SUMMIT, NJ - The cold truth on a warm night in the Hilltop City is that many from the town, save perhaps the players, their families and the coaches, will relatively quickly forget the particulars associated with the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball's Team's matchup versus North Brunswick Township.
For the record, the Raiders pulled even and then away from the Hilltoppers in the second half, eventually defeating Summit 62-51. However, while it may sound and seem odd, the way The Maroon & White lost is what should not be forgotten -- and that, for Summit supporters, is actually a good thing.
At times during a game against a more experienced and athletic opponent, Head Coach Dan Healy played four sophomores and a freshman. The 'youngsters' more than held their own, with a bunch of noteworthy moments illustrating just how far Healy's 'kiddie corps' have come.
There was sophomore Dom Yorio dropping his shoulder and dribble-driving into the key and floating home a soft, left-handed five-foot baby hook.
Fast forward to sophomore Jackson Tyler draining two threes, only to be outdone by classmate Malcolm Sidebottom splashing four three-balls from beyond the arc. Or consider sophomore Finbar McCormick and freshman Eric Baier ran the point with confidence.
To be fair, some of the underclassmen got extra minutes due to the fact that senior captain Chip Roriston sat out his second straight game due to injury, and fellow classmates and captains Will Schaffer and Jack Washburn, as per the norm, played big minutes and roles.
Competitive team sports is a stark endeavor. The only metrics that really matter at the end of the day to most folks are the ones that start with 'W" and "L" -- as in wins and losses. On that front, Summit is at a -4 right now, at 10 wins and 14 losses.
The nuanced reality that should not be overlooked, however, is how far this team has come. Taking risks and making plays they wouldn't have attempted or made even weeks ago and looking like they have been 'there' -- in Varsityland -- for years, not months.
So, while the team and Summit faithful all want to win passionately, the progress made is unmistakable and, as the Hilltoppers are now on the eve of the NJSIAA State Tourney, the 'smart money' says -- especially with Roriston due to return for the first round tilt against Warren Hills -- the boys from the 07901 will be a tough 'out'.
Against North Brunswick Township, the best of the youth movement and all of the challenges associated therein were on display. Good stuff was mixed in with missed shots, some dodgy defensive rotations, and a few too, too many turnovers.
A back-and-forth first half saw Summit emerge with 10-7 and 30-26 leads at the end of the first and second quarters, respectively. The 20-19 second quarter was entertaining, but ragged at the same time.
The third stanza belonged to the Raiders, as they erased Summit's small halftime lead and eased out to lead approaching double-digits by virtue of outscoring the hosts 18-7.
Trailing by seven heading to the final frame, Summit saw North Brunswick Township grow their advantage as the Hilltopper offense -- sluggish since the start of the third quarter -- couldn't get untracked until past the halfway mark of the fourth.
By that time, the Raiders were up by a dozen points, and the teams basically traded points the rest of the way.
Statistically, Sidebottom led Summit with 14 points, followed by Tyler with 10. Adrian Salazar paced North Brunswick Township with 14, while Avery Claggett added 13, and Jordan Salisbury chipped in 10 points.
"I actually thought we did a lot of good things tonight against a very good team," said Healy. "We didn't shoot the ball well, but I liked the shots we took. We worked hard and pressured a fast, athletic opponent. North Brunswick (Township) is experienced, and when we made mistakes they executed and made plays."
Summit opens the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 State Tournament February 28 when they host Warren Hills at the Main Gym. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.