SUMMIT, NJ - There was a power outage just off Morris Avenue in Union, as the Farmers shot lights out in the first 12 minutes of basketball, building a lead that proved insurmountable to overcome, as the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team bowed out of the Union County Tournament (UCT) with a 62-48 defeat at Union.
The Farmers put up 23 points in the opening quarter through a mix of rapid ball movement and an even more rapid-succession of dead-eye outside shooting. Summit didn't have a bad offensive opening eight minutes -- on the contrary, quite good by any rational measure -- scoring 18 points themselves, but that solid effort still left them five points in arrears after the first, at 23-18.
Gary West was a one-man wrecking crew in the first quarter for the Hilltoppers, scoring seven consecutive points and 11 overall.
Despite a dip in putting points up on the scoreboard, the pace was hot and frenetic for both squads in the second stanza. Summit was cold from the floor, and missed a number of close-in attempts that would have kept the score within arm's reach, and Union cooled off a bit as well.
Down 35-21 with three minutes to go in the half, things were looking grim for the Maroon & White, but Justin Cise hit a three-ball to make it 35-24, and the Hilltoppers played tenacious defense in the last 30 seconds of the half, keeping Union from getting off a shot on their final possession.
Union had seven three's in the first half alone, on their way to nine in the game. West and Cise combined for 19 of Summit's 24 first-half points.
Spirits lifted, Summit needed a good start start the second half in order to maintain momentum and cut into the Farmers lead. Instead, Union tore off a 9-4 run to take a 44-28 advantage, and the Hilltoppers seemed ready to take an "eight count."
Looking woozy, Summit regained their faculties and punched back, going on a 9-2 run of their own to cut the lead to 46-37 at the end of the third. Baskets from Chip Roriston, then Cise, followed by a Will Schaffer old fashioned three-point play, and Roriston again all played a role in the jaunt.
The push didn't hold however, as Union -- like they did the third quarter -- went on a run to open the fourth, this time a 6-0 sprint that took a nine-point lead to 15. The Hilltoppers were getting some looks, but they were off the mark, until Xavier McCormick drained a trey to make it 54-40, then hit another with 1:49 left to make it 54-45.
After two Farmers foul shots, Cise -- who had a fantastic game coming off the bench -- hit his third three of the game to pull Summit back within eight, at 56-48, but that is as close as the Hilltoppers would get, with Union collecting the game's final six points.
"I'm really proud of our guys tonight, we just came up a short," said Summit Head Coach Dan Healy. Wary of the Farmers bigs offensively, Summit employed a zone defense strategy Healy described as "making them (Union) shoot to beat us, which they did in the first half, and not so much in the second."
West and Cise led Summit with 13 points each, while Bryceton Horton led Union with a game-high 15, and Josh Croskey and Justin Beckett contributed 11 points each.
The Hilltoppers return to the Main Gym for a non-tournament game versus South Plainfield February 19. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
JV Advances in UCT
The Summit High School JV Basketball Team, behind 18 points from Sam O'Sullivan and 12 each from Luca Curran and Malcolm Sidebottom, beat Plainfield 59-56 in the Union County Tournament on February 16.
The Hilltoppers advance and travel to face Linden February 18, with tip-off set for 5:30 p.m.
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