BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Behind a balanced effort offensively, the Gov. Livingston Highlanders boys' basketball team defeated Roselle, 46-36, on Thursday night.
With the victory, the Highlanders swept the regular season series with the Rams and captured their eighth victory of the season in the process. Senior Rob Imbalzano, coming off a career-high 33-point effort at Cranford on Tuesday, paced the Highlanders with 10 points. After a slow start to the season, Imbalzano has now scored in double figures seven of the last eighth contests. Imbalzano’s efforts were complemented by junior Javon Reis-Wilson’s nine points and senior Jimmy Longo’s season-high eight points.
Pleased with his team’s overall execution en route to its second consecutive win, head coach Steve Petruzzelli is still waiting for his team to put together a consistent string of games.
“We are yet not a model of consistency, which is what we need, to beat some the high level teams we’re going to be facing in the coming weeks,” Petruzzelli said. “We executed well on offense against their (Roselle’s) 2-3 zone but just didn’t have the focus to finish the plays. Guys were passing up shots which is frustrating because we had them right where we wanted them. We just didn’t finish.”
The Highlanders may not have finished like they should’ve on offense; but there was no denying their ability to finish on the fast break. Transition points are critical when playing a team that implements a 2-3 zone because it doesn’t allow the defense to settle into the zone. One way to get out in transition is through turnovers, and senior Chris Marzo and the rest of the Highlanders were fully aware of that.
Once again, Marzo led the efforts defensively as his steals and deflections allowed the Highlanders to convert those turnovers into quick points offensively. Many of those forced turnovers came during Governor Livingston’s 17-2 run that spanned the second and third quarters. The Highlanders’ lead rose to as much as 14 during the run. The deficit proved too much for Roselle to overcome.
“We’re getting better each game at converting in transition,” Petruzzelli said. “For one, our big guys are getting a lt better at running the floor.”
The Governor Livingston forwards, especially Imbalzano and Longo, were just as key to the victory as Marzo and the ball-hawking Highlander guards. Sensing his team needed a boost of energy after the slow start, Petruzzelli subbed junior Chris Longo and little-used 6’2 junior Matt Bruno into the game and the moves proved wise immediately. The duo’s toughness and energy inside was felt immediately and paid dividends on both ends of the floor. Longo’s five third quarter points were just enough to help his team take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Bruno’s energy was felt moreso on the defensive end as the nimble junior proved to be a pest for the Rams.
For as much praise as Petruzzelli gave his forwards for getting out in transition and providing a spark, he was equally disappointed in the rebounding efforts. The Highlanders struggled throughout the game to grab defensive rebounds and Roselle took advantage of it. If not for the rebounding struggles, the Highlanders would’ve had more transition opportunities. “The amount of second chance opportunities Roselle had were killing me,” Petruzzelli said. “Rebounding struggles like tonight will come back to haunt us in the future if we don’t get it together.”
Imbalzano agreed with his coach’s assessment. “We came out flat tonight but a win is a win,” Imbalzano said. “They killed us on the glass tonight but I think we did a good job buckling down near the end of the game and doing what we had to do.”
Buckling down has certainly not been a problem for Imbalzano during the month of January as the senior captain has been on a tear offensively. Thursday’s contest may not have been the type of follow-up game many expected after his career performance Tuesday, but Imbalzano’s content with that.
Imbalzano’s unselfish attitude is reflective of the entire team. The Highlanders have proven they can win games in which Imbalzano explodes for over 30 points. And like tonight, they proved they can win when no player scores more than 10. Like Imbalzano said, “A win is a win”, and the Highlanders will take the wins any way they can get them.
The Highlanders will face the Dayton Bulldogs in the Coaches vs Cancer game for a cure on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at Gov. Livingston High School.