By James Evans
In their first game of the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex County Tournament, the South Hunterdon Eagles (15-4) won handily over the Vernon Vikings, 73-39. The game, which was close throughout the first half, looked like it had all the elements of a first-round upset for the Eagles. However, led by strong play from senior guard Jake Whitaker, who had a season-high 25 points, South was able to run away with the game in the second half.
At the half, the Eagles were up 34-30 in a close game. What most teams would take as an advantage going into the half is a nightmare for the Eagles. In three of their four losses, the Eagles have effectively buried themselves in the third quarter, a major struggle for them this year. That, in conjunction with half of their points coming from Whitaker in the first half, was not a good sign for the team.
However, coach Jason Miller would not have any of it. “He ripped into us at halftime and was unusually heated,” said Whitaker, who added six steals and two rebounds in the contest. And it looks like Miller should do that more often, as his team went out and outscored the Vikings, 39-9, in the final half, absolutely executing on both sides of the court.
When asked postgame how he felt about his performance, Whitaker smiled and said that he “felt great tonight” and that “was certainly the return that I was looking for.” Also playing well in the contest was senior center John Conlon, who had eight points and 10 rebounds in the contest. When asked postgame about his performance, Conlon gawked at the stat sheet in shock that he was a mere basket from his second season double-double. “I absolutely had not idea I was that close,” Conlon said. “We all just played like a team tonight and we need to execute if we want to move onto the next round.”
The Eagles, in the meantime, will play on the road against North Plainfield this Thursday, having a few days off after a tough stretch of basketball. Their next Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex game will be Saturday at home against either North Hunterdon or High Point.