NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - It was an exciting finish, to one of the biggest games of the year, Gov. Livingston Highlanders defeated the New Providence Pioneers, in a game where the Pioneers were in control for most of the game.

It happened in dramatic fashion, as the Highlanders clawed their way back from a sizeable deficit in the first quarter to defeat the Pioneers 59-58, with a game winning three pointer from the Highlander’s Ryan Davey. Davey who only had one field goal attempt, had the most important field goal of the night.

The much-anticipated rivalry game was matched by the number seats that fill the stands. Fans from both New Providence and neighboring Berkeley Heights were in attendance, to witness what proved to be an exciting game.

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The Pioneers started the first quarter dominant, outscoring the Highlanders 22 to 9, with Greg Meyers scoring 9 points, with three 3-pointers. Dylan Bedder was an imposing force, playing stifling defense in the paint, as he came away with 8 blocks in the game.

But, after the first quarter the Highlanders began their comeback campaign, first cutting the deficit to four by the end of the second quarter and at the of the third quarter, kept pace with Pioneers, needing only six to tie. By the end of the fourth quarter, the Highlanders had outscored the Pioneers 18-11.

The rivalry game wasn’t the only source of excitement of the night, several notable New Providence residents and students were recognized for their achievements. Senior night was celebrated before tipoff, honoring all Pioneer seniors on the basketball team: Will Faucher, Jon Romeo, and Thomas Mickel.

Laurie Barletta, was also recognized, with the Bo Cattano Pioneer Spirit Award. The award is given to a selfless person, who contributes positively to the community. The award comes in part for her work as President of the Athletics Booster Club. Under her leadership, the Booster Club has raised funds that support the beautification of New Providence facilities and created opportunities for students to give back to the community. This ceremony came at a time when Barletta stepped down as President of the Booster Club, after she accepted a position within the New Providence School district. 

Hannah Caminiti was honored with the New Providence Female Athlete of the year award, an award, which recognizes a student athlete’s successes in athletics, academics, and the community. Caminiti, a senior, has been a major contributor to the Lady Pioneers' triumph this year.

In addition to Caminiti’s on court accomplishments, her off court actions are just as impressive or even more. Caminiti's list attainments include: Chief Editor of the Photojournalism Club, Character Education Member, Peer Leader, participant for Relay for Life, Volunteer at TryCan (a collaboration of Summit and other nearby communities that offers a comprehensive array of recreation programs for children with special needs), and Special Olympics.

Caminiti, who partnered with basketball teammates Katie Kinum and Brielle Carleen, continued their 3-year campaign to end the R (retard) word. Caminiti drew inspiration from the bonds she created volunteering at TryCan and started the end the R word campaign with banners and posters during the annual rivalry basketball game between Berkeley Heights and New Providence. “I wanted to get word across,” said Caminiti.

The success of the first event evolved from posters and banners, to a game between the girls’ basketball team against a special Olympics team. This year, the NJ Tomahawks participated in the event.

The NJ Tomahawks is a High Expectations, Inc. team, an organization, “dedicated to the enrichment of the 'whole person' by providing developmentally disabled individuals and their families access to athletic, recreational and social activities to supplement their educational and vocational training,” per their company website.

While the movement raises money to donate to the Special Olympics, the main objective is to educate the community.

“It is a great way to make change,” said Kinum, who has personal attachments to the campaign. Kinum expressed joy, viewing the reaction from the crowd and feels that “it is a great way to bring the community together and make a change.” Kinum is moved to action because of cousins, who are special needs children.

While seniors Brielle, Caminiti, and Kinum, spearhead the event, they aren’t the only Character Education members heavily involved. Sarah Bottazzi, William Nave, and Marissa Policarpo, are just a few of the students who were heavily involved and will continue the campaign after the seniors have graduated.

Michael P. Curci, President, CEO, and co-creator of the Shining Star Network, with his spouse Sally Curci, was at the event to cover the game. Curci, who has two children in the NJ Tomahawks [ages 14 and 18], created the Shining Star Network in 2012 to, “shine a light on the special needs community through media, events and experiences,” per the organization’s website.

“This is a great way for the community to come together,” said Curci and felt that events like these allow communities to build relationships with teams like the NJ Tomahawks. In addition to the much-needed media coverage, The Shining Star Network, which is based in Cranford, also hosts an annual talent show for special needs children. This year the event is being held at Orange Avenue School on April 7 and 8. For ticket information email shiningstarnetwork@gmail.com.

New Providence Middle School students also participated on this charitable night. Elizabeth Blank, Tanya Maini, Rinda Hyde, and Grace Dalton, are part of the 8th grade Peer Leader Group and were in attendance to collect funds for Relay for Life in the form of a bake sale.