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Boys basketball: Big early run grounds Eagles

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The South Hunterdon boys basketball (3-2) team tried to pull off consecutive sweeps on Friday. Both boys and girls hoops teams topped Manville the night before.

The Lady Eagles did their part Friday afternoon by beating Kittatinny 47-42.

But the Kittatinny boys, who South Hunterdon crushed 72-51 last season, cruised to a 54-33 victory. Reggie Smith scored or assisted on the Eagles’ first two baskets. After his put back cut Kittatinny’s lead to 6-5, the Cougars rattled off 21 straight points. Two Johnny Ludwig free throws in the second quarter stopped the bleeding.

“We’re small and they had some kids with length,” said coach Jason Miller. “With the way they extended their zone, we needed to take advantage of hitting and driving gaps. We did that a little bit in the third quarter and I think we showed some fight in that quarter.”

“We didn’t play well against their length,” echoed point guard Logan Conner. “We have to do better at that.”

The Cougars (3-0) have won all three games by at least 21 points. Kittatinny’s Brian Plath led all scorers with 15. The Cougars’ Hunter Rossi was limited to nine points after scoring 33 in Kittatinny’s first two games.

“He can shoot,” Miller said. “We wanted to shade to his side. If he was going to beat us, he’d have to beat us by putting the ball on the floor and not by standing in the corner hitting wide open looks.”

The young Eagles, who went 15-9 last season, have just one senior among their starters and first reserve. One of their youngest, freshman Drew Zalescik, continued to turn heads in the third quarter. Trailing 39-17, Zalescik converted a Conner pass into a 3, hit a layup and sank another 3 from a Smith assist. Zalescik dished to Ian Sanders, whose jumper cut the lead to 39-27.

“It was all about getting open shots on the perimeter,” explained Zalescik, whose 11 points and four rebounds paced South Hunterdon. “They weren’t guarding that. The pump fakes really helped.”

Sanders added eight points. Conner and Smith had a pair of assists; Ludwig also grabbed four boards.

The Eagles were a basket away from a three-game, double-digit win streak. The day after an opening night loss to Pingry, South Hunterdon topped Bristol 47-39, getting a dozen or more points from Sanders, Smith and Zalescik. The Eagles nearly doubled up Warren Tech three nights later in a 53-27 romp. Cooper McCaffrey scored 13 while Zalescik added 11.

“They work hard,” Miller explained. “It’s not an energy thing.

“We lost a lot of seniors,” Miller continued. “The guys coming in had some valuable time in spots last year but this is the first time they are consistently playing long stretches and have to compete through the ebbs and flows of the game.”

South Hunterdon used a big second quarter to earn a 47-36 win Thursday night against Manville. Conner’s 23 points led all scorers.

“We got good looks, we played as a team and we played aggressively,” Conner credited.

Eagle opponents averaged just 34 points per game during the win streak. “It was hustle. If we pressure the ball, they’ll make turnovers,” said Zalescik. Offensively, the freshman leads South Hunterdon with 47 points.

South Hunterdon is back in action on Dec. 27 at New Hope-Solebury’s Over the River Tournament.


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