BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Facing Gov. Livingston for the second time this season, the Cranford girls basketball team was victorious over the Highlanders, 38-34, in a tight game.
Mairead McKeary of Cranford led the winners with 12 points, followed by Lyndsey Pace with 10. Cranford's height in the post and aggressive guards contributed to their victory.
Tied with Patrice DiTommaso as high scorer for Gov. Livingston with nine points, junior Sara Dilly commented on the game, "After beating Cranford the first time, we knew that they were going to come out ready to play. They hit a lot of shots and we missed a few, and that's just the way the game goes. We worked hard but need to learn how to start off intense and maintain that attitude for an entire game."
Cranford maintained a lead the entire game, at some moments pulling ahead and other times remaining in close proximity to the Highlanders.
An early technical foul in the game due to a name of a player not written in the book helped Cranford escalate as McKeary made both of her free throws.
The battle on both ends of the court was evident when Gov. Livingston converted to a full-court press with three minutes left in the first quarter. Offensively, the Highlanders had strong ball movement, setting screens and creating passing lanes that helped them keep up with the Cougars, who led, 15-10, at the end of the first quarter.
Gov. Livingston crept up on the Cougars as the second quarter began. Patrice DiTommaso contributed with steals and good looks to Dilly, and Katie Reilly scored a critical layup to bring the Lady Highlanders within one of Cranford, 16-15.
Cranford aggressively secured their lead when Cayis MacLelland, fouled on a successful shot, made her "and one" and brought the game to 19-15, Cougars.
GL continued to work to keep up with Cranford with patient looks on offense, but overall ball handling on both sides was chaotic. Frequent travel calls were made from the referees, and impressive steals, rather than shots, are what changed possession quickly.
Sara Dilly brought the Highlanders within two of Cranford, 21-19, to end the half.
Going into the third, Cranford gained momentum and propelled up, 25-19. Cranford's Pace made a crucial basket with two minutes left in the quarter to make it 29-23 Cranford. DiTommaso followed with a jumper at the elbow to drive Gov. Livingston to 25. Jenny Pires continued off of DiTommaso's momentum and contributed a foul shot to end the third quarter, 29-26.
The game appeared to belong to either team going into the final quarter. Hayley Berliner sparked the Highlander's scoring with a long two to bring Gov. Livingston within one, 29-28. Dilly added important rebounds on defense, but these hard-fought efforts could not pay off with a good offensive run for GL.
Pace scored a three and McKeary a two to advance the Cougars to 34-28. Dilly brought the score up by two, and Jenny Pires followed with a steal, fast-break, and layup to make it 34-32, Cranford.
The Highlanders lacked on offensive rebounds in the post- Cranford's height helped them maintain possession of the ball and battle against Gov. Livingston's tight defense.
The last minute of the game dragged on- four timeouts were called, three in the last fifteen seconds. These timeouts and the close score, 36-33 at fifteen seconds, added to an atmosphere of anxiety and resulted in raucous fans.
McKeary made both of her foul shots to make the game 38-33, taking potential away from GL to tie it with a three-pointer. Dilly, fouled, made her first free throw to bring the game to 38-34, and the baskets stopped there.
The two evenly matched teams, Gov. Livingston with a record of 6-6, and Cranford 5-5, fought a battle where the Cougars came out on top.
The Cougars face Summit High School, Friday at 4 p.m.
The Lady Highlanders play Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Friday, away at 6 p.m..
Cranford: Mairead McKeary (12); Lyndsey Pace (10); Cerys MacLelland (9); Isabella Speer (5); Kerry Wischusen (2).
GL: Sara Dilly (9); Patrice DiTommaso (9); Jenny Pires (7); Katie Reilly (4); Hayley Berliner (3); Lauren Soranno (2).