CHATHAM, NJ – With less than five seconds remaining and a 61-61 tie game, Gavin Farrow fired up a long shot for the Governor Livingston Highlanders that missed its mark. After players from both teams attempted to gain possession of the ball, the Highlanders' Andrew Romeo laid in the game-winning basket to give his team a 63-61 victory as they defeated the Chatham Cougars on Wednesday night before over 200 fans in Chatham.
The basket was the only one of the game for Romeo, but it proved to be the most important of the 63 points the Highlanders scored.
“I always seem to find myself in the thick of things at the end, in important spots,” Romeo said. “My eyes lit up. I just stayed with it. I tipped it in and started celebrating,” he said about his game-winning basket.
The game was even throughout and the final quarter of play was particularly intense. The Highlanders were up 48-46 going into the fourth when Logan Kelley made a jump shot to put his team up by four.
The Cougars came roaring back when Jonathon Berntsen made a layup and Joe Times made a three pointer as part of a 5-0 run to put the Cougars up 51-50 with about six and a half minutes left to play.
Later in the quarter, Brendan Damodaran made a short jump shot for the Cougars to even the score at 61 apiece.
After the Highlanders failed to convert on their next possession, the Cougars had control of the ball and took a time out with a little over 24 seconds left. However, after that, they turned the ball over on a poor inbounds play.
“It was a good effort. I have no problem with the effort. We played very well on offense,” Cougars' Head Coach Todd Ervin said. “We needed a couple of stops and we didn’t get them,” he said.
It was senior night in Chatham and the Cougars came out looking more than ready in a physical, competitive basketball game.
Senior Brian Ballard scored a three pointer to start the contest. Damodaran, another senior Cougar, also made a couple of lay ups during the first quarter. The Cougars were up 10-3 at the 2:44 mark of the first and had a 13-7 lead after eight minutes of play.
“We were ready to play. It was a good start,” Coach Ervin said. “All the seniors stepped up. It was a good night for them.”
The Highlanders came back in the second quarter, outscoring the Cougars 22 to 17. Kelley caught fire as he made three 3-point field goals in the quarter. He also made a layup as time expired before halftime. Kelley led the Highlanders with 19 points. The Highlanders were down by just one, 30-29, heading into the third quarter.
Coming out of the halftime gate, both teams played some fairly even, back and forth basketball. Ballard made a short jumper and a layup as part of a 7-0 run, but then Mike Cranston made a three pointer for the Highlanders to tie the game at 39.
In one of the most exciting plays in high school basketball, 6’9 center Kevin Ferguson of the Highlanders slammed in a ferocious dunk off an offensive rebound. That put his team up 41-39 at that point. Kelley finished the quarter with a short jump shot as the Highlanders were up 48-46 at the end of the third.
“They gave us a hard time. We didn’t really know too much about them,” Romeo said of the Cougars. “They definitely played hard, but we just fought it off to the end like we always do.”
The Highlanders are now 14-5 after Wednesday night’s win. Their next contest is a game against Abraham Clark High School on February 22nd at 7 p.m.
The Cougars will next host Pequannock High School this Friday at 7 p.m.