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Boys basketball: Bristol holds off South Hunterdon boys

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South Hunterdon left too many points on the court Friday night.

The Eagles didn’t nail a second half three and shot under .500 from the free throw line. Yet South Hunterdon trailed Bristol by just four with 1:55 left in the game. Bristol kept the Eagles at arms’ length, winning the first round of the Over the River Tournament 45-38.

“We had 17 turnovers and 11 missed free throws,” observed South Hunterdon coach Jason Miller. “It’s tough to win a game, no matter what your plan is, with that.”

Bristol (4-2) hit six threes to the Eagles’ three, including at least one in every quarter. The Warriors also connected on 10 of 14 free throw attempts.

“Give them credit. (Bristol’s Jerry Devine) is a great coach. He knew exactly what our kids wanted to do. He tried to take it away and he did take it away,” Miller noted. “We forced some other guys to try and make plays that they aren’t ready to make yet.”

South Hunterdon led 13-11 after one quarter. Ian Sanders made his presence felt in the paint, stopping consecutive Bristol offensive possessions with a block and then a steal.

“I’m not the best shooter and I feel most comfortable when I can finish at the rim,” said Sanders, whose 16 points led the Eagles. “I don’t feel pressured there when people are guarding me.”

Jaylon Hammond’s layup opened the second quarter and knotted the game at 13. Logan Conner answered with a three and a pair of free throws.

“I’ll drive for an open lay-up,” said point guard Conner, who scored 10 and added three assists. “If I’m feeling it, I’ll shoot it.”

Johnny Ludwig’s jumper gave the Eagles a 21-15 lead; Bristol retorted with an 8-0 run. Sanders’ layup re-tied it at 23; Shaquille Grimes answered with a three and Bristol started the second half up 26-23.

Sanders’ jumper and layup tied the game at 28 with 3:23 left in the third quarter. It was South Hunterdon’s high-water mark. The Warriors ended the quarter on a 5-0 run.

Conner had six steals; Drew Zalescik swiped four. “We were running some new stuff, trapping a lot and pressuring Bristol,” Sanders shared. “I think that helped” the defense. Ryan Hinman’s eight rebounds led the Eagles.

The Warriors contained Zalescik for most of the game; he scored seven of his eight points in the fourth quarter. “He is a rhythm kid so when he gets a couple of points, he starts feeling better,” Miller explained. “They did a really good job on him in the first half in making him uncomfortable. Getting a couple in transition got him going a little bit.”

Pingry pulled away from South Hunterdon 63-36 on opening night but the Eagles rebounded three days later to thump North Warren 68-39. Zalescik sank more threes (four) in a 29-point performance than the entire Patriot team (one).

The Eagles (2-2, 1-1 Skyland) edged Delaware Valley (2-2) 51-50 in Saturday’s OTR consolation.

“Del Val has always been a little bit of a rivalry game for us so I’ll be interested in how we respond,” Miller said Friday night. “It’s early in the season so it could be a great game if we learn from it and more of the same if we don’t.”

South Hunterdon won 14 games last year, including four of its last five. “This group of kids has been playing together all of our lives,” Sanders stated. “That makes it easier to feel a connection on the court.”

“All of us have been playing together for years,” Connor echoed. “We know what each of us is good at and what we’re going to do next. We all play with effort and play well as a team.”


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