By James Evans
In a sleeper of a game (and not in a good way), the South Hunterdon Eagles triumphed over the Bernards Mountaineers (3-5), 40-24, Thursday night. The Eagles, who improved to 10-1 (with seven straight wins), were led by senior guard Daniel Begg (nine points and four rebounds).
However, the true storyline of the night was the return of senior guard Jake Whitaker. Whitaker, who was injured on Dec. 27 in a game against Riverside, had four points (0-2 from the floor, 1-2 from three, 1-2 from the line) in limited minutes. Announced as “The Big Ticket” for the game, Whitaker smiled when asked how it was to come back. “It clearly feels good to return tonight,” he said.
Along with his four points, Whitaker had three turnovers and two cringes from coach Jason Miller. After the game, Miller said that he “was happy to have Jake back because he was just champing at the bit” to get in the game.
The 40 points were the lowest output for the Eagles this season, much due to the tightly officiated game and the Mountaineers running a half-court offense. South did, however, show some success hitting several three-pointers. Assistant coach Frank Schermerhorn attributed the success to having his outside shooters adjust their shots for the Coriolis Effect. “Our court runs east and west,” said Schermerhorn, “so it’s important that our outside shooters know the Coriolis Effect will impact their long-range shots. It’s a scientific fact.”
Clay Hope (two points and four rebounds), who jawed much of the game with the Mountaineer centers, was asked postgame what was happening out there. A short laugh from Hope was followed by a “no comment” and a quick smile. Only when further prodded and asked to give the “PG version of the jawing,” Hope responded that he “just knows how to get to some people” and left it at that.
Begg, who was the leading scorer for the second game in a row, said he was “just focused the past two games” and that he just “feels locked in right now.” Thursday was also one of the few times both sophomore Elijah Davis and Whitaker were out on the court at the same time. In fact, Whitaker’s only three was from a Davis pass after he drew a double team leaving Whitaker wide open in the corner. When asked how it is to play with two extremely athletic guards at the same time, he said, “To have the two of them out there is awesome. They are both super athletic, great passers and great defenders. It’s just a treat.”
This Saturday the Eagles will continue their homestand against the Middlesex Blue Jays (5-3) in what is sure to be a contentious matchup. With Jake “The Big Ticket” Whitaker starting for the first time in almost three weeks, a rowdy Eagles crowd and a pivotal game for both teams, it surely will be a good one this Saturday at South Hunterdon.