By James Evans
The South Hunterdon Eagles lost their third game in the past six, as they dropped to 13-4 following a 62-57 loss to the Del Val Terriers (9-6) on Tuesday. It was another poor third quarter by the Eagles that hurt them in the second half in a game that was close throughout.
In three of their four losses this season, the Eagles have lost their lead or tie game in the third quarter. Tuesday, with the game tied after the first quarter (8-8) and again at the half (26-26), the Eagles were down by nine in the final minute of the third quarter. However, the early troubles for South began well before the game even started. Guard Daniel Begg remarked postgame that he was worried that “some of the guys are playing with their heads down” and that “the recent struggles have affected the team.” Junior guard Josh Phillips echoed the senior captain’s thoughts after the loss: “We need to pick our heads up for the final third of our season, no question.”
The goal for the night was to contain Terriers forward Josh Christ, who had 22 points in the team’s first contest on Jan. 7. In the rematch, the Terriers hoped to exact revenge for the 62-54 loss, and did so in front of a raucous home crowd. Christ was not as contained as he was in the first contest, greatly swinging the game in the final minutes, hitting two clutch free throws to seal it. However, this game did not look like the Eagles to win from the start.
Junior guard Brennan Carey, who had a team-high 19 points in the first contest, had five turnovers in the first half and shot poorly from the field, so personifying much of South’s early basketball. As trite as it may be “the shots were not falling tonight,” which was certainly reflected in the Eagles’ low shooting percentage. Yet, the game, despite the abysmal third quarter and the early shooting, was within two with 1:01 left to play in the fourth. However, like they have all season, the Eagles lost the game on two critical foul shots in the final minutes. One, a 1-1 opportunity for senior guard Devon Troutman, was missed, along with two shots to keep it a one possession game by Jake Whitaker.
Due to snow, the Eagles will have a back-to-back this Thursday/Friday against Manville and then either Belvidere or Vernon. The latter game will be the opening of the Eagles’ Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex County tournament. If the Eagles hope to have any success at the season’s end, these two games are needed to build the confidence back up and lift the heads high.