BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston boys basketball seniors along with cheerleaders were honored before the start of the varsity basketball game Thursday night at home while also raising awareness and funding for the fight against cancer in the national Coaches vs Cancer campaign.
Honored before the game with their families were: Jason Coldon, Billy Pencek, Chas DeAngelis, Cole Schneider, Ethan Fong, Kevin Keegan and Tyler Stapleton along with cheerleaders Jenna Rebasca, Abby Long, Sandi Manfreda, Abby Kepner, Elizabeth Morabito, and Alex Buckley and team managers Devon Bodnareck and Nicole Perissi.
Coaches vs. Cancer is a grassroots movement that has swept across the country over the past two decades because it’s so intensely personal, leveraging the sport’s popularity to raise money to fight the insidious disease. The proceeds from the game's admission along with raffles and shooting contests will be donated to the American Cancer Society. In addition, students held a bake sale to benefit Relay for Life. During quarter breaks, the cheerleaders were in the stands collecting donations for the cause.
"Anytime that you can raise money for such a horrible disease, it's great -- I want to do it every year and I wish we could donate more money every year," said head coach Chris Loeffler, who mentioned that his freshman coach had lost his dad to cancer -- cancer touches everybody.
Coming off Tuesday's one point win against rival New Providence where the Highlanders clawed their way to victory in the second half, they found themselves holding on to another close battle. This time, it was the Highlander's defensive possession in the final seconds that won their second straight Thursday night.
All seven seniors received play time in the 52-51 victory with seniors DeAngelis, Stapleton, Schneider and Keegan responsible for all fist quarter points. Hillside would take the lead hitting an outside 3 and finished the quarter ahead by five.
The Highlanders outpaced the Comets in the second quarter, as they outscored Hillside by an 18-9 margin with Tyler McCulloch hitting a buzzer beater 3 ball to take a 28-24 lead at the halftime break.
The play went back and forth with the Highlanders holding onto a marginal lead throughout the third quarter with turnovers on both sides of the court. Hillside's Takier Hill hit the first of his three 3 pointers to bring the Comets within one point in the third quarter. GL's Ryan Davey answered with his own 3.
"We pushed them away from the basket," said Loeffler. "They were only down by one, they can get in the lane -- their [Hillside's] mentality was they had to shoot from the outside." Last time we played them they didn't hit one three, this game their shots in the corner were going in, he said.
McCulloch led the Highlanders with 16 game points with four 3-pointers, two of which came in fourth quarter. He closed out the game with a layup with 25 seconds remaining on the clock. Up by one point with under 25 seconds remaining, the Highlanders fended off a potential game-winning 3-pointer basket for the 52-51 victory.
"He [McCulloch] made some big shots -- he's as aggressive as we have and hustles his butt off. He is the definition of what we are as a team right now," said Loeffler.
GL seniors Pencek and Keegan finished with six points apiece, Tyler Stapleton with four, and Ethan Fong and Cole Schneider with two each.
Loeffler hopes to build off this week's wins going into the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 State Tournament when the No. 10 seeded Highlanders face No. 7 Mendham away on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
The Highlanders final home game of the season is against Pingry on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 11 a.m.