BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- Due to poor weather conditions on the originally scheduled Super Saturday, the Highlanders and Pioneers finally faced off this Sunday in their rescheduled rivalry matchup. Gov. Livingston was able to harness the spirited energy of the crowd, enabling them to ultimately defeat their neighborhood foe in a nail-biting back-and-forth battle.
Gov. Livingston immediately sprinted out to an early 13-0 lead as a result of aggressive offensive attacks spearheaded by seniors Kevin Keegan and Billy Pencek. Upon receiving a pass from Keegan, Pencek swished a three-pointer from the corner to start the game. Pencek followed up with another three-ball on the Highlanders’ next possession. Keegan added on to this three-point show by knocking down a jumpshot from the top of the key, sending the Gov. Livingston student section into a frenzy.
"He [Pencek] gets us going. He is our engine and when he is in control within himself he's tough to stop," said Gov. Livingston head coach Chris Loeffler. "When he is in control, the whole offense works. When you take him away, and we have a sophomore shooter in [Ryan] Davey -- you have to make your decision as a defense, who you are going to stick with. Billy will make you pay for that."
GL came out with that extra spark of confidence because they knew what they had to do. "We won today's game in practice yesterday," said Loeffler. "They came with a focus for two hours in just getting better at running our offense -- and it showed tonight. They were confident in what they had to do today."
"Hitting the two threes in the beginning inspired the team and inspired me -- it made us play a lot harder," said Pencek. As for confidence, it has been instilled in Pencek by his dad. "You have to play with confidence, if you can't play with confidence you don't play your top level," said Pencek.
Although New Providence struggled offensively at the beginning of the quarter, junior guard Patrick Trezza was finally able to jumpstart the offense with a dribble-drive layup. This score provided the necessary spark to recharge the Pioneer offense as sophomore Greg Meyers unleashed back-to-back jumpshots from behind the arc. New Providence’s comeback at the end of the first quarter allowed them to close the Highlander lead to only two points.
The second quarter was defined by an alternating battle between the two archrivals. Sophomore guard Ryan Davey buried a deep three on Gov. Livingston’s first possession. However, the Pioneers promptly responded with a layup from Jack Barletta and three-pointers from Sean Dillon and Meyers to capture the lead. This back-and-fourth struggle continued throughout the second quarter. Heading into halftime, New Providence was able to claim a one-point edge over Gov. Livingston.
Coach Loeffler expects a full 32 minutes from his boys, and when they returned to the floor to start the second half, Evan Reiner and Matt Schuman took it upon themselves to shut down Meyers. "We made a defensive adjustment and face guarded number 10 [Greg Meyers]. He had 14 points in the first half. They did not come out shooting as they did in the first half. Our guys really played hard -- Matt Schuman and Evan Reiner -- those guys did a real good job."
In the third quarter, the Highlanders resumed their offensive dominance with their quick ball movement and dribble-drives. Schuman’s and Keegan’s resilience on the boards afforded the Highlanders multiple second-chance opportunities at the rim. This offensive execution allowed Gov. Livingston to extend its lead to a comfortable 47-38 edge going into the fourth quarter.
Although the Highlanders held the lead at the beginning of the final quarter, the Pioneers were still within reach to stage a resurgence. New Providence immediately applied the pressure with a full court press, hoping to capitalize on Highlander turnovers. However, Gov. Livingston was unfazed and easily shattered the Pioneer press. Gov. Livingston’s imposing play on the other end of the court stunted New Providence’s offensive momentum and prevented them from producing the crucial points to overcome the Highlanders.
New Providence head coach Art Cattano credits GL for suppressing their shooting in the second half. "We didn't shoot the ball well at all," he said. "We have to give them credit for that. It was their game today, they did a very nice job." Although this was GL's game, Coach Cattano looks forward to their next meeting at the end of the season.
This "Super Sunday" rivalry game has been a tradition that Pencek has been going to since he was five years old -- "so, it is special to me," said Pencek.
For Loeffler, he was just glad to put a good show on for the crowd. "We try to instill in our guys to appreciate what they get to go through right now," said Loeffler. "It doesn't always go like this the rest of their lives. They didn't let it overwhelm them today. They stayed within themselves."
Ryan Davey led Gov. Livingston in scoring and tied his career high with 22 points. Billy Pencek contributed 19 points while Kevin Keegan chipped in 9.
Greg Meyers led New Providence in scoring with 18 points. Patrick Trezza poured in 10 points while Dylan Bedder and Brian Kelly followed with 7 each.
Gov. Livingston (4-7) will travel to Hillside (4-7) while New Providence (5-7) will face Dayton (6-6) at home this Tuesday. Tip off for both games will be at 7 pm.