MORRISTOWN, NJ - In a roller coaster of a game played a high level of passion and skill, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team was unable to hold a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, was pushed to overtime and eventually dropped a 65-60 decision to Delbarton at Abbot Brian Clarke Gymnasium.
An especially strong second-half had put the Hilltoppers in position to claim the victory, but Summit could not put the hosts away as the Green Wave outscored the visitors 11-4 down the stretch to force the extra session.
Truth be told, had the Maroon and White converted several contested -- but makeable -- layups, the outcome would likely have been different, perhaps not even in doubt, but those misses gave oxygen to Delbarton which, to its credit, used it to extend the game and eventually prevail.
Junior Eric Baier had 16 points, senior captain Malcolm Sidebottom added 13, classmate and fellow captain Dom Yorio had 11 before fouling out, and junior Will Hellings had 10 to pace the Hilltoppers. Delbarton's Jaedon Khubani led all scorers with 27 points, 10 of which came from the charity stripe.
A robust, loud and proud turnout by the Summit student body and fan base combined with the intimate confines of the Clarke Gym -- and the fact that Summit versus Delbarton in, well, anything brings an elevated level of animation -- created a state playoff-like environment in terms of intensity and decibel levels.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair with neither team earning more than a four-point lead. The game was tied at 15 after the opening eights minutes and the Green Wave owned a one-bucket lead at the half, 33-31.
The Hilltoppers began the third quarter with added gusto and ripped off a 7-0 run to take a 38-31 lead only to see the Green Wave punch back with a 6-0 run of their own to narrow the visitors' advantage to a single point. Summit was limiting Delbarton to one-shot possessions, usually from outside the paint, and was a step quicker in transition. The result was a 21-14 third-quarter 'win' and a 52-47 Summit lead after three.
Things looked promising for the boys from the 07901 when they led 54-47 with just over four minutes left, but a series of missed shots at the rim, attempts that went halfway down but wouldn't completely fall, a few critical turnovers and, it must be said, some questionable calls and non-calls, all collaborated to a yield a difficult three-minute stretch for Summit -- one which saw Delbarton tie the game at 58 with 1:36 remaining.
The last 90 seconds could best be described as 'crazee', as neither team appeared ready to win the game, with a breakaway missed layup, multiple missed foul shots, and a slew of turnovers adding up to give each squad multiple chances for victory that neither was prepared to take.
As can be the case, overtime sessions -- in games as good as this one was -- don't live up to the quality and drama of the 32 minutes of hoop that preceded them. That observation was validated on this day as the Green Wave made the the most of their free throw opportunities in the bonus period while Summit had some good looks, but a few more 'in-and-outs' meant it was not to be their day.
"We had our opportunities," said Summit Head Coach Tim Simo. "I'd like to see us run our offense down the stretch instead of looking for the 'dagger' shot, but I can't fault our kids one bit today. They played their hearts out."
As for the noise the traveling students and fans brought for his boys on the afternoon, Simo said, "If I would have closed my eyes I would have thought we were playing at home."
Summit, now 8-2 on the season, will be at home next, returning to the Main Gym January 17 to face Rahway. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.