BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston was trailing New Providence 55-53 with just seven seconds left on the clock when the ball found its way into senior guard Sean McCulloch's hands. McCulloch took two quick dribbles to his left behind the three point line, and let go a shot that would decide the hotly contested Super Saturday matchup. As he launched his jumper, McCulloch may not have called bank, but his last second shot was all "money" as the ball bounded off the backboard, took several friendly bounces off the rim before gently finding the bottom of the net giving the home town Highlanders a dramatic 56-55 win.
Throughout the game, there were a lot of turnovers, so Gov. Livingston head basketball coach told his squad they needed to keep possession in the last seconds of the game. "We could score if we just kept the ball -- and we were going for the win. At home you should probably go for the tie and play for overtime, but we had confidence in our guys to execute the play and get the shot we wanted. We drew up a play we run often, and the boys went out and executed it," said Loeffler. "Sean's teammates have all the confidence in the world in him. After two earlier misses late in the fourth, our bench could be heard yelling to Sean that, 'the next shot will fall, just keep shooting, it's gonna fall!' Sure enough, it did."
McCulloch's clutch shot not only set off a wild student body celebration but the thrilling victory also allowed the Highlander faithful to erase the bitter taste of two heart breaking closing second losses to arch rival New Providence last season.
In addition to his heroic shot and 13 point performance against New Providence, McCulloch opened the week with an outstanding 18 point effort in Gov. Livingston's first win of the season against Morristown. In that game, after the Colonials quickly erased most of a Highlander double digit half time lead, McCulloch then put the team on his back scoring 9 points in the final five minutes of the third quarter to keep the Highlanders in front.
For his determination, dedication to team, and clutch play, Sean McCulloch has been named the Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week.
Coach Loeffler had additional comments about McCulloch:
"Sean leads by example. Sean put the work in the off-season. Once he locked up his college baseball decision, he made a commitment to coming into the season in basketball shape. That early start has enabled him to get off to a much quicker start as an individual than his previous seasons. When younger guys see a senior diving on the floor for loose balls, no matter what the score, it becomes contagious."
Loeffler has coached Sean and his older brother Tyler ['16] and said they both are competitors -- "and that’s what you need in any sport at the high school level. Both of them really excel in baseball, but their competitive drive to win in whatever they do, helps them with the confidence on the basketball court. Both of them do whatever is asked for the better of the team. The team needed Tyler to be a big man his senior year and he did really well. With our point guard out, our team has needed Sean to handle the ball more than he would like, but he does it because the team needs it. They are and were team players first! It has been a pleasure coaching both of them, and I’m excited to get another one!!!"
Sean took time out to answer a few questions in recognition of being named Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week.
TAPinto: How bad did you want this one after losing to New Providence in the last seconds in both games last year?
Sean: I wanted this one badly. This was kind of a revenge game because of what happened last year in those two heartbreaking losses.
TAPinto: Walk us through what Coach Loeffler was looking for on the teams last possession?
Sean: Coach was looking for a good look and good shot during that last possession. It didn’t have to necessarily be a 3 pointer, but that was the look we ended up getting and it worked out.
TAPinto: After the shot hit the glass what was going through your mind as the ball was rolling around the rim?
Sean: All I was hoping for was for it to go in so my team could get the win.
TAPinto: How do you deal with the pressure of having to perform in front of a packed gym?
Sean: I honestly love the pressure and playing in front of a packed gym because it gets me even more amped up and ready for the game. I get locked in to perform at my best.
TAPinto: What qualities do you believe you bring to the team?
Sean: I believe that I bring leadership, enthusiasm, and basketball knowledge to the team.
TAPinto: Have you had another game winning shot or a big walk off in baseball?
Sean: Yes. I have had a walk off hit in baseball.
TAPinto: Toughest competitor you faced in HS in either basketball or baseball?
Sean: I have played a lot of tough teams in both sports throughout my high school career, but the one that stands out the most is when we played Manasquan in the state sectional semi final game last year for basketball.
TAPinto: What advice has anyone given you that has stuck in your mind?
Sean: One of my old coaches told me to always go 100% and play 100% no matter what the score was or what team we were playing. That has always stuck with me.
TAPinto: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Sean: My parents have been the most influential people in my life because they’ve supported me in everything I’ve wanted to do.
TAPinto: How do you want your teammates to remember you?
Sean: I want them to remember me as a leader and great teammate on and off the floor.
TAPinto: Do you have any rituals that you must perform before a game and why?
Sean: Yes. I listen to music before every game to get me fired up and ready to play.
TAPinto: Favorite pregame and post-game meals?
Sean: I don’t really eat before games but after games I like to eat pizza.
TAPinto: What will you miss most about Gov. Livingston ?
Sean: All of the people including my coaches, teachers, friends, and the rest of the staff.
TAPinto: When not playing sports what do you like to do?
Sean: I like to hang out with my friends and go on vacation.
TAPinto: You will be playing baseball next year at Susquehanna University, why did you choose this school?
Sean: It was the best fit for me academically and athletically. The campus is also really beautiful and all of the people there are so nice and friendly.
TAPinto: What do you plan on studying?
TAPinto: Dream job 10 years from now?
Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.
Valairco Heating & Cooling is celebrating 50 years in business. They are family owned and operated and know that keeping your HVAC systems running smoothly is important to the comfort of our customers, their families, and their guests. That is why their family is dedicated to taking care of yours, no matter what the issue may be. Using only top-quality parts to perform a higher-standard of service and all their services are backed by their 50 years of professional experience and 5-year comprehensive warranties. This means that when you call our team at Valairco, you benefit from their total commitment to your complete satisfaction.