BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It was only fitting that Saturday's Mountain Division match-up between Governor Livingston and Summit - a game twice delayed by snowstorms in consecutive weeks - lasted just a little bit longer than a regulation high school basketball contest. And in an ode to the winter weather that twice postponed this meeting between rivals, the second half got very cold - as in ice cold shooting. It was not a skillful display of offensive hoops on either side of the ball, but Governor Livingston played gritty, determined basketball and erased a fourth quarter Summit lead to force overtime where the Highlanders outscored the Hilltoppers 10-5 in the extra frame to put the finishing touches on a 48-43 victory.
"It was huge," Governor Livingston senior guard Rob Ingebretsen said of his team's Saturday afternoon victory over rival Summit. "Sometimes you get those days where the shots aren't going down, they weren't going down for me and a couple of our other good shooters. We're happy that we got out of here with a win. It was huge for us to come together, pull together and get a win."
The Highlanders actually held a 12-5 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a quick shooting start by Ingebretsen's teammate, guard Mike Rielly. The 6-2 senior guard hit a long three pointer to open the game's scoring and added a sweet back-door layup and another three from the top of the key to give him eight of the Highlanders' 12 first quarter points. Rielly was the only Governor Livingston player to finish the game having scored in double figures as he finished with a game-high 20 points. Rielly also drilled four from long distance and unlike the rest of his teammates, actually shot relatively well from the charity stripe.
The Hilltoppers turned it on in the second quarter as they played well defensively and forced five turnovers. Summit outscored Governor Livingston 17-11 in the quarter thanks to Dwaine Dabney who hit two threes and contributed all six of his points on the afternoon in the second period.
The Hilltoppers held a 22-20 lead in the final minute of play in the first half and looked as if they would head to the locker room with an advantage of at least two points scoreboard, but the Highlanders snuck in a long three just before the buzzer. On a well-designed play by Highlanders head coach Steve Petruzzelli, Governor Livingston point guard Gavin Farrow split the top of the Summit zone and drove to the middle of the paint. When the Hilltoppers' defense collapsed to stop Farrow, he kicked the ball out to a wide open Mike Cranston who in turn knocked down a long three with under five seconds remaining in the half to give the home team a one-point lead at the break, 23-22.
Even though the Highlanders shot relatively well in the first half, the very first play of the second half was an omen - an ominous one at that - that illustrated just how difficult it would be for Governor Livingston to put together any type of sustained offense for the next 16 minutes. Farrow came up with a steal to start the third quarter, but couldn't convert the open lay-up on the other end of the court.
The Highlanders scored only five points in the third quarter while the Hilltoppers - who also shot poorly during the period - doubled that number thanks to a solid effort by Shawn Hillas. Summit's lefty guard dropped in a couple nice drives and finished with a team-high 10 points on the afternoon. The Hilltoppers also got a clutch three pointer from Matt Rea and Summit led by four points, 32-28, heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled from the field in the fourth quarter as they continued the trend of tough second half shooting. Each team had chances to sink the other, but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. For Summit, turnovers were to blame for the Hilltoppers not being able to set up and consistently execute their offense.
On the other side of the court, the Highlanders were just bad from the free throw line late in the game when Summit had to foul in order to extend the game. Ingebretsen missed the front half of a one-and-one after being fouled by Summit to stop clock. Ingebretsen then missed the second half of a one-and-one on the very next possession after being fouled. Farrow followed by missing the front half of his one-and-one.
The Hilltoppers tied the game after Matt Wholey - who played a solid game for Summit on the afternoon as he finished with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds - pulled down an offensive rebound off of Clayton Johnson's missed three-pointer and dropped in a lay-up that tied the game at 38-38 with less than 10 seconds left in regulation.
All told, the Highlanders failed to ice the game down the stretch from the free throw line, a fact not lost on Ingebretsen. "It was tough [today]. We're usually a pretty decent free throw shooting team but you get those days where they're not going in," Ingebretsen said. "It's not like they were bad misses - they were rimming in and out - so I'm not too worried about it."
Governor Livingston finally broke out of their 16-minute funk in the overtime period as they outscored the Hilltoppers 10-5 and finally sealed a win they were unable to finish off in regulation due to poor free throw shooting even though the Highlanders' free throw shooting in the extra frame wasn't all that much better.
Ingebretsen stole the ball and drove toward the hoop at the other end when Summit's Clayton Johnson hit hard and was immediately whistled for an intentional foul. Ingebretsen left the game and didn't return so Cranston took the free throws in his stead, making one of two. Logan Kelley then hit a lay-up on the inbounds following the intentional foul to put the Highlanders up, 41-38. Rielly then made two of his next four free throws after being fouled twice to stop the clock.
Summit's Cris Cafiero hit a three to pull the Hilltoppers to within two points. Rielly again hit one-of-two free throws, and Hillas answered with a tough driving lay-up to bring the game within one point at 44-43, but the Highlanders would score the final four points of the game to seal a tense 48-43 victory.
"We won last night, coming back in another nail-biter [against Cranford], gritted it out and then this game is huge because we have Chatham then New Providence and then we're in the state tournament so [the momentum from today's win] is big," Ingebretsen said.
After the game, Ingebretsen seemed to be in pain and was holding his shoulder during his post-game interview. "It's not that bad," Ingebretsen said of the shoulder. "I felt it slip out a little bit, but I think the trainer slipped it back in so it's just a little bit sore right now."
The Highlanders can scarcely afford another injury to a key player after losing starting point guard Max Machado to a broken bone in his foot last Friday night during a six-point loss to Rahway though Ingebretsen sounded positive about the chance - however small - to have Machado back for the state tournament. "[Max] is rehabbing it nicely and he's just keeping weight off of [his foot]," Ingebretsen said of Machado's progress over the past week. "I hope he's going to be back for at least one or two games, but right now we just can only hope for the best."
The win raised Governor Livingston's record to 13-8 on the year, 9-5 inside the Mountain Division while Summit fell to 8-12 overall, 7-7 in the division.