By James Evans
The South Hunterdon Eagles fell to 12-3 on the season on Thursday night with a tough loss against the Bound Brook Crusaders, 54-51. The game featured two of the Skyland Conference’s top teams, and the game did not disappoint.
A low-scoring first quarter was spurred by both teams playing tough defense against each other. That tough defense would allow for a little extracurricular after the whistles, and was one of several controversies on the night. Other controversies included both coaches being asked to not step out too far onto the court, overhead music being played while the Crusaders had possession and a last-second finish that looked to have warranted a call.
At halftime, the Eagles led 22-18, spurred by early great play by Jake Whitaker (nine points and two steals in the first half) and Tyler Frazee (four points, three steals and two blocks in the first half). However, a constant theme this season is that the Eagles have lost games in the third quarter, with Thursday being no different. A 20-13 Bound Brook third quarter put the Eagles down three going into the final quarter.
Down by as much as seven points in the fourth, the Eagles rallied back to within one in the final two minutes, yet could not hit clutch free throws down the stretch. Two key one-and-one’s were missed by South, which could have allowed for a closer game in the final seconds. Down three with 25 seconds left, the Eagles could not find an open man, and had Frazee attempt a three that fell short with time expiring. However, the Bound Brook players, who had been asked once before when on the bench to not come out onto the court, rushed out with time still left on the clock. The referees looked bewildered, and decided to allow the storming of the court to be allowed, with the Bound Brook players celebrating.
Bound Brook coach Anthony Melesurgo wanted a call in the second when supposed noise was being played on the loudspeakers of the home gym. He wanted to retain possession after a team turnover because of the alleged interference. However, with a few seconds left in the game, the no-call on the bench players on the court was happily taken, as the Crusaders took home the win. According to NJSIAA rules, a technical should have been assessed in those final seconds, with the Eagles being allowed to shoot two free throws and attempt a final shot with about two or three seconds remaining. Yet, the call did not take place and the Eagles were handed an ugly loss.
South coach Jason Miller after the game was asked about the brighter spots of his team’s night: “Tyler Frazee played his best basketball all season tonight. He played awesome on defense for us and was a key stopper.” Frazee finished with nine points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the contest. Asked after the game about his great night, Frazee said he just “let his game do the talking” and that he “just went out there and played.”
The South Hunterdon Eagles look to end this short losing pattern (2-2 in their past four games) Saturday on the road against another conference rival in Belvidere (3-9). The Eagles will need to shake off this loss, as tough as it may be, and focus or an upset could be in order.