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Boys basketball: Eagles soar to 4-2 in division


The 2020s were just three weeks old when South Hunterdon hosted divisional foe Warren Tech. And when the decade closes in 2029, South Hunterdon’s 81-30 Tuesday blasting of the Knights may still stand as “biggest Eagle win of the 20s.”

“Whenever you come off of a loss, it’s hard to get back into it,” noted Ryan Hinman, who snagged 10 rebounds. “We attacked well in practice over the long weekend. It feels nice to get the win but we still have more to go after this.”

“We really wanted to push the pace and work on our conditioning, which is still a little suspect even at this point,” said Eagles veteran assistant coach Frank Schermerhorn. “Kids had played football, we were off for a couple of days and we’ve been a little bit banged up. We hadn’t pressed that much or played that much man so tonight gave us the opportunity to work on some things.”

Warren Tech scored the opening bucket but the Eagles responded with an 18-0 run. Four free throws, threes from Logan Conner and Drew Zalescik, putbacks from Hinman and Max Cathey-Jordan’s jumper helped build an 18-2 lead. The Eagles led 25-10 after one quarter.

“We wanted to keep up the pressure and energy. If we used that fast-paced game play against their zone, we could blitz them and score off of easy layups and easy shots,” Zalescik explained. “It was not taking as many jumpers.”

Layups from Zalescik and Conner’s 3-point play highlighted an 8-0 run that extended the margin to 37-12. South Hunterdon was up 45-19 at the half and 68-23 after three.

“If we swing the ball to a better look and drive off of that, there were better openings,” said Zalescik, whose 21 points led South Hunterdon. “Compared to driving where they all collapse in the middle.”

It was the fourth time this winter that South Hunterdon’s offense scored over 58 points. Conner (21 points), Duane Richardson (12 points) and Chris Romano (11 points) all hit season scoring highs. Tuesday marked Zalescik’s third 20-point game of the year.

“It starts with ball movement. We try to be unselfish,” Schermerhorn explained. “If Zalescik is knocking down shots, that is key. We’re playing with two bigs now and we’re trying to get them touches inside but also facilitate ball reversal.”

The Eagle defense stole over a dozen balls in the first half, creating stops and resulting in fast break points. Conner recorded nine thefts.

“We were pressuring and playing aggressive,” Hinman described. “We had that aggressive mindset and I feel teams can only get in and press people with that mindset.”

South Hunterdon (5-5, 4-2 Skylands Mountain) used a 20-4 first quarter to pound Warren Tech (1-8, 0-6 Skylands) 59-27 on Jan. 2. Ten different Eagles scored in the game.

The Eagles are playing a stretch of five divisional contests in six games. South Hunterdon walloped Belvidere 68-31 on Jan. 14 behind double-doubles from Zalescik and Hinman. The win completed the first round of Skylands Mountain play. South Hunterdon travels to Manville on Thursday and sojourns to Belvidere on the 30th.

Last Thursday, first place Pingry put away the Eagles 66-42, in a game where the Eagles led by three at halftime.

“I think they wore us down a little bit,” Schermerhorn said. “We extended a lot in the first half and Logan was just coming back after being out for a week. It was a very good first half and they are a very good team.”

While Zalescik is South Hunterdon’s main weapon, “I think we have a bunch of kids who can score,” Schermerhorn stated. That depth was on display Tuesday night.