BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston boys basketball tops Oratory Prep, 56-39, at Coaches Vs. Cancer Night on Tuesday evening. The Highlanders recorded a victory for the books and a win for the fight against cancer, raising $2,500 from door receipts, donations, auctions and commemorative sales benefiting the American Cancer Society.
The Coaches Vs. Cancer campaign is a nationwide partnership between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Joe Reel, GL Assistant Boys Varsity Basketball Coach, was instrumental in bringing the event to GL. Reel, a teacher at Woodruff Elementary School, has been inspired by his student, Spencer Jacovini. It was important for Reel to bring Coaches Vs. Cancer to GL to honor Spencer Jacovini, Nicholas Tarabokia and everyone in the school district who has been touched by cancer in some way.
Sophomore guard Javon Reis-Wilson led the Highlanders with a game high 24 points including five 3-pointers and junior Rob Imbalzano tallied 16 points in the win.
"We always want to win with a big crowd like tonight, but it was extra special to honor the boys [Spencer and Nicholas] . I'm glad we could pull it off, it was a lot of fun," said Reel.
Both teams opened up the night with 3-pointers to light the boards and energize the crowd. Oratory's John Ranco was first to sink three, quickly answered by GL's Reis-Wilson and senior Patrick Mahoney. Reis-Wilson closed the quarter nailing two more 3-pointers to lead Oratory 17-12.
"It was a special night for the kids [Spencer and Nicholas]. I came out and did what I normally would do. I would try and do that every night," said Reis-Wilson.
GL's tight defense held Oratory to six points in the second quarter. Junior John Wills opened the second with an easy lay-up followed by a shot by Imbalzano. GL found their offense, moving the ball well. Imbalzano sank a 3-pointer to double the score. Both sides tightened their defense causing fouls and turnovers. Oratory's Andrew Lee sank a 3-pointer going into half-time, GL leading 28-18.
Reis-Wilson capitalized on scoring opportunities in the third quarter with his fierce pokes and steals scoring on a turnover to open the third with his fourth 3-pointer of the game. Oratory's Roland Whitley responded by sinking his own 3-pointer. Both sides tightened their defense making it difficult to get to the basket. The full court pressure throughout the third caused more fouls. Oratory came within 9 points when Chris Manning found his way inside the tough D to score two.
GL hit its offensive stride with Imbalzano sinking a long shot followed by an important block. GL went on a run with another Reis-Wilson 3-pointer and Imbalzano swished two foul shots. GL led by 17 to end the third 45-28.
"We got off to a good start because we did things well, we made some shots. We still are missing too many easy shots inside and making silly mistakes with the ball," said GL Head Coach Steve Petrozelli.
Senior Steven Duda started the fourth shooting from a rebound to increase GL's lead. Trading baskets early in the fourth, Oratory's Ranco rallied with a block steal making a lay-up with a missed extra point foul shot. With full court pressure, both teams worked the tight defense to the end. Senior Nick DiSarno found a hole and scored two for the 56-39 victory.
"We never gave up defensively. They [Oratory] have enough shooters that if we give up a little bit, they could knock a few threes in, it could be a 6 to 8 point game," said Petrozelli. "Javon was tremendous tonight."
Both teams are away on Thursday, Feb. 6; GL faces Roselle Catholic at 7 p.m. and Oratory faces Hillside at 7 p.m.