BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlander basketball team and the their neighborhood rival the New Providence Pioneers locked up in a classic hoop battle before an overflowing Super Saturday crowd yesterday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. The gut wrenching back and forth contest was not decided until New Providence's Dylan Bedder (14 pts,18 Reb) took a heads up dish from Sean Dillon (4 pts, 8 A) and scored the game's winning hoop with 2.7 seconds left on the clock to give the Pioneers a 51-49 victory.
Gov. Livingston was in perfect position to upset the favored visiting Pioneers as they had regained possession of the ball with less than 30 seconds left in the game, after the Highlanders leading scorer Matt Faller (14 pts) had scored four consecutive points to tie the game at 49 all. However, the Highlanders came up short when Faller's foul line jumper caught the back of the rim and the Pioneers point guard Dillon was then able to push the ball up court for the winning hoop. The game was an intense affair, which featured multiple lead changes, compelling individual matchups, outstanding team play, and rabid student fan support. All of that combined sets up a compelling rematch when the two teams will tangle again on February 19th in New Providence. Both teams will be back in action on Tuesday night. Gov. Livingston now 4-3 will travel to Summit (6-1) to take on a very good Hilltopper team. While New Providence (7-1) will also be facing a tough opponent when they host an undefeated Rahway (6-0) team.
One thing that was apparent early in the game was neither team felt any pressure from the raucous crowd who jammed their way into the gym for the Super Saturday's marquee matchup. It may have been due to the fact that 9 of the 10 starters were seniors, as both teams came out strong. After Greg Meyers (14 pts, 5 Reb) opened the game scoring with a deep three, the Highlanders Ryan Davey (15 pts) answered right back with a three of his own and it was game on from there.
Coming in, the Highlanders wanted to play at a deliberate offensive pace to limit the number of shots the high powered Pioneer offense would be able to get off. New Providence Coach Cattano had to be pleased that the pace of the first quarter of play was fast and loose with his team getting up plenty of shots, especially from behind the arch. Meyers led the way for the Pioneers scoring 10 in the opening quarter. Gov. Livingston Coach Loeffler may not have been happy with the game's tempo but he had to be pleased that four of his five starters got into the scoring book. Davey knocked in a pair of triples and a free throw for seven, followed by Faller with five, and Josh Coldon with four.The well played opening quarter resulted in a tie game with both teams putting up 18 points.
Bedder pushed New Providence into their first lead of the game as he scored two hoops down low to open the second quarter of play. Gov. Livingston answered with a Vinnie Mellusi (5 pts) jumper and a Dylan DeFronzo (7 pts., 10 Reb) to tie the game once again. DeFronzo then brought the Highlander student section to their feet when the 6'4 280 pound center drilled a three ball to put the Highlanders back in front. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter and Gov. Livingston went into the locker room with a 31-30 half time lead.
Over the past three seasons, this core group of New Providence players have used the third quarter to inflict some serious damage to opposing defenses. Gov. Livingston was keenly aware of this fact as they saw the Pioneers put up a 23 point third quarter on them in last year's Super Saturday game. In Saturday's game, just as it looked like the Pioneers were going to go on one of those big third quarter scoring runs, the Highlanders responded. First, Coldon (7 pts) drained a three ball to break the Pioneers momentum and then the Highlander defense dug and limited the damage. New Providence did close out the quarter with a 45-40 lead, but Gov. Livingston was still within striking distance.
New Providence grabbed their largest lead of the game 47-40, two minutes into the last quarter, but once again, Gov. Livingston got a huge three ball, this time from Davey, his fourth of the game, to break the Pioneers' momentum. New Providence now clinging to a 49-45 lead began to run clock looking for only a sure layup. After Bedder was stripped by Faller in the paint, he drove the length of the court for a running layup to bring the Highlanders to within two, at 49-47. When Richie Wazzycki (6 pts) had a spinning drive roll off the rim, Faller grabbed the rebound and once again drove the length of the court. This time Faller was fouled on his move to the hoop and the senior calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 49 with just under a minute to play.
Over the next 30 seconds, both teams had forced turnovers followed by wide open looks which did not result in breaking the tie. After a missed New Providence shot, Gov. Livingston looked to be in great shape as they took back possession of the ball .
After a Gov. Livingston timeout, the ball was inbounded to Coldon who brought it into the front court. The Highlander play called for the ball to go to Faller, who was to take the game's last shot. Faller curled around a DeFronzo screen at the top of the key shaking his defender. Bedder stepped up to defend Faller as he let his jumper go. Unfortunately for Gov. Livingston, Faller's shot caught the back of the rim and rebounded long with almost 10 seconds left on the clock. Brian Kelly (10 pts. 4 Reb ), who was initially guarding Faller, snatched the rebound out of the air and alertly flipped the ball to his point guard Dillon.
The speedy Dillon pushed the ball up court, splitting two defenders as he brought the ball into the front court. As Dillon was met on the right side of the basket, he spotted Bedder on the left block. Bedder had beaten everyone else up court and was in perfect position to take Dillion's feed and score the ball to give the Pioneers the lead.
Gov. Livigston did manage to get a timeout called with 2.7 seconds left in the game which gave the Highlanders one last chance to come away with a win. On the final play of the game Coldon hit Davey with a pass at mid court. Davey was able to get a clean look at the basket and he almost connected as his long shot hit the front of the rim.
This was a particularly tough loss for Gov. Livingston not only because it came against their fiercest rival but they know they let what have been a quality win slip through their fingers.
Highlander Hoop Notes
Matt Faller has hit for double figures in all seven games this season.
Gov. Livingston had five different players connect on three pointers against New Providence. The team made 8 three’s Saturday, a season high.
Gov. Livingston has now dropped three straight to New Providence.
Tuesday's opponent Summit has lost only one game, a TRIPLE OT loss to Imaculatta.
As of Monday morning, the Highlanders are slotted as the 12th seed in the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 Playoff Bracket.Their is a ton of basketball to be played before the final seeds in mid February.