BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The crowd at Governor Livingston High School’s Red Gym rose to it’s feet, silently watching as the ball flew through the air, rolled around the rim, and dropped to the ground, missing the net by mere inches.
The Highlanders knew that they had lost their sole opportunity for a comeback. Cranford realized it too, as they continued passing the ball to run out the final 45 seconds left on the clock to clinch the 2013 North Jersey 2, Group 3 title.
Governor Livingston’s performance in the final quarter was the most surprising thing about the matchup, as Cranford led the Highlanders throughout the rest of the game.
During the first quarter, Cranford started off strong, crafting skillful plays to get past Governor Livingston’s airtight defense. The Highlanders, on the other hand, struggled with Cranford’s speed, making sloppy mistakes in an attempt to score quickly.
By the end of the first half, Cranford led Governor Livingston 28-21.
After returning to the court, Cranford looked especially reinvigorated, opening up the second half with a beautiful 3-pointer by Kaitlin McGovern.
While Cranford successfully executed play after play, Governor Livingston found themselves squandering opportunities by rushing the ball to the net, resulting in countless errors. Despite a marginally better performance in comparison to the first half, Governor Livingston still trailed 44-32 going into the fourth.
The final quarter brought a twist, as Cranford began to play a more relaxed game, seemingly secure with a big lead. The Highlanders jumped on the opportunity, and finally began aggressively pursuing point after point. Nearly halfway through the quarter, Cranford, realizing that Governor Livingston’s deficit had been nearly wiped away, began adopting their earlier style of play to battle back.
It was a close game, but Cranford managed to keep their lead up until the final buzzer.
“I’m just so proud of the team,” McGovern said. “We really worked hard to be here and do this tonight.”
McGovern scored a game high of 18 points, while Erin Ferguson of Governor Livingston led with 16 points. The win brings Cranford to a cumulative season record of 20-8 with the Group 3 brack still to come, while the Highlanders will finish with a remarkable 23-5 record.