NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ- The New Providence Pioneers boys varsity basketball team took to their home floor against their crosstown rival, the Governor Livingston Highlanders, looking to continue to add momentum in the final week of the regular season.The Pioneers did just that as they recorded their 20th victory of the season against just four losses. Gov, Livingston saw its season mark drop below .500 at 10 up and 11 down.
A red hot offense throughout a majority of the first half and one late in the game led the Pioneers over the Highlanders by a final score of 74-58 Tuesday night in New Providence.
However it was actually the Highlanders who held the early lead, jumping out to a 7-2 lead just about three minutes into the game. Junior Greg Meyers got momentum going for the offense with a three-pointer that made it 7-5. Despite Governor Livingston making shots, New Providence continued pushing and eventually took the lead.
The Pioneers tied the score later in the quarter and took their first lead with another three-pointer from Meyers that made the score 16-13 New Providence. The Pioneers closed out the first quarter on a 9-2 scoring run.
Meyers and sophomore Sean Dillon drained back-to-back three pointers, while junior Brian Kelly added a basket to give New Providence a 25-15 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
Dillon finished the night with a game-high 18 points and spoke afterwards about his team’s ability to attempt and connect the long shots on a constant basis.
“We all trust each other to make threes [and] make threes,” Dillon said. “[Coach Cattano] has 100% confidence in us to make threes. He lets the reins loose and we fire away.”
After taking the lead late in the first quarter, the Pioneers never trailed in the game again. They scored six straight points over a span of one minute, increasing their lead to 31-18 with 5:35 left in the second quarter.
On the defensive side, Bedder gathered the rebounds and got the second chance shots off the backboard to cancel out Governor Livingston chances for rebounds.
“It’s just a lot of effort,” Bedder said. “We take a lot of pride in our defense, so we want to keep [Governor Livingston] as low as possible, just trying our hardest out there.”
The Highlanders continued to hang around with their players striking timely on offense. Juniors Matt Faller (14 pts) and Josh Coldon (7 pts), along with senior Matt Schuman (19 pts) powered the Highlanders, combining for 11 of the Highlanders’ 13 in the quarter as Governor Livingston cut a 20 point lead to 12 at the half.
As the third quarter started, New Providence immediately burst through the floodgates on offense, with a 10-0 scoring run to deliver a major punch to their crosstown rival.
Dillon drained two three-point shots, while senior Patrick Trezza and Bedder each drained a shot, forcing a Governor Livingston timeout after the first three-and-a-half minutes of the quarter, the New Providence lead now ballooned to 50-28.
In total, New Providence drained ten three-point shots, adding for an offense that averages 68.5 points per game and has scored 70 points in 14 games this season.
“That’s the way the game is today. We practice it all the time and I think all teams do it,” New Providence head coach Art Cattano said. “That’s why a big lead can disappear really fast because of a three-point shot. Our kids aren’t afraid to take it and we practice it all the time.”
Governor Livingston was able to string an offensive run of their own together. Faller drained a three-point shot and made two free throws, while junior Dylan De Fronzo drained a basket. The lead became 53-39 with 2:02 left in the third quarter, following the 7-0 Highlanders scoring run.
New Providence led Governor Livingston 58-46 after the third quarter, but the Highlanders made the game interesting for a bit in the fourth quarter. The Highlanders scored six straight points, coming from a Coldon basket and free throws from Schuman and Faller to cut the lead to 8, at 60-52 with 5:48 in the game. Gov. Livingston jump started their offense as they finally employed a full court press to open the last quarter which forced the Pioneers to turnover the ball.
“It’s a credit to [the kids], they don’t ever give up,” Governor Livingston head coach Chris Loeffler said. “Our guys play hard no matter what and our guys do what’s asked of them with everything they have.”
“We need a couple of those shots to fall in, in order for that defensive, full-court pressure to keep working in our favor,” he added.
Just as quickly as the lead was trimmed, New Providence built it back up.
Senior Tyler DeGeorge drained back-to-back three-point shots, making the score 66-52. The Pioneers went on an 8-0 scoring run, their last one of the evening, locking up their 20th victory of the season.
“It’s just the way we’re playing all-around together this year,” said Meyers, who scored all 11 of his points in the first half. “Everyone’s playing for each other and there’s a lot of spacing on the court because everyone can shoot, everyone can do everything.”
Cattano praised his players for their work put in, with the great season they’ve had up to this point.
“They’re very unselfish and it’s all about the chemistry,” Cattano said. “They have great chemistry and they care for each other very much. It’s a real, great group of kids to work with.”
Despite the loss, the Highlanders showed no quit, as they look to get back to .500 when they travel to Hillside Thursday to take on the Comets..
“We just have to never stop fighting like we did today,” Schuman said. “We could’ve easily put our heads down [when we are] down by 20, away and a tough crowd. Everybody kept fighting.”
“If we keep fighting like we did, we can definitely win some playoff games,” Schuman said.
The New Providence Pioneers (20-4) return to action in a home game against Caldwell HS tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m, before the state playoffs begin on Monday.
Gov. Livingston will take on Middletown North on Monday at home in the opening round of the states after they close out the regular season in Hillside.