SUMMIT, NJ - Heading into a five-game homestand, even the always-optimistic Summit Varsity Basketball Head Coach Dan Healy was wondering whether the stretch of games would be a positive for his young team.
The coach had observed that his squad had played better on the road early in the season, his thoughts crystallizing even a bit more after Summit dropped the first game of their basketball 'staycation' to Dayton.
However, ask Healy now -- after four straight wins -- if the Hilltop City hunkering was a boost to his boys and he supplies a succinct answer -- "in a word, yes."
Warren Hills was the latest to exit the Kent Place Boulevard campus with an 'L' -- joining Koinonia Academy, Hillside and Governor Livingston in that procession -- courtesy of a 45-35 Summit triumph. The win lifts The Maroon & White's record to 6-5 on the season.
The game was played before a nice size crowd, with the the tilt serving as the final game of the day-long 'Hoops For Hope" event, which benefited the Connie Dwyer Breast Cancer Foundation and the Adrienne Reid Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Senior captains Will Schaffer (15 and 5) and Chip Roriston (13 and 8) combined for 28 points and 13 rebounds to lead Summit, which used a tenacious defense and a patient offensive to outdistance the deliberate Blue Streaks.
Warren Hills can take a couple of minutes to run their 'sets' when on offense, which served to limit the Hilltoppers possessions. This dynamic made executing on offense, getting stops on the defensive end, and rebounding the basketball all keys to Summit success. Healy certainly could put a check in each of those boxes post-game.
Back-to-Back three-pointers by sophomore Malcolm Sidebottom and Schaffer helped the Hilltoppers to a 13-8 first quarter lead. The lead was 21-13 -- another in what has recently become a string of football-like halftime scores -- in favor of the home team at the half, and stood at 29-20 past the midway mark of the third quarter.
The good news for Summit fans at that point? Their team had held the opponent to a paltry 20 points through 20-plus minutes of basketball.
The challenging part? Their team had only scored 29 points and was just a few possessions away from potential being caught so, while the outcome did not seem in jeopardy, it wasn't exactly in the ball bag either.
Up 36-24 heading to the final quarter, the Hilltoppers managed the game and their lead effectively, eventually spreading the floor in the last four minutes, which both served to siphon time off the clock and create some close-in, clean looks at the basket.
"We are showing our ability to adapt and win different types of games with different tempos," said Healy. "We knew we were going to have to defend long possessions on the defensive end, and that meant we had to be disciplined when we had the ball. It has been beneficial to get into a rhythm at home, and our kids are accepting their roles, which is the mark of a good team."
Summit next heads to Roselle January 17 for a 4 p.m. tip-off, before coming back to Hilltop City for a 'road' game, playing at Oratory Prep January 19 in the latest basketball edition of the 'Summit Derby'.