BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Gov. Livingston coach Chris Eckert doesn’t hesitate when asked to describe his girls’ basketball team. It’s an emphatic one-word response.
“Relentless,” said the coach. “Whether it was at every practice or every game, they were relentless.”
The Lady Highlanders showed that determination again on Saturday against the always-strong Union Catholic club. Gianna Ciccimarra led with 10 points and Caroline Freer threw in six, but it was not enough as the Lady Highlanders bowed to Union Catholic, 33-18, in their season finale.
Gov. Livingston, which entered the game on a five-game winning streak, closed out its season with an impressive 9-3 record.
Facing some of Union Catholic’s accurate shooters Eckert had an organized plan to hold the opponent in check - and it worked for the entire first half. Gov. Livingston battled for the first two quarters and trailed just 11-8 at the half.
“It was a very low scoring, defensive game and that’s what we wanted,” Eckert said. “They have some very good shooters so we wanted to slow them down. We zoned them and played at a slower place; and it worked.”
But the momentum changed in the third quarter after Union Catholic hit a pair of threes early and went four-for-four from the line to go on a 16-4 run to open a commanding 27-12 advantage.
“They hit some threes, we missed some shots, and they went on a 10-0 at one point in the third to pull away,” said Eckert. “We battled back in the fourth, but that third quarter was the difference.”
With no seniors on the squad this was a season of positive development for the Lady Highlanders. Caroline Freer averaged 10 points per game while Ciccimarra averaged nine. The two, along with Reagan Hopeck, played in all 12 games this season for Gov. Livingston, which received strong seasons from Dani Kang, Erin Hilongos, Julia Byrne, Sara Castrovinci, Brianna Monaco, Allie Post and Ava Reinl.
“We went 9-3 and that’s pretty good, but we know we can improve,” Eckert said. “But they love to compete. They were 100 percent on everything and it was so much fun this year. Every one of them bought into the program. They wanted to work and gave it all they had. This is a young group, and we will get stronger for next year.”