Lancers' Joey Fischer (#44) and Nick McGann (#4) and Mounties' Tahlib Swan fight over a loose ball Credits: Ari Gilberg
Montclair captain Stephon Sanders (#1) shoots a free-throw, Sanders would finish with a team-high 10 points in the game Credits: Ari Gilberg
Lancer point guard Robby Lefkowitz (#00) drives past Mounties' defender Tahlib Swan (#3) Credits: Ari Gilberg
Livingston head coach Dave Cohen talks with Lefkowitz during a Lancer free throw Credits: Ari Gilberg
Swan delivers a pass to teammate Muhammad Ahmad (#4) Credits: Ari Gilberg
Montclair Spoils Livingston’s Senior Night, Defeat Lancers 44-33
Friday, February 15, 2013 • 12:03am
LIVINGSTON, NJ - For the second time this season, the Montclair Mounties (17-5) held off the Livingston Lancers (7-12) to secure the 44-33 win. Although the conference-champion Mounties only defeated the Lancers’ by a last-second shot in the first matchup, they appeared surprised by Livingston’s early success in the opening half.
Lancer head coach Dave Cohen recognized the difficulty in attempting to upset a top tier team such as Montclair, but stated before the game he had faith in his team.
“They have one conference loss, so it is a tall order," Cohen said. "But if we control things defensively and shoot well from the field then its anyone’s game.”
Led by seniors Robby Lefkowitz, Joey Fischer, and Justin Tepper, three of the seven departing graduates who were honored before the game, the Lancers made it appear as though it would be their game early on. Fischer, Lefkowitz, and Tepper, were all hot early on and accounted for 15 of Livingston’s 22 points at halftime.
The Lancers got off to a quick start, taking an early 7-4 lead, thanks to two Fischer layups, and a Tepper 3-pointer. However, the Mounties, led by big-man Stephon Sanders and forward Kieran Miller, answered right back and went on a 13-7 run to end the first quarter.
The high-powered Montclair offense relied heavily on their 3-point shooting, hitting five shots from behind the arc in the opening half. Both Miller and backup guard Muhammed Ahmad hit two 3-pointers, while Jennings hit one, to give the Mounties’ a slim 25-22 lead at the half.
After witnessing some of his teammates fool around before the game and not appearing to take the Lancers seriously, Sanders asserted himself in the second half leading the Mounties to outscore the Lancers 13-6 in the third quarter, and extending their lead to 11.
“I noticed there was a lot of playing around in the locker room and stuff like that, so I stepped up as a captain,” Sanders said after the game.
Sanders certainly stepped up in the second half, scoring six of his team-leading 10 points in the final 16 minutes of play. He, along with Jennings and Miller, helped fill a large scoring void due to the uncanny poor performance of star player Tahlib Swan.
Swan, one of the state’s most elite players, was held scoreless in the first half.
“For some reason I just wasn’t feeling it scoring wise,” Swan said “I didn’t try to force any shooting and get my stats up, instead I just let my teammates do their thing.”
Swan’s patience proved critical as the Mounties’ leading scorer came through in the clutch hitting a momentum-changing 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half. Later on, he threw down a monster two-handed slam in the final minutes of the game, sealing Montclair’s victory.
The Mounties’ look to continue their stellar play in hopes of moving far in the state tournament. Montclair holds the No. 3 seed, and according to head coach Jerry Hill, they have the talent to be a fearsome team moving forward.
“I like how we’re playing, I think we’re playing our best basketball right now, and it’s the best time to play your best, so I like our chances,” Brown said.
Livingston on the other hand will look at their final regular season games to try to build some sort of momentum heading into the state tournament. The Lancers hold the No. 15 spot and will face No. 2 Peterson Eastside (18-1) on February 25.
“No one on the team has any doubts that we can win,” Lefkowitz said. “We believe if we play 32 minutes of team defense that we can play with anyone.”