career scoring record, he started to learn more about the man who held the mark for 37 years – former Atlanta Braves draft pick Scott Ryder.

What Pizzuti didn’t know was that roughly 850 miles away, near Atlanta, Ryder was keeping tabs on the current Lyndhurst senior’s scoring exploits.

On Wednesday night, after Pizzuti officially took the school’s career scoring record for boys basketball, he received a call from Ryder.

“He called me out of nowhere and he was like ‘it’s Scott Ryder, do you have time to talk?’’ recalled Pizzuti. “We were talking a lot about baseball up in Georgia.

“It was definitely cool (to know he was following). At the gym I go to, his friend that played was keeping him updated with the games. He also watched a lot of our games (online) too so it was pretty cool.”

Both players may be baseball players first, but they’ll now be forever linked with basketball. Pizzuti, who set the mark when he drove to the basket for a fourth quarter layup, finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds in the 58-49 victory over Cresskill in the first round of the NJIC Tournament in Lyndhurst.

It was the third time this season that Pizzuti scored 35 or more points in a game and it was his eighth double-double of the year. He is currently averaging 24.8 points per game for the 16-5 Golden Bears.

“It felt great,” Pizzuti said. “I was happy I got to do it at home. I wanted to do the 1,000 (points) at home too, but I couldn’t. But this one was definitely better.”

“He needed 33 points and Cresskill’s been playing really well so no one really thought he was going to get it that night,” head coach Perrin Mosca said. “But he got into the game, started hitting some buckets and the kids did a great job of getting him the ball.”

The milestone and victory capped off a whirlwind seven days for the Golden Bears, which started with heart-breaking losses to Tenafly in the Bergen County Jamboree and Pascack Hills in the Bergen Invitational Tournament.

Two days later, in front of a sold out gym at Rutherford, Lyndhurst defeated the host Bulldogs, 55-41 to win the NJIC National Division title and earn one of six spots in the NJIC Tournament.

After the first round win over Cresskill, the Bears got a much-earned few days of rest before they return to action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when it hosts Paterson Charter in the semifinals. The winner will play for the title on Thursday.

“We’ve been talking about our goals all year. We wanted to win the league, we wanted to get a home (Jamboree) game, which we did. Wanted to get a win in the (Hamboree), that didn’t happen, but the next goal was winning the NJIC. That’s been on our radar from day one,” said Mosca. “To get a chance to do that is a good feeling that we’re and that we control our own destiny.”

In other tournament action, Lyndhurst’s girls basketball team continued its Bergen County Invitational run with a 58-39 victory over a previously red-hot Leonia team in the quarterfinals this past Saturday.

Sophomore Brooke Harper had the biggest game of her young career, scoring a career-high 29 points to go with 13 rebounds and five blocks. Fellow forward Asya Akar added 19 points and seven rebounds to form a potent one-two combination.

Lyndhurst, now 16-5 on the season, will play Westwood in the semifinals on Saturday with the time and location set to be announced on Monday after The Observer’s deadline.

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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.)