SUMMIT, NJ - It is likely that no card-carrying member of Hilltopper Nation has any fingernails left to bite thanks to Head Coach Tim Simo's Summit High School Boys Basketball Team, whose thrill-a-minute ride of a winning streak continues unabated after yet another heart-stopping, neo-classic win.
The latest victory in what is now a 12-game undefeated run of contests came against Union at the Main Gym, a 67-65 overtime triumph that teetered back and forth for 52 minutes, alternating between being -- again, from a Maroon and White perspective -- terrifying and terrific, calamitous and colossal, and exasperating and exhilarating.
The toe-to-toe tussle saw Summit lead, trail, fight back and -- eventually -- prevail against what must be the best 10-7 team around in the form of the Union Farmers, a squad whose quickness and athleticism gave Summit all they could handle in a game that was a feast for fan senses.
Hilltopper senior captain Eric Baier had another massive day, scoring a game-high 27 points while adding eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Baier's classmate Jalen Russell added 14 points and senior captain Will Hellings had 13, including two power drives to the rim -- one nearing the end of regulation and the other in the extra session -- that proved vital.
Malachi Johnson had 16 points, Jakin Edmund added 12, and Nnaemeka Nkulme had 11 to pace Union.
Summit jumped out to a seven-point lead in the first quarter and led 14-9 after the opening eight minutes. The Farmers cranked up the speed and intensity of the contest in the second stanza and caused Summit all sorts of fits. Ultimately, Summit clawed back, and the teams ended up going to the locker room tied, 25-25.
The 'Top probably thought they should have the lead at the break, as senior Charles Lord launched a 55-foot missile that appeared to beat the buzzer and rattled home as the home crowd went wild, but the referees conferred and ruled that while Lord was fouled before the ball left his hands he did not actually get the shot itself off in time. It was Lord's ensuing free throw -- shot with nobody left on the floor -- that knotted the score.
Summit looked like they were marching to the winner's circle after taking the third quarter 22-17, a frame that featured some high-octane pace and offense, but Union kept the throttle on high and the Hilltoppers had trouble shifting gears in the fourth resulting in the Farmers actually taking the lead with just under four minutes to go.
Down two inside the final 90 seconds, Summit survived a couple of Union possessions and then got the afore-mentioned big bucket from Hellings and the teams went to bonus basketball.
In the extra frame, the Hilltoppers had just enough juice left to squeeze out the victory, an open three-point look from the visitors at the buzzer ricocheting off the iron.
Summit, now 15-2, will now hit the road to take on a very tough Rahway team -- itself 13-2 on the season -- onFebruary 4. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.