Lancer point guard Katie Horiuchi looks to pass, but is guarded closely by Bengals' defender Melanie Cordova Credits: Ari Gilberg
Forward Caroline Cole deilvers a pass to Horiuchi Credits: Ari Gilberg
Livingston head coach Patty Kaes addresses her team during a timeout Credits: Ari Gilberg
Bengals' forward Maya Harris sinks a free throw; Harris finished with a team-high 21 points to help lead her team to victory over the Lancers Credits: Ari Gilberg
Livingston Girls Suffer Heartbreaker 41-39 Loss to Bloomfield
Monday, February 25, 2013 • 10:47pm
BLOOMFIELD, NJ- As Livingston forward Catherine Callaghan’s free throw attempt clanged off the rim and fell into the hands of Lancer Sam Rothenberger, silence fell over the packed Bloomfield gymnasium. The Lancers still had a shot. But 10 seconds later, following a Sarosha Parsons miss, that silence turned to deaf-defying screams.
In one of the most exciting and nerve-racking finishes both teams have had all year, the No. 5 Bloomfield Bengals (18-6) defeated the No. 12 Livingston Lancers (11-13), on Monday night, to advance to the second round of the Essex County State Tournament.
Led by forward Maya Harris, who finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, the Bengals were able to overcome a late deficit and fend off a last minute Lancer rally to keep their season and championship hopes alive.
“This [win] feels great,” Harris said following her team’s come-from-behind victory. “We came into the locker room this morning saying this would not be our last game, and we pulled together from start to finish [to make it happen].”
For three quarters of play it seemed as though it would be the Lancers who would make it happen and pull off the upset.
Livingston’s team-orientated offensive strategy worked to perfection early on, as four consecutive different Lancers scored to start the game (Caroline Cole, Sam Rothenberger, Katie Horiuchi, and Nicole LaRusso).
The Bengals on the other hand relied solely on Harris, who responded by scoring 14 points in the first half, as well as solid play defensively in the post. Bloomfield, who trailed the Lancers by six after two quarters, finished with 17 points at the half, Harris accounted for 14 of those.
After the break, it was a whole new game plan for the Bengals, as both seniors Melanie Cordova and Theresa Buscaino came alive in the second half accounting for a combined 15 points in the final 16 minutes of play. Cordova and Buscaino gave the Bengals that extra help needed to overcome that five-point deficit.
“We had more ball movement [in the second half,]” Buscaino said. “And I just knew after being down in the second half, as a captain I had to step up.”
Buscaino did just that, hitting a 3-pointer with just under four minutes left to give Bloomfield their first lead of the game. Following a LaRusso three, Cordova responded with two consecutive buckets to give the Bengals a three-point lead.
After another 3-point ball from the Lancers’ premiere scorer, Harris drove through Livingston’s interior defense converting a 3-point play after being fouled by Rothenberger to give the Bengals’ their winning basket.
When asked what was going through her mind during that last-second possession, Bloomfield’s star player responded with a smile, “Nothing’s going to stop me.”
While Harris and her teammates were celebrating with hugs and cheers, the Lancers were forced to make the long trek back to Livingston in sorrow and regret. It was especially all the more heartbreaking for graduating senior Caroline Cole.
Cole, the lone senior starter on this year’s Lancer squad, had been a four-year member of the Livingston program, and while making that despairing walk back to the visitor’s locker room realized, she had worn that green and white Lancer jersey for the last time.
“It was really exciting and nerve wrecking to know that it could possibly be my last game,” Cole said. “Obviously I wanted the win, but I couldn't have been prouder of my team. We came in as the underdog and we played a great game against a team that had the better seed than us.
“It's sad to know that my career has come to an end but I've had an amazing experience playing on the team and I'm really going to miss wearing that Lancer jersey.”