SUMMIT, NJ - Playoff basketball is not supposed to be easy, and that was definitely the case for the Summit High School Girls and Boys Basketball Teams competing in their respective NJSIAA tournamentsTuesday night.
Playing in back-to -back games at the High School Gym, the Girls opened the evening by defeating Cranford 54-50, and the Boys triumphed over Warren Hills 42-36 in the second half of the hoop doubleheader.
The Summit Girls Varsity has essentially reversed their record compared to the previous season. Now 18-7, their win differential is +11 versus 2012-13, but learning how to win in the "second season" is a process unto itself.
Behind 12 points from Cassidy O'Malley, Summit built a 23-19 first half lead, but they were immediately pegged back -- and overtaken -- by the Cougars in the early minutes of the third quarter. Unable to draw iron from the outside in the first half, Cranford was now draining three's and long-range two's, and had the Lady Hilltoppers on their heels.
The Summit ship was steadied by Kayla Houston, who had a strong game off the bench, grabbing rebounds and getting to the basket. Another big contribution came from Anna Baumeister, who made a couple of key buckets down the stretch, but Cranford hung tough until the final buzzer. A big three-point play by Madeleine Gramigna, who was rock solid on both ends of the floor, made it 48-41, and gave Summit the cushion it needed to withstand the six three's the Cougars hit on the night.
"We told Kayla she could be a difference maker, and tonight she gave us the energy boost we needed," said Summit Girls Varsity Head Coach Brian Erickson. "Even though we missed a few shots, I thought we ran our offense well down the stretch, and beat a team that has a tournament pedigree."
O'Malley finished with 17 points and Gramigna added 15 for Summit, who play Nutley tomorrow on the road.
If the Girls game was tussle, the boys game was a grind. Warren Hills held the ball for stretches of the first half, spreading the floor, and simultaneously keeping the Hilltoppers from utilizing their transition game. The game scores -- all narrow Summit leads -- matched the tempo. 9-6 at the end of the first quarter, 17-16 at the half, and 30-28 at the end of three.
Summit was without Matt Fischetti for the near-entirety of the game, as he tested his broken hand in the first quarter, but was unable to continue. Fischetti, who brings a unique blend of hustle, physicality, and offense to the team, was clearly missed, but the hustle and physicality portions were filled by Pete Cummins who was a tour de force on the glass, grabbing key rebounds, loose balls, and earning the Hilltoppers opportunities at second-chance baskets.
Summit also got key contributions at key moments from substitutes Zach Theodore and Jordan Gonzalez. Another plus was that the Hilltoppers were making their free throws in the second half, after going a dismal 4-11 from the charity stripe in the first 16 minutes.
"We were getting to the basket in the first half, but missing our free throws," said Summit Boys Varsity Head Coach Jim Davidson. Of the slow-down tempo, he said, "We just have to adjust, we practiced against the zone defense and put in some offensive sets designed for that situation. It comes down to execution."
Summit, which was led by Robbie Walsh with 12 points and Kyle Crotty with seven, next faces Barringer tomorrow night at home. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.