BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston basketball team was dealt their first loss of the season Tuesday at their home opener, as the visiting Rahway Indians got off to a fast start and never looked back. The Highlanders made things interesting late in the game as they cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but the Indians led by senior standout Keyshawn Cummings confidently converted their free throws down the stretch to maintain their lead.
Cummings paced a balanced Rahway attack with a game high 24 points, which included six late game free throws. Gov. Livingston was led by Matt Faller with 18 points and Josh Coldon who added 11.
Gov. Livingston could get another shot at Rahway as soon as next week when the Highlanders travel to Rahway to play in the Butch Kowal Holiday Tournament on December 27th. The four team tourney will matchup Gov. Livingston and Holmdel, followed by host Rahway against Johnson in first round action. The winners will square off in the championship on Friday December 29th, TBD.
The one thing Gov. Livingston didn’t want to do against the quicker Rahway squad was to let them get out and run early in the game. However, that’s exactly what happened as the Indians put up 18 first quarter points with most of them coming in transition. The good news for the Highlanders -- they trailed by just four after the first quarter of play as three balls from Ryan Davey and Coldon paced the Highlanders to a 14 point quarter.
The second quarter, the Highlanders again found themselves down by double digits as they continued to allow the Indians to attack the rim either in transition or slashing through their zone. Trailing 24-16 with four minutes left the second quarter, Coldon hit back to back three's to pull the Highlanders to within 26-22. Rahway then closed out the quarter on a 6-0 run as Cummings was joined by Zion Pendelton (15 pts) in pushing the Indian lead back up to 10 at the half.
Gov. Livingston opened the second half with some sloppy play on both ends of the court and quickly found themselves in a deep hole with Rahway's offense now clicking on all cylinders. Just when it looked like the Highlanders were going to rollover with the Indians holding a 49-31 lead, the Highlanders caught fire and ran off 9 straight points. First, Dylan DeFronzo (7pts,6 Reb) muscled in a hoop under the basket. Faller than produced seven straight points with a conventional three point play, a three ball, and a foul shot to cut the Rahway lead in half. However, the defense let Cummings drive the length of the court for a layup with five seconds on the clock to end the third quarter giving the Indians a double digit lead once again.
Rahway now seemed to be content with their lead and chose to become more deliberate on offense as the fourth quarter began to unfold. The slow down on offense allowed the Gov. Livingston to employ a more aggressive defense which held Rahway scoreless on three straight possessions and built on the offensive push they put together late in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Highlanders used two Faller foul shots, a put back by sophomore Ferd Melo, and a Matt Schuman (5 pts,8 Reb) baseline jumper to bring the Highlanders within seven points with 5:45 left in the game.
Unfortunately for Gov. Livingston, the game's momentum quickly turned back in favor of Rahway. The Highlanders game-long nemesis Cummings drained a three, and back court mate Pendelton converted on a steal and foul opening up a 13 point lead. The Highlanders once again closed within seven at 65-58 on three pointers by Ty McCulloch and Faller but just couldn’t get any closer as Rahway knocked down 8 free throws to close out the win.
Gov. Livingston (1-1) now will face Holmdel (1-1) to open the Butch Kowal Holiday tournament on December 27th at 6 p.m. in Rahway. Holmdel, from the Shore Conference, will present another difficult challenge for the young Gov. Livingston squad as the Hornets return a veteran team this season.