By James Evans
After a controversial ending to last year’s loss, the South Hunterdon boys’ team exacted revenge against the George School Cougars, 54-21, Saturday night. The Eagles, who improved to 8-1 on the season, were led by senior guard Devon Troutman (12 points and three rebounds) and their two centers against a long, athletic Cougar lineup.
In last year’s game, South coach Jason Miller was ejected and given several technicals in the heated contest between the two teams. And without their coach, the Eagles lost a nine-point lead in an upset. This week, the Eagle players were certainly excited to settle the score.
The tallest player on the Eagles squad is senior center John Conlon, who stands 6’3”. Conlon is the only Eagle in the starting lineup to even eclipse the six-foot mark. The Cougars, however, had every player in their starting five over six feet in height, with center Jibri Loving topping out at 6’7”. The matchups looked awful for South on paper. However, if games were decided on paper, there would be no use in playing. Because this one wasn’t close from the opening minutes.
An opening 12-1 run by South in the game’s opening minutes was spurred by Conlon’s first four points of the ballgame. When asked about the matchup issues, Conlon recalled a game against Pope John last year. “They had two guys who were 6’10”-6’11”, and we got blown off the court,” Conlon said. “Tonight, we just went out there and made sure their big guys didn’t get easy points off of rebounds and that we rotated the basketball as good as possible.” Conlon finished with five points, two boards and two assists in the contest.
The other “big” man for the Eagles was 6’2” center Clay Hope, who had 10 points and two boards. Solid play in the second half by Hope was limited as he fouled out with 5 minutes left in the fourth. Struggling early in the first half with four turnovers and three fouls, Hope said that he “started to pick up the zone defense they were running in the second half, and from there, it was much easier to be in the right position.” When asked how it is to play against such bigger players, Hope’s face lit up: “It challenges you to go out there and scrap, try and draw fouls, and talk back and forth all game.”
This is the fifth-straight win for the Eagles since their last loss, Dec. 28 against New Hope-Solebury. Senior captain Daniel Begg said he “is very impressed with the hot start this season, especially with the absence of last year’s leading scorer, Jake Whitaker.” With contributions coming in from all players, the Eagles have played excellent team ball in the past five games, winning by an average of 27 in that span. South hopes to continue its winning ways against the North Plainfield Canucks on Tuesday at home.