SUMMIT, NJ - Like the epic Bruce Springsteen song, circa 1973, of the same name, it appears the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team is "Growin' Up."
Two days removed from, according to Head Coach Dan Healy, their "young kids playing like men" in a Royal Rumble-like win versus Hillside, the Hilltoppers climbed another rung on the maturation ladder with a spirited 58-48 victory over Governor Livingston at the Main Gym.
The triumph, Summit's third in a row, leveled their record at 5-5 on the season.
A balanced scoring attack, led by senior captain Will Schaffer's game-high 18 points, included sophomore Malcolm Sidebottom's four three-balls and 15 points, with senior captain Chip Roriston and sophomore point guard Finbar McCormick each adding 10 points.
Billy Pencek, with 14, and Matt Schuman, who had 12, paced GL.
Summit's balanced scoring was important, but the turning point came in the third quarter, when The Maroon & White exited the halftime locker room, took the floor, and dialed the defensive heat up to microwave level.
Pressing the ball for 90 percent of the 94 feet, Summit stole the ball on numerous occasions and, when they didn't get the rock, the harassed the living daylights out of the Highlanders and forced them into the discombobulation zone. Freshman Joe Lusardi came off the bench and delivered a pit bull-like performance, and the team fed off his and each other's intensity.
Things did not begin smoothly for Summit, who spotted their opponents a 7-0 lead. True to their recent evolution, however, the Hilltoppers shrugged off the sluggish start and broke off a 9-0 run of their own and, even though they trailed 10-9 after the first quarter, they showed they were more than up for the fight.
A pull-up trey from McCormick, followed by a Sidebottom splash from 'Three Point Land' twenty seconds later, gave Summit a 12-5 second quarter 'win' and a 21-15 halftime lead.
The third quarter blitz saw Summit's 'D' key some transition baskets and the lead grew to 36-23, but GL started to show some shooting life in the latter stages of the quarter and narrowed the advantage to 39-28 after three.
The Hilltoppers were up 10, at 44-34, when a rough minute of action saw a couple of Summit mistakes, and GL took advantage of them to make it a real game at 44-39.
Up just 46-43, Sidebottom dropped a 'Three Hammer' to make the lead six, but the Highlanders answered with a shot of their own from beyond the arc, and it was 49-46 with 2:36 left in the game, and the visitors had the ball back.
Senior leadership stepped up for the home team, however, in the form of Roriston, who made two bookend plays just when Summit needed it the most.
First, he blocked a GL shot at the basket and then, at the other end, made a power move to the rim and converted to elevate the lead 51-46. A minute later, Sidebottom delivered 'the dagger' with -- what else? -- a three-pointer to make it 56-48.
Summit won the rebounding battle on the day 37-30, with Roriston adding 10 big rebounds for a double-double.
Of his team's defensive effort in the second half, Healy said, "We talked at halftime and thought we could apply some pressure in the backcourt, but we also knew they are a talented and tough team and would come at us all game."
Relative to his 'kids' progress in the last several games, Healy said, "We took some lumps early in the season, and that meant we had to learn."
Summit will face Warren Hills January 14 at 1:30 p.m. as part of the annual 'Hoops For Hope' event at the Main Gym.