NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ- Governor Livingston sophomore Skylar Dowling has been a major threat towards opposing team’s defenses all season long and stepped up at major points for her team.
In a battle that went to double overtime with their crosstown rival, the New Providence High School Pioneers, she led her team with 20 points, including eight points in the second extra frame, as the Highlanders outlasted the Pioneers by a final score of 56-51 Tuesday night in New Providence.
Dowling scored the first six points of the second overtime period and eight of the team’s 11 points to take the win. She credits the team’s playing together and pushing through for collecting a victory against their crosstown rivals.
“They’re great competition,” Dowling said of New Providence. “We always have a great game between [us and] them. It was a total team effort today. We all kept going, kept playing, even though some of the calls didn’t go our way. We pushed through it and kept competing.”
Dowling got plenty of help from her teammates as the Lady Highlanders won for the second time this season against the Lady Pioneers. Sophomore Paige Phillips scored 14 points and hit a pair of clutch free throws in the second OT. Junior Fiona Kerr added 12 points and was once again the team's leading rebounder. However, it was the Lady Highlanders' seniors who did all the little things it takes to win that never show up in the box score. Seniors Stacey Berliner and Michelle Coyle both scored only 1 point apiece but came up with huge plays when their team needed it the most. Berliner extended three Gov. Livingston offensive possessions late in the overtime as she bailed out missed free throws with hustling rebounds. Coyle gave the Lady Highlanders a physical presence in the middle which made the Lady Pioneers earn everything they got when they took the ball to the hoop. Fellow senior Ally McGlynn, who has been a tenacious player on defense scored three baskets, all when her team was in desperate need of a score.
New Providence had the early hot hand on offense as the game started. After trailing 3-2 early, they embarked on a 10-0 scoring run, receiving points from Iris Kaloshi, Olivia Faucher, Elizabeth Parker, Alyssa Nook and Kaitlyn Cumiskey, taking a 12-3 lead with 2:30 left in the opening quarter. Governor Livingston immediately responded with five straight points from Kerr and Dowling, cutting the lead to 12-8 New Providence after the first quarter.
The Lady Highlanders got themselves in trouble early by continually turning over the ball early on got a lift from sophomore guard Shannon Polimeni who eased her team into a nice offensive rhythm after she entered the game in the second quarter.Governor Livingston went on a 9-1 scoring run, to take a 17-16 lead with1:39 left in the half. New Providence came right back, responding with five straight points to take a 21-20 as the two teams headed into the locker room..
The third quarter saw the Lady Highlanders out score the home team 15-8 as they led 35-29 after three quarters of play. With both teams having trouble putting the ball in the hoop early in the fourth quarter a Dowling drive pushed the lead to eight points, with 5:18 left in the game. The momentum was clearly in Gov. Livingston's favor, but New Providence turned on a full court press and the Lady Pioneers came storming back. In a four-minute span, New Providence saw five different players score in the comeback.
Sophomore Cumiskey (9 pts), and Faucher(6 pts) connected for key baskets, while seniors Parker (3 pts) and Kaloshi (11 pts) cashed in for three combined points. Nook’s basket then tied the game at 40-40 with 58 seconds left.
The Lady Pioneers were feeling it following a backcourt violation on Governor Livingston, which set up a chance for the comeback win as the home town fans were now whipped into a frenzy.
However somehow Governor Livingston averted disaster on two different occasion as the game played out.
Cumiskey drove for the shot but was fouled and New Providence was in the bonus, but she missed the free throw and the game went to overtime tied at 40-40. The Pioneers scored the first five points of the first extra session, with three free throws and a basket from Kaloshi to make it 45-40 New Providence with 1:56 left.
Dowling and Phillips combined for five points to tie the game at 45-45 with 52 seconds left. After a late New Providence foul, Dowling went to the free throw line in the bonus, an opportunity to give her team the lead, but missed the free throw, giving New Providence another chance to win the game.
“We wanted the girls to embrace the competition,” Governor Livingston head coach Chris Eckert said. “The game is like a game of waves and the team that handles it and makes the free throws at the end is the team that’s going to come out on top.”
Gov. Livingston stayed alive as New Providence couldn’t get a shot off, forcing the second overtime period, which the players credit their defensive game towards the win.
“Our lockdown defense managed to keep New Providence from scoring, but we had to be cautious of our fouls because we got into early foul trouble, but we held them off and got the win,” Governor Livingston junior Fiona Kerr said.
Dowling then went off in the second overtime and Gov. Livingston walked away with the win as their defense again rose to the occasion.
Despite the loss, Parker and Kaloshi were happy with their team’s fight in their season finale.
“We live for this moment and just to be able to compete and come back from what was originally a 12-point loss on Super Saturday [January 6],” Parker said. “Our record doesn’t define us. We’re such hard workers and we worked together and we really tried.”
“We did that with Johnson the first game we came out,” she added. “People didn’t expect that, when we lost four of our five starters that were all seniors. I could not be more proud of the way we played. I would play this game nine times out of ten, even if it was a loss because we left it all out on the court.”
Kaloshi finished with 11 points in the loss, while sophomore Alex Boyle led her team with 12 points.
“It was amazing. Everybody played so hard,” Kaloshi said. “I’m so proud of every single girl on the court that played. I didn’t want to play with anyone else but them. We all tried, we put all the effort in, despite the loss. This was an amazing game by both sides. I had a lot of fun.”
Head coach Cap Pazdera praised his players for battling as hard they did, especially after trailing by eight points in the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Pazdera said. “It always is an all-out effort on both sides, with girls hustling and playing hard and leaving it out on the floor. They did that today. You couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
The Highlanders were the ones who took control in the third quarter, outscoring their crosstown rivals 15-8 in the third quarter to take a 37-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game kicked off the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, aimed at ending the negative use of the word, “retarded.”
New Providence junior Olivia Faucher and boys basketball senior Patrick Trezza both shared their thoughts as being one of the main organizers of the event on the day at the school.
“We’re really trying to rise awareness for a really good cause and incorporate the basketball and the special-needs kids come to play,” Faucher said. “It’s a great atmosphere and advertising that the R-word is not something we want to be using and it’s a great way to incorporate the whole community and the high school teams, the sports and the special-needs kids.”
“It’s been an impact on our community and it’s not in our school anymore and that word is gone,” Trezza said.
The New Providence Pioneers finish their 2017-18 season with a 6-20 record.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (10-12) head back out on the road to play at Oak Knoll HS Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m closing out the regular season. The Lady Highlanders will then travel to Middletown on Monday in a state playoff matchup against Middletown North.