SUMMIT, NJ - Most knowledgeable basketball observers believe a 12 versus 13 seed match-up is normally a coin flip, and that was the prevailing thought heading into the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team's trip to ever-so-slightly higher seeded Elizabeth.
What didn't aid the Hilltoppers cause, however, was the fact they came out as flat as a quarter, and pretty much stayed in that mono dimensional existential space for most of the game's 32 minutes.
Uncharacteristically playing error-prone and relatively listless basketball, Summit was dumped out of the Union County Tournament by the Minutemen 51-43 at The Thomas Dunn Center.
Ah, The Dunn Center.
For those who haven't been there, it is big. As in one could park a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in it big, with a cavernous shooting backdrop that is exacerbated by about 75 feet of 'dead space' behind each basket.
But, 787 and 75 weren't the numerics that did The Maroon & White in on this day. Rather those numbers would be 22 and 20, as in 22 turnovers and a 20 percent shooting accuracy mark from beyond the arc.
Chip Roriston saw his streak of 20-plus point performances snapped. The senior captain had 16 points, but just five after halftime. Fellow classmate and captain Will Schaffer had 10.
Prentiss Purkett scored 17 for the Minutemen to lead all scorers, and Jesiah West added 13.
Roriston's 11 first-half points did provide pretty much the lone offensive bright spot in an opening 16 minutes of basketball that was fairly dim. Neither team looked lively in a first quarter that saw Elizabeth emerge with a 10-8 lead.
Summit slogged through a rough second quarter as well, trailing at one point 19-12 before using the charity stripe -- five of Roriston's points in the frame came on free throws -- to eventually narrow the gap to 20-17 at the break.
The teams shifted into a bit of a higher gear in the third quarter, combining for 29 points. Schaffer hit the Hilltoppers' first successful three-ball and then senior captain Jack Washburn hit another at the horn. Summit trailed 35-31 and, even though they hadn't played near their expectations, the game was there for the taking.
In the fourth, Summit got within a point -- at 40-39 after another Schaffer 'trey' with 3:10 remaining -- but could not draw any closer and actually were outscored 11-4 the rest of the way. Over the final minutes, the Hilltoppers didn't execute well often enough and couldn't convert when they did -- essentially the story of the entire contest -- and the Minutemen did the majority of their late-game damage from the free throw line.
"Elizabeth is a quality team, but we allowed their athleticism to dictate things, and we did not take care of our business," said Summit Head Coach Dan Healy. "We did not bring the toughness that we are accustomed to delivering."
Summit, now 10-11 on the season, returns home to face New Providence February 17 at the Main Gym. Tip-off for the game, which is the team's 'Senior Night', is set for 7 p.m.