SUMMIT, NJ - Playing each other for the third time in less than a month, there were no tactical secrets when the tenth-seeded Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team took the Main Gym floor against 15th-seeded Governor Livingston to open the Union County Tournament.
Summit had won the previous two encounters between the teams, by 20 and 17 points respectively, so conventional wisdom said that -- if they played their game -- the Maroon and White would emerge victorious and advance. That take, of course, in no way dismissed that few thought it would be a comfortable day for the home team. Far from it.
So, in a contest that can be filed in a folder that says 'Familiarity Breeds Contempt', the Hilltoppers and Highlanders played a physical, edgy 32 minutes that, while it never crossed a line, could perhaps best be described as 'feisty'. The visitors hung tough for three quarters but Summit, behind another big day from junior captain Malcolm Sidebottom, eventually pulled away for a 55-44 win.
Sidebottom, who knocked down eight three-balls -- including the game-winning buzzer beater -- in Summit's previous win over AL Johnson, drained six more against GL and led all scorers with 26 points. Sophomore Eric Baier added 11 for the Hilltoppers, who proved to 16-3 on the season and move on to face seventh-seeded Union Catholic February 14.
Matt Schuman led GL with 12 points.
Summit opened strong and took an 11-2 lead early. Sidebottom connected on three treys, each from a spot so precise in the left corner of the court that a cocktail napkin would have blanketed his launch position.
But the tone for the day -- a grinding affair with a hint of mutual disdain -- was set when the Highlanders closed the quarter with a 7-2 run of their own to narrow the Hilltopper lead to 13-9.
The second stanza saw the visitor's knot the game at 15 and then at 18, before a late Summit bucket gave them a slim 20-18 advantage at the break.
The third quarter mirrored the first, with Summit belting out to a 12-2 run only to be pegged back by GL's 8-1 streak thereafter. Sidebottom hit two more from beyond the arc -- giving him 14 threes over the his last seven quarters of basketball, and the Hilltoppers went to the final frame ahead, 33-28.
Knowing that the opposition would not go gentle into that good night, Summit upped the tempo and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to double digits and confirming a season sweep of their neighbors. Junior captain Dom Yorio scored all seven of his points on the day over the final eight minutes.
"GL is a talented, tough team that played with a ton of emotion," said Summit Head Coach Dan Healy. "Playing any team three times is difficult, especially a neighboring rival. We knew it was going to be an intense game and that they were going to give us their best."
Summit will travel to Union Catholic for a second-round UCT tilt on Valentine's Day. Tip-off time has yet to be announced.