LIVINGSTON, NJ - In one of the most exciting finishes of the season, the Nutley Maroon Raiders (11-3) came away with a narrow 37-35 win over Livingston Lancers (7-8).
The Raiders took a 29-15 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Lancers went on to score 20 points in the final eight minutes of play, drawing within two with only 1.9 seconds remaining. However, Livingston forward Sarosha Parsons’ steal attempt failed and the Raiders escaped with the victory.
Nutley head coach Larry Mitschow said the feeling of watching his team narrowly blow a 14-point lead was “frustrating.”
Mitschow claimed a key reason to his team’s late-game falters was due to star player Blair Watson fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
“Our best player got into foul trouble early," Mitschow said. “When she fouled out we were a totally different team.”
Mitschow’s statement was certainly accurate after fans witnessed a Nutley team, which held the Lancers to only five points in the second and third quarter combined, give up 20 in the last eight minutes.
Watson, the freshman star, led the Raiders with ten points and was the main force behind her team’s strong defensive play.
The departure of Watson was not the sole reason for Livingston’s late run, Lancer junior forward Sam Rothenberger was a key contributor to the Lancers’ fourth quarter success.
Rothenberger, who scored seven of her eight points in the final quarter, believed she and her teammates “wanted to come back and beat them."
"We see [Nutley] as our rivals," she said. "We just wanted to come back and win.”
Although Livingston lost, Lancer head coach Patty Kaes believes her team can look at the loss and see that they can compete with even the best of teams.
“The kids know what they are capable of and they can hang in with these teams that are a conference above us,” Kaes said. “I would hope [this builds their confidence].”
For the first three quarters of play, it seemed Livingston’s confidence would be completely shot. Following a 10-10 first quarter, the Raiders seemed to be in another league of competition outscoring the Lancers’ 19-5 in the second and third quarters.
The Raiders not only looked more poised, but more disciplined with the ball as well. Nutley capitalized on key Livingston turnovers forcing poor decisions and disrupting what is usually a fluid Lancer ball movement.
Livingston point guard Katie Horiuchi, who led the Lancers with nine points, contributed to seven turnovers to the team's 18.
Livingston’s field goal percentage did not fare much better, the team as a whole shot a dismal 32 percent from the field and a dreadful 18 percent from behind the arc.
The Lancers look to improve on their shooting before their second round matchup in the Essex County Tournament against Caldwell (9-5) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.