BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston boys basketball team outscored the visiting Pingry School 15-2 in the fourth quarter enroute to a 59-45 Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. The two teams were locked in a two point seesaw battle for three quarters before the Highlanders applied a stifling full court man press which held the Big Blue to their lowest scoring quarter of the season.
Gov. Livingston was led by senior Billy Pencek with 17 points as they won their third consecutive game in this cross conference match up before the NJSIAA State tournament opens up next week. The Highlanders will square off against West Morris-Mendham on Tuesday in the first round of the North Jersey Group 3 Section II tournament in Mendham, tipoff 7pm.
The Highlanders got off to a quick start scoring 17 first quarter points with Pencek (17 points), soph Ryan Davey (10 points), and Matt Schuman (9 points) doing all of the scoring which allowed Gov. Livingston to open up a quick 9 point lead.
However just as it looked like Gov. Livingston was going to pull away from Pingry, the Big Blue came right back with a run of their own, to close to within one at the half at 31-30. Pingry big man Zack Keller who matched Pencek’s game high 17 points did most of the damage down low.
The second half opened up with Highlander junior Tyler McCulloch (11 points) knocking down a 3 to give his team a little breathing room at 34-30, but over the next 3 minutes Pingry took their first lead of the game on a Keller put back. Gov. Livingston was able to wrestle the lead back when junior Liam Wolfe converted an offensive rebound to close out the quarter with the Highlanders up 44-43.
The difference in the game came about as a result of a key defensive move and sustitution that Highlander Coach Chris Loeffler made with a few seconds left in the third quarter. Senior Tyler Stapleton entered the game and immediately gave the Highlanders a boost on defense. Stapleton along with Evan Reiner and Pencek employed a full court man press which resulted in numerous Big Blue turnovers by their backcourt. Stapleton who also scored the quarter's first hoop on a driving layup off a nice pass from Kevin Keegan energized the Highlanders on both ends of the floor.
The tenacious Gov. Livingston trapping defensive pressure held Pingry scoreless for the last 5:38 seconds of the game as the Highlanders surrendered just one bucket in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Highlanders had a nice scoring balance with Pencek (17),McCulloch(11) and Davey(10) all reaching double figures. Matt Schuman who had another strong rebounding game added 9 points in the win.
The Highlanders will enter the state tournament with a record of 9-13 as the 10th seed.They will be meeting 7th seeded Mendham ,who evened their regular season record at 11-11 with win over Vernon on Saturday. The two teams did not face a common opponent this season.