CLARK, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders girls varsity basketball team used a balanced team effort on offense to defeat the Governor Livingston High School Highlanders by a final score of 54-46 Saturday morning in Clark.
Prior to the game, the Crusaders’ seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony. Seniors Kellie Bonaccorso, Danielle Hartzler, Shelby Lynes, Tina Palella and Amy Wysocki were recognized for their hard work and dedication.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Johnson second-year head coach Joe Marino said. “These girls bring a lot to the table. They’re leaders at times and they’ve got these young girls under their wings. They’re basically trying to improve them for the future, which is nice.”
One player reflected on the kinship she has developed through her years with her teammates.
“All the relationships I’ve formed over the years have been great,” Bonaccorso said. “I’ve gained so many sisters. We’re all there for each other, we love each other and playing has been great these past four years. It’s upsetting, but it’s been a good run.”
The ceremony came to a close and the game got underway. The Crusaders took a quick 9-4 lead about four minutes into the first quarter, receiving baskets from Palella, Wysocki and Hartzler. They built a 17-11 lead, before Palella beat the buzzer with a three-point shot to make the game 20-11 Johnson after the first eight minutes of play.
“It’s been fun playing basketball with the five girls I’ve grown up with in basketball,” Palella said. “Today showed how hard we really played together and how good it should be during the season.”
During the second quarter, Wysocki lead the charge to answer Highlanders baskets. She scored ten of her 15 points in the quarter, including three baskets and a three-point shot, as Johnson took a 34-23 lead at halftime.
Governor Livingston came out of halftime and trimmed the lead down to 34-28 with 5:00 left in the third quarter. Johnson answered with key baskets, coming from Palella and a big three-point shot from Lynes.
Johnson led Governor Livingston 44-36 after the third quarter, but the Highlanders battled back to make it a close game.
“We knew [Johnson] was going to take Skylar [Dowling] out of the game. We had a game plan for it and a couple of girls stepped up,” Governor Livingston first-year head coach Chris Eckert said.
Despite the Highlanders rally, the Crusaders stood strong and held them off for the rest of the game, ending a streak of six straight losses.
“Especially with this season, we’ve had a rough patch,” Wysocki said. “We were resilient today and we got over the rough patch. We came out and worked as a team and we showed what we’re truly capable of doing and that’s what Johnson basketball really is to me. Just dealing with adversity, getting over it and getting the win.”
The win framed the day for another Johnson senior.
“It’s all been great since we started because when we started, we weren’t winning,” Lynes said. “We came together at practice and now we’re on a good roll.”
Today was a symbol for one team member of her time spent with this group of girls.
“This day in particular, emphasizes what my whole career has been about, [which is] playing with the seniors that I love,” Hartzler said. “If I didn’t have them the past four years, I don’t know who else I could’ve done it with.”
The Johnson Crusaders (4-10) return to action Tuesday afternoon when they travel to take on Cranford HS at 4:00 p.m.