SUMMIT – Lauren Soranno didn’t worry that her shots were not falling right before tipoff.
“During warmups I didn’t make a lot of shots,” the Governor Livingston junior shooting guard said.
However, once the game began and once there was a scoreboard that was keeping account of such things, Soranno couldn’t miss.
Soranno made her first five field goal attempts – all of them very important 3-pointers – and missed only one field goal and just one of her free throw attempts en route to an impressive, season-high, 17-point performance.
Soranno also led all scorers in helping lift GL to a more-than-convincing 56-34 Union County Conference-Mountain Division girls’ basketball win at Summit Friday night.
As a result, the Highlanders captured the Mountain Division championship, improving to 8-1 in league play, with only a Feb. 27 game at Linden remaining. Summit finished tied for second with Johnson in the division, both finishing 7-3 in league action.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS FOR 2014-2015:
Watchung Division – Roselle Catholic
Mountain Division – Gov. Livingston
Valley Division – Hillside and Union Catholic still battling
Sky Division – St. Mary’s, Elizabeth
“It was a team effort,” Soranno said. “We played well on defense and we all talked.”
GL, which suffered its only loss in the division at home to Summit 47-45 back on Dec. 23, won its third straight to improve to 16-4 overall. Summit had a three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 11-8.
Soranno scored the game’s first points on a 3-pointer from the left side. She made two more in the first quarter, both from that same spot on the left side, with the second putting the Highlanders ahead 6-2 and the third giving GL a 15-9 lead.
“Lauren just stepped up big time,” first-year GL head coach Vince Gulbin said. “Her shooting had not reached this level yet, but we knew she was capable of this.”
Soranno shot 5-of-6 from the field, missing only a very long range 3-point attempt before the third quarter buzzer, and was 2-of-3 from the free throw line, only missing her final attempt, which came in the fourth quarter when she did not score.
“After I made my first and second shots I gained more confidence,” Soranno said.
GL was also sparked by the outstanding play of sophomore Lindsay Gerrato, who scored 15 points, and junior Lindsay DiStaso, who added 13.
After Summit’s only lead of 9-8 was realized when Hilltopper leading scorer Cassidy O’Malley scored inside, GL closed the first quarter on 11-0 run. That surge extended to 13-0 early in the second quarter, giving the Highlanders a 21-9 edge.
Summit came right back, putting together a 9-0 run of its own to pull to within 21-18. That was the closest the Hilltoppers would get.
GL also finished the second quarter strong, closing that period with a 10-0 run to pull ahead 31-18 at intermission.
The Highlanders didn’t let up once the second half started. After Summit pulled to within 36-24 with three minutes to go in the third quarter, there was Soranno to give the momentum right back to GL after she produced her fifth and final 3-point basket.
“That was critical,” Gulbin said. “Summit was still there and closing in and that shot started to build our lead back up again.”
GL led by 16 early in the third quarter and by 15 heading into the fourth. The Highlanders did not allow Summit to get back into the game at all in the final period and were in control, pretty much, from the middle of the second quarter on.
GL’s strategy was to prevent O’Malley and freshman teammate Christina Richson from taking the game over. O’Malley, a junior center, paced the Hilltoppers with 16 points. Richson finished with seven, including two 3-pointers.
“In our first game against Summit we didn’t get out on their shooters,” Soranno said. “This time we had to play good defense on O’Malley and No. 10 (Richson).”
“We preached the last couple of days that against Summit we had to play man (defense),” Gulbin said. “Lindsay DiStaso did a fine job on O’Malley and we switched off with Gerrato on her.
“Gerrato did a very good job on O’Malley, which was one of our keys. The other was to pressure their guards and lock down Richson.
“Offensively, we were able to isolate O’Malley on Gerrato down low and that created some mismatches, which gave us some easy looks.”
Summit first-year head coach Tom Kenny gave credit where credit was due.
“There’s a reason why they are 16-4,” Kenny said of GL. “Vince does an outstanding job. I don’t think there is a better coach of the year candidate in Union County.”
Kenny still had faith in the third quarter despite being down by double digits.
“Their speed got to us late in the second quarter and we didn’t hit our shots,” Kenny said. “We had three consecutive stops in the third quarter, but nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
“They did a fabulous job on Richson and our turnovers were disheartening. It’s one thing to get down by say 13 points, but this is a sport where you have to expend so much energy to try to get back.”
A Summit victory would have put both teams at two losses in the division, but Summit would have swept GL.
“I’m proud of the girls, this was one of our goals this season,” Gulbin said of winning the division title. “Now we want to excel in the counties and the states.”
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-MOUNTAIN DIVISION GAME
GOV. LIVINGSTON (16-4, 8-1) 19 12 12 13 – 56
SUMMIT (11-8, 7-3) 9 9 10 6 – 34
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (56):
15-Courtney Oseija, senior, 0-0-2-2
44-Lindsay Gerrato. sophomore, 6-0-3-15
21-Sara Dilly, senior, 0-0-3-3
5-Amanda Bostwick, junior, 1-0-1-3
24-Lindsay DiStaso, junior, 6-0-1-13
12-Lauren Soranno, junior, 0-5-2-17
13-Hayley Berliner, senior, 0-1-0-3
Starters: Dilly, Berliner,
Oseija, Soranno, DiStaso.
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (34):
15-Liv Kelly, senior, 0-0-1-1
14-Caitlin Osmulski, junior, 3-0-2-8
34-Cassidy O’Malley, junior, 7-0-2-16
10-Christina Richson, freshman, 0-2-1-7
2-Julia Harkins, junior, 0-0-2-2
21-Jenny Martino, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Richson, Osmulski,
Kelly, Martino, O’Malley.