SUMMIT, NJ - If the time-tested proverb that states "Where there's a will there's a way'" is applied to the Summit High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team, it is only a matter of time before the squad's negative trend -- they've lost seven of their past eight games -- will cease and better days will follow.
The 'will' part is there. Commitment, energy, intensity and effort - check, check, check and check.
The 'way' part? Well, that is proving to be far more elusive for The Maroon & White. Case in point is Summit's latest encounter -- matching up against AL Johnson on a rainy night at The Main Gym.
Hilltopper bodies were flying around -- and diving on -- the hardwood all night long. Scrapping for rebounds, playing aggressive defense, and competing like the dickens were hallmarks of the home team's performance. Trouble is, so were 22 missed shots from five feet or closer to the basket.
As Summit Head Coach Tom Kenny succinctly said post-game, "I don't know of an offensive strategy that can overcome that many missed lay-ups."
And, in this game on this raw weather night, that was the cold truth.
The Crusaders Kristina Palella scored 15 points, including six big free throws down the stretch that iced the game -- and, frankly, made the scoreline a lot more flattering for the visitors -- as AL Johnson defeated Summit 39-31.
Christina Richson and Mya Thompson each had eight points to lead Summit. Richson was the target of a 'box and one' AL Johnson defensive scheme that face-guarded her with a dedicated player the entire game. The defense did an effective job denying the Hilltopper junior captain the ball and, when Richson did get the rock, she was not in a position to do much with it.
Still, as a team, Summit did get in position to score. They just didn't convert enough of the chances they needed to convert.
Then, again, AL Johnson wasn't exactly causing the scoreboard operator to run to the utility closet for a back-up supply of light bulbs, either.
After a tight first quarter that saw the Crusaders grab a narrow 11-10 lead, Summit went virtually the entire second quarter without scoring -- and still stayed right in the game.
Thompson's put-back bucket with 2:06 to go in before the half were Summit's first points of the stanza, but when the horn sent the teams to their lockerrooms at the break, the Hilltoppers trailed just 19-15. A first-half bright spot for Summit was the strong rebounding of Eliza Rustum, who grabbed six boards in the first quarter alone, had eight total at the intermission en route to 11 for the game.
Somewhat incredibly, Summit scored but seven points in the third quarter and still narrowed the lead, with the Crusaders tallying just four. Despite their misfiring ways in the paint, the home team trailed by a lone point at 23-22 heading to the fourth.
The game was tied at 25-25 before Summit's offensive wheels came off over the final six minutes, which saw them outscored 14-6. Down the stretch, most of the damage was done by AL Johnson from the charity stripe, as the Hilltoppers began to foul after failed possessions in order to lengthen the game.
Summit, now 3-9 on the season, stays home to take on Scotch Plains-Fanwood on January 19 at the Main Gym. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.