SUMMIT, NJ - It may sound odd outside of a sports context, but Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Dan Healy has been preaching to his team the importance of "playing uncomfortable."
Plainly put, opponents -- especially the quality ones -- are going to apply strategies and tactics designed to put the Hilltoppers in difficult, uncomfortable situations. Successful teams find ways to achieve and even excel in those non-user friendly environments.
Such was the case as Summit made the short trip down Morris Avenue to Jonathan Dayton, who greeted the Hilltoppers with a 3-2 zone that was designed to make Coach Healy's squad anything but warm and fuzzy.
Lining their longer players up top, Summit had a height advantage inside but, on the majority of occasions, they were unable to penetrate the zone or make the entry pass to exploit that opportunity. And, when they did, the Hilltoppers missed a slew of lay-ups.
Thus the Bulldogs zone, aided mightily by a game-high 22 points from talented guard Amir Mayfield, was enough to push Jonathan Dayton past the Hilltoppers, 57-52.
"We knew the zone was coming, we talked about it, and we prepared for it," said Healy. "We couldn't generate any sustained offensive momentum, we kept trying to force it in the paint, looking for opportunities, and that led to turnovers."
The first quarter was a high-scoring affair, with the Bulldogs jumping out to an 8-3 lead, but Summit eventually narrowed the deficit to just a point at 17-16, when a Michael Kaelin to Xavier McCormick to Gary West 94-foot relay ended in a lay-up. Unbeknownst at the time, was that the single-point deficit would be as close as the Hilltoppers would come to Dayton the rest of the game.
The second quarter was unlike the first, as both defenses dug in further, and the both offenses had trouble scoring the basketball. Mayfield had 12 points over the opening two quarters and, when he wasn't driving to the basket and scoring, he was penetrating and kicking the ball out to open shooters who weren't missing. For the half, Dayton shot 56%, and a gaudy 50% from behind the arc. Summit trailed in the quarter 9-7, and at the break, 29-23.
Summit allowed the opening two baskets of the second half, and quickly found itself in a double-digit hole. They clawed back, however, and when McCormick stole the ball and took it in for a lay-up, the lead was just three at 33-30. But Summit's surge was followed by a 7-2 Bulldogs run to close out the third quarter, and the Hilltoppers trailed 40-32.
Making the comeback incline even more steep was the fact that Summit had key players in foul trouble for the second game in a row. Both Wayne Wong and Jordan Gonzalez had to sit protracted stretches, which lessened the Hilltoppers firepower capacity on offense, particularly.
Throughout the fourth quarter, the Dayton lead hovered between six and eight points, until Summit made a push using the three-ball. First McCormick, then Gonzalez hit rainbows, and all of sudden it was 52-48. After a couple of Summit free throws, it was 52-50, but Gonzalez -- who led the Hilltoppers in scoring with 15 points -- fouled out on a controversial blocking call, and Dayton hit their free throws the rest of the way to see the game out.
Next Game: February 7 v. Roselle Park - 1:30 p.m.
Note: The game is part of a Boys / Girls "Hoops for Hope" Charity-Fundraising Doubleheader
JV Wins Going Away
Despite scoring just five points in the first quarter and falling behind by 11 in the first half, the Summit Boys JV beat Dayton 54-41, scoring 36 points in the second half. Jaden Jackson led Summit with 15, and Mason Wiesner added 9.