BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston boys basketball team snapped a three game losing streak with a convincing 52-32 win over the Big Blue of the Pingry School Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
Matt Faller knocked down three 3-pointers on his way to a game high 16 points and Tyler McCulloch put up 15 more to pace the Highlanders who won for the fourth time this season. Gov. Livingston (4-5) used a 9-0 burst midway through the third quarter to break open the game and then cruised the rest of the way for the much needed victory. The Highlanders will now play their next four games at home and look to get back to the .500 mark when they host Koinonia Academy Tuesday at 7 p.m.
After dropping disappointing back to back UCC-Valley conference games to Scotch Plains and Summit, Gov. Livingston was looking to get back on track against Pingry who came into the contest with a 2-7 record. The Big Blue led by four year starter Mike Weber (10 pts), who should reach the 1000 point career mark later this year, were certainly not going to make things easy for the Highlanders as they were also looking to right their season. Pingry jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead before a Faller drive and a Ryan Davey three gave Gov. Livingston a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the game. Gov. Livingston coach Chris Loeffler went with a smaller quicker lineup to start the game and with his team up 7-6 he employed a half court trap which immediately yielded dividends. After the Highlander defense forced numerous turnovers, Evan Reiner put together two nifty drives which produced a hoop and two free throws and the lead was expanded to 9 as the first quarter closed on a Matt Schuman (6 pts,9 reb) jumper.
Weber opened the second quarter with a three, but the Highlanders, with Faller and McCulloch finding their range, saw the lead expanded to 23-9 with just over two minutes left in the quarter. Pingry scored the game's next five points and closed to within a manageable 9 points as the half ended.
The game took on a much quicker pace as the second half gone under way. Like Gov. Livingston’s Loeffler, Pingry coach Jason Murdoch had his team step up their defensive pressure by employing a trapping 3/4 court press.However, the Highlanders scored the first six points of the half and it looked like the rout was on at 29 -13. To Pingry’s credit, they didn't abandon their defensive strategy and started finding their range from deep, hitting three 3-balls in the quarter. Faller provided seven third quarter points allowing the Highlanders to hold onto the double digit lead they had built up earlier in the quarter, but Pingry was clearly showing more fight.
After Highlander Ferdinando Melo (4 pts) opened the fourth quarter with a nice reverse layup the game took a sudden turn in the favor of the Big Blue. Weber, who had been bottled up all day by Schuman, hit a banker and Phito Jean-Louis (7 pts) dropped a three ball as Pingry closed to within 8. Gov. Livingston quickly regained the game's momentum as Melo took a nice post feed from Jackson Dultz and McCulloch powered his way to the basket for an and one to crush any hopes of a Pingry comeback. Defensively, Gov. Livingston allowed only one more basket the remainder of the game and Pingry’s 32 points was the lowest total the Highlanders have yielded this season.
Gov. Livingston will take on the Koinonia Academy on Tuesday, a team that they defeated on Jan. 2nd by a score of 56-36. That Gov. Livingston 20 point win was not an easy victory as the Highlanders needed a big 20-5 fourth quarter to pull away for the win. It will be interesting to see how the Highlanders defend Jim Clemente, who averages 16.5 per game and scored 19 in the teams first matchup. The trapping defense that Gov. Livingston used to take out Pingry and keep Weber in check would appear to be an effective one against Koinonia and the high scoring Clemente. In their two lopsided losses to SPF and Summit last week, a change in the defensive tempo of the game may have left those opposing teams feeling a bit more uncomfortable as they attempted to run their offenses.