BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Lady Highlanders played a spirited first half of basketball before being overwhelmed by the size of the Roselle Catholic front court as the visiting Lady Lions scored a convincing 59-32 win Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. Roselle Catholic the No. 1 ranked team in Union County was led by center Taniya Hanner, who overpowered the Lady Highlanders with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Skylar Dowling and Fiona Kerr paced Gov. Livingston with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Lady Highlanders (4-7) will look to snap a three game losing streak when they travel to Metuchen on Monday to take on the 3-8 Bulldogs. Gov. Livingston will begin a stretch of four straight road games before returning home for a UCC cross division matchup with Union on February 3rd in Berkeley Heights.
Gov. Livingston came into Saturday's contest knowing that perennial Union County power Roselle Catholic (10-2) was not in a friendly mood after loosing two of their last three games. One of those losses was to conference rival Westfield which dropped Roselle Catholic into a tie for the UCC-Watchung divison lead with the Patrick School. Gov. Livingston, who was coming off lopsided losses to Cranford and Scotch Plains, was literally facing a "tall task" as the young Lady Highlanders had not faced a team with the size and strength of Roselle Catholic this season.
After winning the opening tap, Roselle Catholic immediately exerted their front court size, as 6’ 0” Nina Worthey (8 pts) rebounded a missed shot and sank two free throws for the game's first points. Gov. Livingston who has had a hard time getting their offense going early in games got a quick hoop as junior Fiona Kerr beat her defender off the dribble tying the game. It was apparent the Roselle Catholic game plan was to feed their 6’2” center Hanner in the post and she quickly got going with a basket and a free throw. Kerr answered with another strong move to the basket and Paige Phillips followed with a short jumper as the Lady Highlanders found themseleves holding their own with a 6-5 lead four minutes into the contest. However, the Lady Lions would go on a 9-0 run before Kerr interrupted that surge with her third hoop of the quarter. Roselle Catholic then closed out the quarter when their outstanding senior point Tyara McQueen (10 pts.) hit a three ball and then hit Hanner on a nifty feed for a quick five points to extend the visitors lead to 19-8 as the quarter ended.
As the second quarter got underway, the Lady Highlanders quickly found themselves in deep trouble as Roselle Catholic extended their lead to 24-8 as Victoria Jacobs (10 pts) followed a Hanner put back with the first of her two threes in the quarter. Again, it was Kerr who halted the Roselle Catholic run as she pushed the Lady Highlanders on a mini run of their own. First, Kerr converted two free throws, followed with a jumper and then hit two more foul shots as the home team drew within 10 with just over three minutes left in the second quarter.
Earlier in the quarter, Gov. Livingston coach Chris Eckert had inserted sophomore guard Shannon Polimeni (4 pts) into the game to run the offense in an effort to free up leading scorer Skylar Dowling and it payed off as the quarter was coming to a close. With Polimeni confidently running the offense, and seniors Michelle Coyle and Ally McGlynn battling their much bigger front court opponents under the hoop, the Lady Highlanders outscored Roselle Catholic 13-6 over the next three minutes of play. Deep threat Dowling then hit back to back three-pointers as Gov. Livingston found themselves back in the contest after cutting the 16 point deficit to just seven with seconds to play in the half.
Scoring from both inside and the perimeter, the well balanced attack of the Lady Lions was on full display two minutes into the second half as the Lady Highlanders quickly found themselves down by 16 points. Dowling knocked down a three to stem the tide but Jacobs immediately answered on the other end with a three of her own. Roselle Catholic’s veteran coach Joe Skrec also made some halftime defensive adjustments which included moving Jacobs on to Kerr who led Gov. Livingston with 12 first half points. A full court Roselle Catholic press also had Gov. Livingston off balance and the Lady Highlanders never regained an offensive rhythm the remainder the game. With Hanner dominating in the paint, Gov. Livingston was out scored 18-5 in the third quarter as Roselle Cathoilic built an insurmountable 22 point lead en route to their convincing win.
After facing Metuchen Monday in a crossover county matchup, Gov. Livingston will play two critical UCC-Moutain division foes -- Summit and Johnson -- later in the week. The Lady Highlanders will not only be looking to improve their 1-4 conference record, but also their potential seeding in the upcoming Union County Tournament.