RAHWAY, NJ - Normally when a team's winning streak hits 13 games, that would be the storyline worth shouting from the Hilltops, but the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Teams 62-56 victory at Rahway will have to share top billing with senior captain Eric Baier who, with 5:30 left to go in the contest, became only the seventh Boys basketball player in school history to reach the 1,000 career points plateau.
video courtesy of Matt Harris
Baier's fourth quarter hoop was the grand point-getter, but the real celebration had to wait another five-plus minutes as the Maroon and White was locked in a back-and-forth tussle with the Indians. Fortunately for Hilltopper Nation, Head Coach Tim Simo's boys from the 07901 stuck to their now month-long pedigree and closed out yet another close game.
On a milestone night, The 'Top's triumph was its first at Rahway in a decade.
Baier not only delivered the touchstone moment -- which arrived via a turnaround corkscrew from the edge of the paint on the left baseline -- he led all scorers and delivered a 22-point, 13-rebound Double-Double. Classmates Jalen Russell, Charles Lord and captain Will Hellings also supplied key contributions, with Russell going for 16 points, Lord dropping three triples and 11 points, and Hellings nearly netting a Double-Double of his own with nine points and 10 'boards.
Jordan Bell and Amari Thompson each had 13 points and Ernest Carter added 12 to pace Rahway.
Apropos for two teams that entered the contest a combined 28-4, the first quarter ended all even at 13-13, but Summit had a big second eight minutes, outscoring the Indians 21-13 to take an eight-point lead to the locker room. The advantage nearly completely evaporated when Rahway 'won' the third frame by seven, and the two teams headed to the final quarter separated by just a point.
Close games, however, don't seem to phase these Hilltoppers even though they are likely taking a pronounced toll on their faithful's nerves. Call them gritty or call them resilient but -- whatever the term -- this team finds a way to the winner's circle. On this night, it was Lord and Russell getting hot in the second quarter, a big block-shot by Hellings in the fourth that altered momentum, and Baier nailing a big three and then a contested layup after he reached the 1,000-point mark.
All told, they did it again, claiming the fourth quarter 18-13 and then claiming a win that was memorable for myriad reasons.
Afterward, Simo was full of praise for his 1,000-point player. "Eric is a special player, and he deserves a milestone like this. What makes him even more special is his ability to play at both ends. He is a team player and a leader on and off the floor. I am proud to be his coach."
Summit, now 16-2 on the season, returns home to take on Governor Livingston February 6 at the Main Gym. Tip-off versus the Highlanders is set for 7 p.m.