BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Brain Kelly and Greg Meyers combined for 47 points and the New Providence Pioneers connected on 11 three pointers en route to a 74-67 win over neighborhood rival Gov. Livingston Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
New Providence veteran coach Art Cattano knows that the Super Saturday rivalry game is anyone's ball game. "You play this game, it doesn't matter, it's a great rivalry," he said. "We love coming here to play in front of a big crowd."
The sold out revved up ‘Super Saturday” crowd was treated to a well played game which saw the red hot shooting Pioneers surge to a 16 point lead before a late three point barrage from the Highlanders brought the home team to within five with just over a minute remaining in the contest. However, the Pioneers who blew a late double digit lead to the Highlanders last season made sure that wasn’t going to happen again as they hit five straight free throws down the stretch to close out the win.
Kelly scored a career high 25 points and Meyers hit five threes on his way to 22 points. Gov. Livingston was led by senior Matt Schuman who registered a double- double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. New Providence (5-1) won for the fifth consecutive time after opening the season with a road loss to Johnson. Gov. Livingston who will get another shot at New Providence later in the season saw their season mark evened at 3-3.
After Kelly scored the game's first points on a jumper, Gov. Livingston got back to back threes from Dylan DeFronzo (7 pts.) and Ryan Davey (6 pts) in the middle of a 10-0 Highlander run. A quick New Providence timeout and defensive adjustment to a trapping 1-3-1 zone combined with a blistering 12 point quarter from Kelly brought the Pioneers to within 17-15 after one quarter of play.
Early in the second quarter, New Providence wrestled the lead back on a Tyler DeGeorge (9 pts) drive to the hoop and the Pioneers would never trail again. The Highlanders got a lift from Josh Coldon (11 pts) off the bench as he scored five points on a layup off a steal and a three ball, but they still had no answer for Kelly who scored seven more points in the second quarter. Trailing 33-31 after Schuman hit a baseline jumper, Gov. Livingston had a disappointing defense lapse with just seven seconds left in the half. The Highlanders allowed Kelly to take the inbound pass, dribble up the court and drop a long three on them, bumping the Pioneer lead to five as time expired ending the half. To make matters worse, Gov. Livingston had a team foul to give, but didn’t take it, allowing the red hot Kelly to get one last good look at the basket. Kelly finished the half with 19 points which made up for the lack of production from the Pioneers leading scorer and rebounder Dylan Bedder (6 pts,5 reb,3 blk) who was regulated to the bench due to early foul trouble.
New Providence has averaged just under 70 points a game and in the third quarter they showed just how explosive their offense can be as they put up 23 third quarter points. Bedder opened the quarter taking a lob from Sean Dillon(4 pts,3 A) for a quick hoop followed by another jumper from Kelley. Gov. Livingston’s leading scorer Matt Faller (14 pts), who did not score in the first half, interrupted the mini Pioneer run with a foul line jumper before Meyers buried a three to give the visitors their first double digit lead of the game at 43-33.
With Meyers, who hit a game high five three pointers, feeling it from the outside and Bedder starting to exert himself down low, New Providence took control of the game. The Pioneer lead ballooned to 16 as DeGeorge joined the shooting party connecting on yet another three. Gov. Livingston managed to cut the lead to 10 with Ty McCulloch (7 pts) scoring on a three and a put back, but DeGeorge pushed it right back up to 13 with his second three of the quarter.
To the Highlanders credit, trailing 65-52 with just 2:40 left in the game, they never stopped playing and over the next minute and a half mounted a frantic rally. Schuman took a feed for a quick turnaround jumper and Faller followed with a pair of free throws . Coldon then hit a three to cut the lead to 8 at 67-59. Schuman stole the subsequent in-bound pass and Coldon brought the hometown faithful to their feet as he drilled his second three in matter of 20 seconds.
Cattano had to be pleased on what he saw from his young team over the last minute of the game. Now clinging to a 67-62 lead before a hostile crowd that had now been whipped into a frenzy, the Pioneers confidently closed out the win. Over the next 30 seconds Richie Wawzycki and point guard Dillon converted back to back one and ones capping off a 13-17 day for the Pioneers at the foul line. The Pioneers ability to make their free throws never allowed the Highlanders to get any closer than five as they finished off the hard fought road win.
Gov. Livingston coach Chris Loeffler also can find positive takeaways from yesterday's disappointing loss to a talented New Providence team. "New Providence is a good team - there is no doubt about it this year," said Loeffler. "They have beaten some very good basketball teams this year. -- Knowing what they were going to bring in their fire-power, I was happy with the way our guys played for 25-28 minutes. It was that four minute stretch [of the third quarter] that we let our guard down -- but they battled back from that."
His team, despite being down big late, never gave up and hit some very big shots down the stretch. If the Highlanders can eliminate Inconsistencies in their defensive intensity, specifically in the third quarter of play they certainly will be in a better position to become the team their capable of being.
It doesn't get any easier for Gov. Livingston as they travel to Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Tuesday to take on an undefeated Raider (5-0) team, followed by a home game against a 5-1 Summit squad. New Providence will have two home games next week against Oratory and Brearley before they get a shot at avenging their only loss of the season against UCC-Sky division leader Johnson at home on January 18th.