SUMMIT, NJ - It's not every day that a team can walk to an away game.
This "road trip" was however, to coin a phrase used in English football, a local derby (pronounced dahr-bee), meaning two teams facing each other from the same area, or even town.
So the Hilltoppers made the downhill, 1,889-foot walk to compete in the "Morris Avenue Derby," taking on the Rams of Oratory Prep. Getting there may have been easy, but the game was certainly not.
What resulted was a match of mini-runs and maxi-whistles, a contest that lacked flow as the referees left no doubt who was in charge. Fouls were called on what seemed like every possession, and the teams combined for 48 made free-throws.
That level of choppiness doesn't mesh well with Summit's intended brand of basketball, which features relentless running and pressure on both the offensive and defensive ends.
No, grinding it out is not the intention, but it is a virtue, one which the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team appears to be warming up to. In that spirit, the Hilltoppers made the plays they needed to make at the times they needed to make them and, most importantly, held the lead they built to the very end to earn a 72-63 victory.
Will Schaffer led Summit with 19 points, captain Paul Flanagan had 13, and Gary West contributed 12 to pace the Hilltoppers, now 5-3 on the season. Brendan Lawlor was top scorer for Oratory with 12, Austin Lee added 11, and Matt Davis chipped in 10 points.
"We gutted it out, which is something we didn't always do earlier in the season," said Summit Head Coach Dan Healy, referring to setbacks against Hillside and Hanover Park. "We are playing quality teams that are scouting and game-planning for our style, so we have to find different ways to win when the pace isn't what we want it to be."
As for the whistle-happy affair? "We have to adjust to the way the game is being called, and we struggled with that tonight."
The first quarter was a microcosm of the game, with Summit grabbing a decent lead, Oratory clawing back -- using the charity stripe to their advantage -- and then Summit again putting some distance between them and their opponent.
The Hilltoppers eased out to a 16-7 lead, only to allow a three-point basket followed by three free throws off a foul on a three-point attempt. Suddenly its 16-13, however Xavier McCormick knocked down a three ball of his own at the horn to raise the Summit lead to 19-13 after the opening eight minutes.
The lead was double digits before a Rams run cut it to just a single point, at 24-23, only to see the Hilltoppers reel off a 7-0 run to regain a 31-23 advantage. The first half concluded with Summit on top 33-27.
The third quarter was another see-saw session, with the teams essentially trading points, sometimes again in spurts and, although Oratory "won" the stanza 17-16, the Hilltoppers took a five-point margin to the fourth, ahead 49-44.
The lead hovered around that differential until the final few minutes, when the clock became Oratory's second enemy and they had to chase the game and put Summit on the line. In the end, it wasn't easy, but it was well worth the walk.
The Hilltoppers return home to the Main Gym to face Voorhees January 9. Tip off is set for 1 p.m.
JV Lose Squeaker, Freshman Improve to 6-0
Down big early, the Summit Boys JV Basketball Team fought back but fell short by a bucket, dropping a 47-45 decision to Oratory Prep.
The Hilltopper Freshman also started sluggishly, taking a relatively slim lead to halftime, but then cranked it into gear in the final two quarters to win handily 44-25, running their season-opening win streak to six games.
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