By James Evans
Despite a miserable second half, the South Hunterdon Eagles (9-1) were able to hang on for a 60-54 win over the North Plainfield Canucks (3-4) on Tuesday night. Led by guards Daniel Begg (13 points, 5-6 from the floor) and Brennan Carey (13 points and four steals), the Eagles were able to build up enough of a lead from their fast start to get their sixth straight win.
Facing a very young North Plainfield team, which had six freshmen on the varsity roster, the Eagles were able to take advantage of their inexperience in the first half, playing solid team basketball. Every single active player for the Eagles had at least two points at the half, en route to a 36-18 margin. However, much like what happened against the Del Val Terriers and the Voorhees Vikings, the Eagles laid an egg in the second half.
The Eagles, during their six-game winning streak, have been outscored in half of those games’ third quarters, while winning by an average of 24 points a game. The trend is certainly peculiar. Both assistant coaches, Trevor Johnson and Frank Schermerhorn, were asked about this recent trend. Johnson, a South Hunterdon basketball alum, put it flatly: “If we were to know what the problem was, we would fix it. It’ll just take time to find.” However, Schermerhorn had a different take and blamed much of Tuesday night’s poor shooting on the full moon, citing what he called “a lunar gravitational pull” on the ball. “Everyone knows that shooting percentage decreases when there’s a full moon,” said Schermerhorn after the game. “It’s a scientific fact.”
The third-quarter trend has hampered the Eagles despite the recent win streak, allowing many teams to play themselves back after an early first-half deficit. Senior center John Conlon mirrored the thoughts of Shermerhorn: “We can’t play passive basketball. Not even for a moment.” And Conlon certainly showed the need for heads-up basketball on Tuesday.
On a fastbreak for the Canucks in the second quarter, Conlon played back on defense, only to have a possible steal slip through his legs. However, Conlon was able to rotate perfectly after the ball reached a Canuck freshman, Ka-Ron Dock, and swat his shot attempt solidly out of bounds. The play helped to energize his teammates, leading Conlon to six points and five rebounds on the night.
After a third quarter where the Eagles were outscored by seven points, they continued to struggle in the fourth, barely hanging on for the win. Senior guard Devon Troutman’s three-point shooting did not help the cause, going 0-3 on the night. In the Eagles’ past seven games, Troutman is shooting below 30 percent from three-point range. The key factor is that those past seven games have been without fellow senior guard Jake Whitaker. His slash-and-kick style has been missing for Troutman, who said after the game, “Although we all miss Whitaker being active, my three-point shot is something I just need to work on.”
The Eagles hope to continue their winning ways against the Bernards Mountaineers (3-4). With a loss to Del Val earlier this season, the Mountaineers will have to hope to capitalize in the second half and press the Eagles if they want any shot to win this Thursday night at South Hunterdon.