SUMMIT, NJ - History has a way of repeating itself, but it usually takes more than three weeks for the reprise.
In the first meeting between the teams January 3, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team built a healthy lead but then developed an unhealthy cough -- as in the Maroon and White coughed up the ball repeatedly down the stretch and watched Oratory Prep -- behind some lights-out shooting -- storm from behind to stun the Hilltoppers at the horn.
Since their defeat at the Farrell Gymnasium inside DeGaeta Hall, Summit had reeled off six wins in a row and looked a team that had tightened any loose bolts that may have been rattling about. So, when the teams met again at the Main Gym, a spirited game was expected but a repeat of the circumstances from 18 days prior seemed far-fetched.
In an odd game where each team played two good quarters and two really-not-so-good ones -- and with the opposites paired together twice -- the Hilltoppers started slow and fell behind, then powered-up and built a strong lead only to deliver a poor fourth. That pattern nearly produced another cave-in at the end but -- in the end -- Summit hung on to defeat Oratory, 61-57.
Senior captain Eric Baier delivered a 23-point, 10-rebound Double-Double and classmate and fellow captain Will Hellings nearly matched Baier's beauty with a 20-point, 10-rebound Double-Double of his own.
Every point and 'board from those twin Titanic performances was needed, as Oratory's Peter Byrne was, well, Oratory's Peter Byrne, scoring 24 points and playing the protagonist role in the Rams' comeback. Tyler Maloney and Tommy Conniff added 10 and 9 points, respectively, for Oratory.
That visitors' comeback seemed unnecessary after they jumped out to a 19-10 after the game's opening eight minutes, a period where Summit looked a step slow both offensively and defensively. But then, the second quarter arrived featuring play from both teams that was the polar opposite: the home team dominating the visitors 25-8 to take a 35-27 lead to the break.
The 'Top added six points to their lead by taking the third quarter 16-10 and looked ready to motor to the finish line, up 51-37. Of course, Summit was motoring on January 3, up 41-29, before getting drubbed 22-10 in the fourth.
Couldn't happen again, right?
Oratory started playing like first-quarter Oratory and, unfortunately for Hilltopper Nation, Summit started playing like first-quarter Summit. The result was Byrne and his teammates having the ball in their hands inside the final minute, down just a bucket. The Hilltoppers ended up losing the quarter 20-10 but, on this occasion, did just enough to cling to the lead and make it to the final buzzer, with a pair of late, clutch Hellings free throws sealing the deal.
Next up for Summit, winners of seven in-a-row and now 10-2 on the season, is a January 23 home date against another talented neighbor -- New Providence. Game time at the Main Gym is set for 7 p.m.