SUMMIT, NJ - Perhaps it speaks best to the legacy of Kyle Kirst that there were four teams representing a like number of schools and communities that each were at the Summit High School Main Gym to remember him as one of their own.
That's because Kirst's ability to connect with whomever was fortunate enough to cross his path made every person feel special, like he knew you -- and you knew him -- for a period of time far longer than that interaction.
Four teams with Kirst ties -- Summit, Bernards, Hanover Park, and Ridge -- gathered on a mild Saturday night for an evening of friendship and girls high school basketball and, in the process, exhibited the zest for friendly competition which was another hallmark of the man the event honored.
There were stories -- it seems everybody has a 'Kyle story' -- and visual demonstrations of support -- each team wore shooting shirts with their school name on the front and 'KIRST' on the back -- and some lively hoops action.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Kirst Children Education Foundation.
Other than never wanting to be, or thinking he was, the center of attention, one would have to think that it was exactly the type of event Kirst would have thoroughly enjoyed.
The 'mojo' was that good.
Ridge 35, Summit 29
In what is seeming like a vinyl platter that is prone to skipping, the Hilltoppers broken record of 100-percent effort performances and nothing-to-show-for-it results continued in a narrow defeat to the Red Devils.
An anemic offensive first half, which saw Summit score 10 points, was partially offset by a stout defensive effort that held Ridge to just 20 points.
The double-digit deficit was essentially overcome with a what Summit Head Coach Tom Kenny called "arguably our best quarter of the season" in the third frame.
After taking all but 41.5 seconds to score a point in the second, it took the Hilltoppers just 1:36 of the third to score six, courtesy of baskets from Grace Keegan, Eliza Rustum and captain Christina Richson.
Bella Cusumano drained an outside shot to make it 20-18 in favor of the visitors and, after a Ridge basket, Summit put together a pretty passing play to narrow the margin two two points once again.
It was a unique 'numeric tic-tac-toe', featuring one-touch passing from Keegan (uniform number 22) to Mya Thompson (number 23) to Rustum (number 24) who banked the ball home.
The game stayed tight as drum for virtually the entire final quarter, but Summit was dealt a blow when Richson picked up her fifth foul and thus saw her day come to an end with 5:42 remaining.
Nonetheless, the Hilltoppers actually took the lead -- their first of the game -- at 25-24 via two free throws from captain Anna DiSibio with 4:14 on the clock. Ridge answered right back and eventually led,, 29-27, but Summit wouldn't quit and tied things up at 29 when Thompson ran a fly pattern off a backcourt inbounds pass and drove in for a lay-up at the 2:40 mark.
From there, it became a matter of which team was going to execute best over the final two-plus minutes. Summit didn't allow a basket, but Ridge did manage six points from the charity stripe, and the Hilltoppers were unable to score again.
Despite fouling out, Richson led Summit with 11 points. Sophie Beneventine had a game-high 13 for the Red Devils.
in the earlier game, Ava Gammo had 14 points as Hanover Park defeated Bernards, 47-40.
Summit, now 4-10 on the season, will next face Union January 24 at the Main Gym. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.