UNION, NJ - The Governor Livingston girls basketball team had two reasons to make it right on Sunday night at Kean University.
First, they lost to Roselle Catholic last season in the Union County Final, and second, the lone loss so far this season came against their Sunday opponent, Cranford. "We knew that we had to get back here," said Governor Livingston guard Alyssa Polimeni.
And this year, the Lady Highlanders did it right by taking home the Union County title with a 31-25 victory over Cranford. Governor Livingston raised its record to 24-1 and will be able to put up a county banner on the wall in Berkeley Heights.
"This was huge because it was the only loss of the season," said senior Sam Dowling, who had three points in the game.
For Governor Livingston, that loss to the Lady Cougars, 49-44, on Feb. 3 had been tattooed to their brains as head coach Andy Silvagni showed them the film from that game and basically dissected it.
"Our goal was transitional defense," said Dowling after the game. "We got killed on the transition in the last game. We had to play better transitional defense today.”
Polimeni led the way with a game-high 15 points and Alyssa George added five points to the victory.
But it was also the defense of Dowling who was defending Cranford's Morgan Miller. Miller dropped 25 points against the Highlanders in the Feb. 3 game, but on Sunday she was limited to six points. "She's really tough," said Dowling about Miller. "She can hit the three as well as drive."
While Dowling was shutting out Miller, Polimeni was attacking the basket and hitting her free throw shots that gave the Highlanders the edge.
After the game, Polimeni gave Dowling credit for shutting down Miller. The Feb. 3 game against Cranford was the first game back for Dowling after suffering a concussion.
Miller had only one point until about 90 seconds were remaining in the game. By that time Governor Livingston's defense was in full effect and had enough on the offensive end to give them the county title.
Coming into the game the expectations were high for the Lady Highlanders, especially as they had made it to the finals in the 2010-11 season.
In the loss on Feb. 3, Governor Livingston was outscored 24-6 in the second quarter. But on Sunday night the Lady Highlanders stayed even with them and outscored Cranford, 7-6, as Governor Livingston led 16-14 heading into the second half.
The Lady Highlanders defense went into high gear in the second half as Governor Livingston limited the Cougars to five points.
But at the same time, the Lady Highlanders could not pull away from Cranford as they took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter, 23-19. Governor Livingston was looking to pull away after Mallory George drove the baseline for a 26-19 lead with a little more than three minutes left in the game, but the Highlanders offense could not enlarge the lead and finally Miller scored with a three-point shot from the top of the key.
Despite the good Governor Livingston defense, the Highlanders were still only ahead by four, 26-22 with 90 seconds left in the game.