ROSELLE, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlanders exploded for 23 fourth quarter points to surge past the Roselle Rams for a 56-50 victory Friday night in Roselle.
Junior Matt Faller, playing in his first game at Gov. Livingston, scored a game high 21 points,including 15 in the second half as the Highlanders overcame a 9 point third quarter deficit to earn the win in the season opener for both teams. In the final 8 minutes Roselle was able to fight off two Gov. Livingston runs before a pair of free throws from Matt Schuman (5 pts, 8 Reb) with just under two minutes gave the Highlanders their first lead since the opening minute of the game. Highlander guards Ryan Davey and Josh Coldon also had a productive scoring games with 13 and 9 points respectively.
Gov. Livingston will next host preseason UCC-Valley division favorite Rahway (2-0) Tuesday night in their home opener. Tipoff 7pm.
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Gov. Livingston's junior center Dylan DeFronzo (6 pts,6 reb) scored the Highlanders first hoop of the season and the games first points on a nice inbound play to give his team a very short lived lead at 2-0. Roselle then went on a 10-0 run, hiting a pair of 3 balls and scoring off a couple turnovers as Gov. Livingston’s young team seemed a bit overwhelmed by opening night jitters in a hostile raucous gym. It took nearly five minutes before Josh Coldon (9 pts,6 assists ) ended the scoring drought with a long three from the wing. Schuman (5 pts,8 Reb) and Davey (13, 3 steals) then both hit mid-range jumpers in the last minute of the quarter as the Highlanders closed to within one after one quarter of play.
In the 2nd quarter, Roselle was able to expand their lead to five points and although Gov. Livingston got to within a possession of taking the lead, the Highlanders just could not overtake the Rams. The Highlanders headed into the locker room at the half down 24-19 and it just didn't look like they were going to have enough offense to get the job done. However, defensively Gov. Livingston settled down and the Highlanders length guarding the perimeter had begun to slow down the long range shooting of the Rams.
The third quarter was shaping up, like a replay of the second. Despite the Highlanders finding holes in the Ram defense, every time they closed to within striking distance the Rams would push their lead back up. Midway through the quarter, it was now a critical point in the game for the Highlanders as the Rams lead ballooned to a game high 9 point differential. However, what Gov. Livingston coach Chris Loeffler saw from his team over the remainder of the game had to make him optimistic about his teams potential going forward.
Over the last 12 minutes of the game, the Highlanders turned up the defensive pressure with Davey, Schuman, Coldon and senior Evan Reiner all forcing numerous Ram turnovers. As a result of their defensive effort, the Highlanders picked up a few easy hoops on run outs and combined with Faller hitting from all over the court they finally took the lead at 49-48 with 2:30 left in the game. After Roselle failed to score on their next possession, Ram senior guard James Alderman managed to steal the ball and convert a go ahead drive to the rim to give the Rams a one point lead .
Now trailing by a point with the home crowd whipped into a frenzy, the game for the Highlanders was literally on the line, specifically on the foul line. First, senior Schuman was fouled under the hoop and calmly sank two free throws to put the Highlanders back up 51-50. After Roselle failed to score, Gov. Livingston played keep away as they ran 1:20 off the clock clinging to their one point lead. Finally, Roselle coach Mike Smith ordered his team to foul and the Rams sent Highlander point guard Coldon to the line with 21 seconds left in the game. Coldon came through with 2 clutch free throws as Gov. Livingston, now up by three, was at worse looking at OT. On Roselle’s final possession of the game it was another big defensive play by the Highlanders as Reiner stripped Alderman as he was attempting a game tying three. The game ended as Davey picked up the loose ball and scored one last hoop to cap the comeback victory.
Up next, Gov. Livingston will square off against Rahway (2-0), a well coached, physical, and aggressive team. The Indians are led by seniors Keyshawn Cummings and Zion Pendelton, who both are big time scorers and tenacious defenders. Last season, Gov. Livingston lost two times to Rahway in very close games with Cummings and Pendleton both having big games. Tuesday night's home opener should provide the young Highlanders a nice early season challenge.