SUMMIT, NJ - Playing their next-door neighbors from New Providence for the third time this season, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team was looking to exact some revenge against a Pioneer squad that had already beaten them twice, the last of which -- coming just six days ago -- knocked them out of the Union County Tournament in the process. The Hilltoppers rocketed out of the gate, fell flat for the next 20 minutes, then rallied late, but subsequently lost 64-57 at the Main Gym, getting swept in the season series 3-0.
Tyler Curto scored a game-high 17 points for New Providence, while Jordan Gonzalez led Summit with 16, and Will Schaffer added 11.
Buoyed by a large, costume-clad student section -- which included, among others, a goat, a dinosaur, and a green M&M -- Summit raced out to a double-digit lead, playing an up-tempo first quarter that ended with the Hilltoppers up 19-6. The quarter's highlight was a Schaffer to Gonzalez alley-oop that brought the house down, and senior captain Gonzalez finished the frame with 11 points. When Flanagan hit a three-ball at the opening stanza's final horn, it looked like Summit was well on its way to finally topping the Pioneers.
But the Hilltoppers could not sustain the energetic pace that gave them the big advantage and -- like a boxing match -- New Providence withstood Summit's opening punch, took the standing eight-count, and began to jab back effectively to get back in the contest. Summit could not break down the Pioneer zone defense that greeted them to start the second quarter, and New Providence went on an 7-0 run that was more like a 7-0 trot.
With Summit unable to penetrate or score, the Pioneers methodically chipped away at the lead, aided by a string of missed Hilltopper free throws. The contrast of Summit's performance from the opening quarter was striking, as their dynamic effort to start the game had now turned sluggish, with their first points in the quarter coming from two Schaffer free throws coming after nearly five minutes were played in the period. At the half, the Hilltopper lead was just three points at 25-22.
It was clear that the opening minutes of the third quarter would dictate the remaining tone of the game, and New Providence came out strong and seized the initiative. Consistently beating the Hilltoppers off the dribble, they went on a 8-2 run early, which developed into an 18-8 surge, and won the quarter handily. Summit seemingly could not get a stop when they needed it, and it was 48-40 Pioneers after three.
In the fourth, New Providence extended their lead to 53-40, and was using prolonged possessions to drain the clock. Down 10, at 59-49, the game looked clearly decided but, out of nowhere, Summit produced a burst that made the game's final moments intriguing. Playing a frenetic, trapping, 94-foot brand of defense, the Hilltoppers forced some turnovers and, after a steal and layup from Gary West, Schaffer hit a three-ball to narrow the lead to 61-55 with 1:09 remaining. Summit could not get any closer, however, as a series of frantic, hurried possessions resulted in several attempts from behind the arc that were off the mark.
"We had a great crowd tonight and began with a lot of adrenaline, and then New Providence forced us into a half-court game to start the second quarter," said Summit Head Coach Dan Healy. "They took our opening punch, and we stopped pushing the game." Healy described the Hilltoppers problems at the charity stripe as being "mental", and said of his team's inability to stop the Pioneers penetration, "In our previous games against them, they (New Providence) have shot the ball so well, that we were very sensitive to closing them out, but we were late defensively all night and they took advantage of that."
Next Game: February 24 @ Livingston - 7 p.m.
Next Home Game: February 26 v. Clark - 7 p.m. (Senior Night)
JV Win Big, Freshman Lose in OT
Jaden Jackson had 12 points and Chip Roriston added eight, as the Summit High School JV Basketball Team crushed New Providence, 44-15. The Hilltoppers held the Pioneers to just two points total in the second half. The Freshman Team fell in overtime, 48-43.
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