January 18, 2012 at 6:55 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ—When Dave Cohen took over at Livingston, four years ago, he spoke of change and reviving basketball throughout the community. Change is exactly what Cohen and his staff have brought to a Livingston program that mightily struggled the past decade.
Livingston defeated Newark Academy 46-38 on Tuesday. With this victory, Livingston (10-2) now sits atop the Independent Division of the Super Essex Conference and this is the third consecutive season where Livingston has won at least ten games.
“When you have kids that are willing to work hard and buy into your system then winning will come,” Cohen said. “I have a great group of kids. All our work starts on the defensive end.”
Livingston knew they would be challenged on Tuesday as they took on one of the county’s best point guards in Zaire Williams.
Williams and his fellow Minutemen took advantage of Livingston shooting woes and started the game with an early 7-0 lead.
“We missed our first few shots,” Livingston captain Marc Schofel said. “But every good shooting team knows the only way to end the funk is to keep shooting.”
And that is what Livingston did.
After a timeout, Livingston answered Newark Academy’s 7-0 run with a 12-0 run of their own. Schofel and Justin Tepper each had a pair of 3-pointers. With urgency on the offensive side, the defensive picked up as well. Livingston forced four turnovers in the quarter out of their stout 2-3 matchup zone.
The Minutemen, led by Williams, clawed back with a run of their own in the second quarter. Using a quick ball reversal against Livingston’s zone, Williams knocked down three 3-pointers in the period and Newark Academy outscored the Lancers 15-11 cutting the lead to one, 23-22.
“Our defense was uncharacteristic over the first 32 minutes,” Schofel continued. “We did close out well. Our shooting kept us in it.”
In addition, Newark Academy did a great job of holding Livingston’s leading scoring, Sam Abam, to only two points in the first half.
However, that changed in the second half as Abam scored ten of his 12 points and went on a 6-0 run of his own in the third period to open up a 33-26 Livingston lead.
Newark Academy showed no signs of giving up and roared back to cut the lead to 33-30 on a layup by Randall Keur with 6:45 left in the game. Livingston’s prolific scorer (Abam) answered right back with a 18-foot jumper and then a steal on the defensive end. Then, a transition 3-pointer by Tepper pushed the lead back up to eight and ultimately sealed the victory for Livingston.
“This victory means a lot more than the number ten,” Schofel said. “This was big for the conference and for our county seeding. We have to remain composed and hungry down the stretch.”
The Lancers held Williams to a season low of 17 points, even though it was a game high.
“Defensively we were a different team in the second half,” Cohen said. “We have great depth this year and can trust anyone on our bench at anytime.That will be key for us in the long run.”