By Rob Potter
LIVINGSTON MANOR It’s back to work for the Livingston Manor boys basketball team after its non-league game against Chester Wednesday night.
Oh, the Wildcats didn’t get embarrassed or lose by a sizeable margin. No, they actually won the game, 55-53. But it was the way the victory unfolded that had coach Charlie Hicks promising to fix things immediately.
“I am happy with the outcome, but not happy with how we got there,” Hicks said, referring to the 16-point lead his team blew in the game’s final eight minutes. “We made a lot of mental mistakes in the fourth quarter and it almost cost us the game.
“You can’t let a team comeback from 16 points down,” Hicks added. “When you have a 16-point lead, you have to finish off that team. You don’t let them climb back into the game. We are going to start working on the remedy to that in practice tomorrow.”
Manor held a 31-20 lead at halftime and extended that advantage to 44-28 at the end of the third quarter. Then Chester (3-3) started chipping away, converting Manor turnovers and mistakes into easy baskets.
Teammates Marley Vil and Justin Delgado scored seven points and five points, respectively, in the final quarter to help the Hambletonians pull within four points with 10.5 seconds remaining. But a botched inbounds play led to a Manor steal and free throw to open up a five-point lead and seal the game. Chester hit a desperation half-point shot at the buzzer to account for the final 2-point differential.
“I told our players before the game that it was going to be a close game and the winner wouldn’t be decided until the very end of the game,” Chester Coach Jon Marsilio said, noting that his team “lost our focus.” in those final 10 seconds.
“We had a player open for a shot in the corner, but didn’t see him.
“Our defense really stepped up in the second half,” Marsilio continued. “Offensively, we had some shots but could not make them.”
Hicks was quick to give credit to a feisty Chester team.
“Those Chester players worked hard the entire game,” he commented. “They played hard and kept hustling even when they were down by 16 points.”
Manor (2-2) first reached a double-digit lead when leading scorer Mike Mills scored on a driving layup to make it a 28-18 game with 1:28 left until halftime.
Josh Janik scored with just over a minute remaining in the third period to give Manor its biggest lead of the night at 44-28.
Mills led the Wildcats with a game-high 17 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists.
Also contributing for Manor were Troy Correa and Janik. Correa scored 11 points and made five steals, while Janik had five points and eight rebounds.
Andrew Lakis was the Hambletonians’ top scorer with 16 points. Delgado and Vil each finished with 11 points for Chester.
The Hambletonians will have another chance to defeat the Wildcats as the teams are scheduled to meet in another non-league game later this month in Chester.
The past two years, the Livingston Manor/Roscoe and Chester football teams have developed a rivalry as they have met in the Section IX Class D championship game. Many of the players on the court Wednesday night played in those title games as well as the last two regular season gridiron contests between the teams.
But both Marsilio and Hicks don’t believe that the rivalry has transferred to the basketball court.
“I don’t think it’s a rivalry, it’s more like a familiarity has developed with all of the players,” Marsilio said. “Our guys have been competing against many of the Manor guys like Troy [Correa], Mike [Mills] and Kenny [Fisk] for years. Between basketball and football, they have played each other four or five times the last couple of years. They know each other quite well.”
Hicks feels the players appreciate and respect each other’s talents.
“After the game they were shaking hands, smiling and talking with each other,” Hicks said. “They are all competitors when they are on the field or court, but once they step off the field or court they are typical kids.”