BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – The Battle for Tobacco Road (North Carolina vs. Duke), the Backyard Brawl (West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh) and the Holy War (Notre Dame vs. Boston College) are some of the best basketball rivalries in the country.
On Saturday afternoon, over 800 fans saw the New Jersey high school version of the greatest rivalry in sports, as the New Providence boys’ basketball team visited Gov. Livingston for the first of two annual meetings.
With GL’s Blue Gym filled to capacity on Super Saturday, a strong fourth quarter for the Highlanders led to a 37-26 victory over the Pioneers.
“Focus over emotion,” Gov. Livingston head coach Steve Petruzzelli said. “Sometimes we need to create the emotion. The emotion was in the building, we needed to work on the focus.”
Both teams struggled out of the gate, as the Pioneers and Highlanders combined for just nine points in the first quarter.
However, in the second period, the Highlanders were able to create some scoring chances that led to an eight point lead at the half. Six different players scored for GL in the quarter.
“We have got to make shots,” Petruzzelli said. “Even from the very beginning, we were a little tight. We didn't stroke the ball very well. We had free throws, eventually we made a couple of shots. We played as hard as we could. I never doubted that.”
If it wasn’t for New Providence’s Bryan Joyce and Dylan Thomas, the Pioneers would have been down by a lot more. The two guards combined for all nine New Providence points in the second frame.
After halftime, Joyce and Thomas led the Pioneers’ comeback that saw their offense cut the deficit down to one and their defense allow only three points by the end of the third.
Joyce gave New Providence the lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, however some ill-timed mistakes saw the lead and the game evaporate quickly.
Gov. Livingston’s Pat Mahoney hit two backbreaking 3-pointers early in the period put the Highlanders back in control of the game. GL’s strong defensive play held the Pioneers scoreless in the final six minutes of the game, while the teams’ clutch free-throw shooting late iced the victory for the Highlanders.
“We had a couple of crucial turnovers there and a couple of chances to take the lead,” New Providence head coach Art Cattano said. “I told them even we get a two point lead with the ball makes a huge difference, even a four point lead makes a bigger difference. We didn’t get that opportunity.”
The Pioneers have a chance to split the season series with the Highlanders. New Providence hosts Gov. Livingston in their home finale on February 27.