BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Lady Highlanders stormed back from an early 11 point deficit and then used a late run to break open a close game to capture a 54-42 win over the St. Elizabeth Panthers (16-3) , Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
Gov. Livingston held St. Elizabeth to just six points in the third quarter to take the lead and then out scored the visitors from Morris County 19-10 over the last 8 minutes to post their 15th win of the year. The Lady Highlanders, who were led by Fiona Kerr’s 17 points, also got 14 apiece from their backcourt of Skylar Dowling and Paige Phillips in the cross county victory.
Gov. Livingston (15-5), who snapped their only two game losing streak of the season by crushing Linden 38-10 on Thursday looked to make it two straight when they hosted a talented St. Elizabeth team on Saturday. The Panthers, an athletic team with size, came into their first Union County matchup of the season with an impressive 16-2 record. Aided by three transfers from Chatham, Hannah Kelly and the Barry twins (Caitlin and Ashlynn) the Panthers have rounded into contention for the Morris County title. St. Elizabeth's tall deep team presented significant matchup problems for Gov. Livingston's undersized front court.
St. Elizabeth’s Courtney Kelly, whose big sister Hannah became a Panther this season after winning a Morris County Championship at Chatham last year, opened the games scoring with a three ball. The Kelly sisters combine for 20 points per game, lead the team in rebounds, and are the Panthers top three point shooters.
Gov. Livingston senior Kerr countered Kelly’s quick three, by scoring two driving hoops and Dowling followed with a long three as the Lady Highlanders grabbed a 7-4 lead.
The Kelly sisters would go on to score 9 of St. Elizabeths first 12 points but Gov. Livingston stayed on top 13-12 as Phillips scored on a layup to end the opening quarter.
With Quinn Galligan (10 pts), and the Barry sisters, (Caitlin 8 pts and Ashlynn 2 pts) joining the Kelly sisters, the Panthers ran off the first 12 points of the second quarter to take a commanding 11 point lead. Phillips finally answered for Gov. Livingston when she connected on a 3-pointer five minutes into the quarter.
The Lady Highlanders seemed to get a boost of energy after Phillips three ball halted the Panthers' 12-0 run. After Galligan (10 pts) stuck a jumper, Gov. Livingston then ripped off 8 points in the last two minutes of the half.
Dowling was fouled on consecutive drives and knocked down four straight free throws. Kerr followed with a free throw before Phillips hit another three to bring Gov. Livingston to within 26-24 as the first half ended.
Kerr opened the second half with a hoop and Phillips hit another three to put Gov. Livingston back in front before St. Elizabeth would tie the score at 30. Once again, Kerr working inside and Phillips from behind the arch, produced produced five straight points and Gov. Livingston would have a lead they would not surrender.
Kerr opened the last quarter slashing to the rim for two scores and added a jumper for six quick points to finally give Gov. Livingston a bit of breathing room. However, the very cold shooting St. Elizabeth team still managed to hang in the game and drew within five when Hannah Kelly (16 pts.) connected on a short jump shot.
However, the remainder of the game belonged to Gov. Livingston as they out dueled St. Elizabeths’s from the foul line -- Dowling, who hit 11 foul shots in the game, was perfect form the line down the stretch. Kerr and Gianna Ciiccimarra also shot the ball well from the line allowing the Lady Highlanders to keep a comfortable lead. On the other hand, St. Elizabeth struggled throughout the game from the free throw which ultimately was the difference maker in the game.
Jill Meltzer and Kerr did a nice job on the boards on both ends of the floor as they battled the bigger St. Elizabeth front court. The duo also registered numerous block shots, including several big ones in the last four minutes of the game. Freshman Gianna Ciccimarra added seven points in the win.
After suffering a tough loss to a very physical Elizabeth team early last week, Gov. Livingston traveled to Linden this past Thursday to face Linden. It took the Lady Highlanders some time to get going against the Lady Tigers who are now 0-19 on the year. However, once Gov. Livingston was able to control the pace of the game they went on to rout Linden 38-10.
Sloppy play by both teams resulted in a 7-0 Gov. Livingston first quarter lead. Skylar Dowling who was the games leading scorer with 17, scoring all seven points.
Shannon Polimeni (3 pts) and Gianna Ciccimarra (6 pts) with four steals apiece sparked a 30 point run by Gov. Livingston over the next two quarters which allowed Coach Eckert to play several first year players with the easy victory safely in hand.
Eckert played the fourth quarter with all freshman. Olivia Magliacano, Allie Post, Julia Byrne, and Dani Kang joined Ciccimarra on the court. Highlight of the fourth quarter was Kang scoring her first varsity points on a nifty floater down the lane as the all rookie team held their own with the Linden varsity.
Gov. Livingston will open Union County Tournament first round play Wednesday when they host Union Catholic at 7 p.m.