SUMMIT, N.J. - The Summit High School athletic wing was jumping for joy on Saturday night. Despite the girls' varsity basketball team losing to county power Cranford, 44-41, the Hilltoppers and their fans celebrated their sixth annual "Hoops 4 Hope," to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
"Today was all about what we were doing, raising money for a cause, for awareness, for education, for treatment, for diagnosis," Summit girls' varsity head coach Brian Erickson said. "Everyone that contributed today, made this day purposeful. There are woman out there that are going to benefit from what we did today. That's the victory more than anything else."
With the addition of the boys' basketball teams to this years event, organizers hoped to bring everyone in the community together to support the cause.
"This was the first year that I asked the guys into it because I wanted to get the Summit community involved and that to me was very important in this game," Erickson said. "I thought that would be a good way of getting the entire community involved, the school community, the town. I think it showed. We had a lot of people here."
Following the boys' variety team's 67-48 win over Roselle Park, the girls' variety squad took the floor in commemorative pink jerseys. Everyone on the Summit roster, including Erickson, had pink dye sprayed into their hair as an extra touch of support.
Cranford and Summit played a back-and-forth first half, with neither side taking command of the game's tempo. Four different players scored for Summit's 11 first quarter tallies, while Cranford's Jenna Goeller and Jessica McCoy combined to put up 11 points.
The game remained tied throughout the second quarter, with teams answering each others baskets until the final minute. With game knotted at 20, Summit's Jenny Martino sunk a left-wing 3-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a 23-20 lead at the half.
After the break, McCoy took control of Cranford's offense. She scored 10 points, as the Cougars led 34-28, holding Summit to just two baskets in the period.
The Hilltoppers made things interesting in the fourth quarter. After trailing by seven points, 39-32, Summit came roaring back in the final minutes.
Down five with 30 seconds left, freshman Cassidy O'Malley scored on a fast break layup while being fouled. Despite missing the free throw, Summit trailed by only three.
"She had a great game tonight." Erickson said. "Coming in, we knew what we had. We knew we had something special in her as a post player. She can also shoot the ball from the outside. She has really come of age in the past two weeks."
With less than 10 seconds to play, Goeller hit two free throws, extending the Cranford lead back to five. However, on Summits ensuing possession, Anna Baumiester sunk a three to cut the deficit to two points.
The Cougars hit a free throw with 1.5 seconds left, giving the Hilltoppers one last chance to tie the game with a deep ball. However, Summit's half-court shot attempt fell short, ending their would-be comeback bid.
Erickson said even though Summit lost, he saw a lot of positive from his young squad.
"These kids battled back and battled back," Erickson said. "I kept telling them 'We're going to get the ball back and one of use is going to win the game.' We're getting that experience."
In the end, there were no sad faces because the was the least important thing on everyones minds. With the gym full of pink, there was a more important battle to fight.
"We wear pink today to represent the battle people have to fight as they go through something as terrible as cancer," Erickson said. "We always try to represent that when we wear these uniforms."
Summit returns to the floor on Tuesday when the Hilltoppers host Governor Livingston at 7 p.m.