LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Columbia Cougars squad started with a rush of energy, resulting in an early lead that was maintained throughout the game, leading to a 63-44 victory over the Livingston Lancers in boys basketball on Thursday.

Backed by the strong defense of Mike Runcie, who also added 17 points, and the potent scoring of brother David (20 points), Columbia coasted to a 19-point victory.

“We reviewed game film and executed,” Cougar assistant coach Russell Carter said. “Our goal was to stop number 21, [Khalil Garnes] and our victory was a team effort.”

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Livingston remained in contention through the middle of the first quarter, when the score was 9-9. The Lancers relied on Khalil Garnes and Sean Duffy for most of their scoring as the two scored 15 and 11 points respectively.  Due to the increased ball pressure by the Cougar defense, which forced many turnovers, Columbia ended the quarter on an 11-0 run. After the score was tied early in the first quarter, David Rencie sparked this run with a long three pointer, and this energy fueled the team for success throughout the remainder of the game. The score at the end of the first quarter was 20-9.

The Lancers lessened the gap in the beginning of the second quarter, when they went on a 7-0 run, due to Eli Friedman’s abilities at the point guard position and Sean Duffy’s scoring. However, Columbia regained control by using the same tactic of pressuring the ball as in the first quarter, resulting in a 39-19 score at halftime.

“Turnovers led to at least a dozen first-half points,” said Head Lancers Coach Dave Cohen.

In the second half, the Columbia Cougars expanded their lead, reaching double Livingston’s score by the middle of the third quarter. The lead was maintained throughout the game and as a result, both teams benched the majority of their starting lineups by the fourth quarter.

“They’ve got some talented players and when you’re down 20 to a good team, it’s tough,” said Cohen.

Turnovers proved to be the major downfall of the Lancer squad. The “bad ball handling led to easy layups,” explained Khalil Garnes, the leading scorer for the Lancers.

Livingston (2-3) looks to bounce back against rival Millburn at the Joe Valentine fundraiser on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Livingston High School.