SUMMIT, N.J. – Summit girls’ varsity basketball coach Brian Erickson was ready to “dig a hole and jump in it” at times during the first hall of the Hilltoppers’ Union County Tournament first round game.
Despite leading by three at the half of Tuesday’s county game against cross-town rival Oak Knoll, Erickson saw his team wasn’t playing to their fullest potential.
Following a one-sided halftime conversation, the Hilltoppers blasted Oak Knoll away, 53-33, advancing to the UCT’s quarterfinals.
“I felt as though our heads weren’t where they needed to be,” Erickson said. “We had a talk about, well, I talked to them about it, just in terms of playing with some emotion and some passion. I just felt like it was not as passionate and emotional as it should have been in the first half of a county game against a team like Oak Knoll.”
Summit led for a majority of the opening 16 minutes, however the Hilltoppers were never able to expand their advantage. Multiple turnovers and missed opportunities allowed Oak Knoll to creep ahead, 19-18, in the final two minutes of the first half.
It was at this moment that Erickson saw the turning point of the game. Trailing by one, Summit forced three empty possessions, while scoring twice in the final minute to take a 22-19 lead into the locker room.
“I thought the last three defensive possessions set up the third quarter for us,” Erickson said. “We got three stops and two scores for us. We went from down 19-18 to up 22-19. We got stops or a turnover and converted a couple of layups. I that point, I thought we were starting the play the way I thought we would have.”
The Hilltoppers quickly turned their 4-0 run at the end of the second quarter and propelled it into a 21-4 streak by the third quarter buzzer. Jenny Martino scored seven of her 12 points in period, leading Summit to a 39-23 lead.
Cassidy O’Malley added four of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter, as the Hilltoppers were able to extend their lead to a game-high 20 points in the final minute of regulation.
Oak Knoll’s Catherine Bonner tallied a game-high 18 points in the losing effort.
Summit’s victory sets up a quarterfinal matchup at Union on Friday. The Hilltoppers lost both previous meetings this season.