SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In a defensive struggle that saw both teams treating each overtime possession like it was a Fabergé egg, Scotch Plains-Fanwood held Gov. Livingston without a field goal over the game's final 9:37 to come away with a 52-49 double-overtime victory in the preliminary round of the Union County Tournament Saturday afternoon.
After a 45-45 deadlock at the end of regulation, the teams held each other scoreless in the first overtime. Scotch Plains-Fanwood (5-17) outscored GL, 7-4, in the second overtime, as the Highlanders missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final seconds to seal the decision.
Senior forward Justin Guy led 12th-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood with 20 points. Senior forward Connor Bigelow scored 13 points to pace 13th-seeded Gov. Livingston.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood moves on to face fifth-seeded Westfield in the next round on Wednesday. Westfield beat Jonathan Dayton, 60-42, in another first-round game.
Gov. Livingston (6-14) took a 45-43 lead with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter when Vinny Mellusi drove the baseline and dished to Ferdinando Melo for a layup. But the Raiders held GL scoreless for the rest of the fourth quarter and tied it with 37 seconds left on Justin Fletcher's layup assisted by Hayden Widder.
The Highlanders missed a 3-pointer with a clean look from the left side of the arc just before the fourth-quarter buzzer and Fletcher controlled the defensive rebound.
After the scoreless first OT, Widder scored on a drive with 3:29 left in the second OT for a 47-45 Raider lead. Sean McCulloch sank one of two free throws for GL before Raul Lugo came up with the first of several big plays he'd make for SPF down the stretch. Lugo drove toward the basket and fed Fletcher for a layup with 2:24 left for a 49-47 SPF lead. Melo cut it to one, 49-48, with a pair of free throws with 2:10 left.
Lugo, getting extended minutes after two Raiders had fouled out, scored on a baseline drive with 45 seconds to go, extending the Scotch Plains lead to 51-48. He also sank one of two foul shots with 19 seconds left for a 52-48 lead.
Mellusi hit one of two free throws for the Highlanders with 14.5 seconds left to shape the final score. With both teams going at each other with tight man-to-man defenses in the latter stages of the contest, GL's only scoring after the 1:37 mark of the fourth quarter came on four free throws in six attempts.
Gov. Livingston, after losing to SPF, 50-46, in the regular season, appeared poised to turn this one into a runaway early. The Highlanders scored the game's first seven points on a 3-pointer and a jumper by Brian McGrath and a fastbreak layup by Bigelow. The Highlanders led, 12-4, after one quarter, and held Scotch Plains-Fanwood to just two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the game before the home team started to chip away, tying the game for the first time at 18-18 on a layup by Guy late in the second quarter.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood's biggest lead was five, 31-26, late in the third quarter, but from the final minute of the third period right up until the end of the game, it was a one-possession affair for virtually the entire way.