By ANDY LOIGU
Yes, in high school sports, you occasionally have a “moral victory,” when a David versus Goliath contest such as Belvidere versus Warren Hills occurs.
In the recent past, small Group 1 basketball teams such as Belvidere have not been competitive in games against larger Group 3 schools like Warren Hills, which is a defending sectional champion.
However, on Jan. 11 at Belvidere, in what Big Red’s first-year coach Seth Hineline called his team’s “highlight game of the year,” Belvidere pushed the visiting Blue Streaks into overtime before losing a 50-47 battle. Warren Hills was just relieved to get out of town with the win.
The three-point shot proved to be an equalizer, with Belvidere draining bonus bombs to turn a 12-point Warren Hills lead into a one-point Big Red lead at 39-38, earlier in the fourth quarter. The 1952 Hickory Huskers would have been proud. Eight of Belvidere’s 19 field goals in the game were launched from behind the three-point arc.
However, this one did not have a storybook ending. Cinderella’s glass slipper did not fit.
Belvidere led 45-41 going into the final two minutes, but now it was Warren Hills who unleashed back-to-back threes, with sophomore Mike Montana firing away. Belvidere sent the game into overtime at 47-47 as Dennis Dornich stole the ball and drove in for a layup in the final seconds.
James Jordan helped secure the win in the extra session for Warren Hills with a field goal and free throw. Jordan and Montana shared the Blue Streaks’ scoring lead with 14 points each and fellow sophomore Sean Morris added 11 points.
Although Warren Hills is the bigger school, graduation stripped the defending sectional champs of their stars from a year ago. This edition of the Blue Streaks is a young team that is trying to find itself and the game at Belvidere was a test of how they can handle adversity in a road game. Casey Flynn led Belvidere with 14 points.
On the previous night, the Blue Streaks were tied at 29-29 against Somerville, before outscoring The Ville 19-10 down the stretch for a 48-39 victory. The team is growing up fast and getting it done.
Warren Hills’ girls defeat Voorhees
For the first time since 2014, the Warren Hills girls basketball squad defeated Voorhees on Jan. 10 in Washington. The 51-37 win gave the Blue Streaks a 7-2 overall record, 4-1 in the Skyland Conference Valley Division. Voorhees is 6-3, and 3-2.
Defense dominated early, as the pressing Blue Streaks forced eight first-quarter turnovers and raced off to an 11-0 lead. However, a strong team like the Vikings was not going to go down quietly. Voorhees rallied to capture a 19-18 lead, but Warren Hills closed out the first half with a 10-0 run for a nine-point halftime advantage.
Voorhees never got closer than nine in the second half. The Vikings were forced into a subpar shooting night by the Blue Streaks’ relentless harassment. Voorhees shot 31 percent from the field, 15-for-48.
“We thrive off our defense,” said Warren Hills junior guard Devyn Gara, who scored a game-high 16 points. “Defense helps us get quick baskets in transition.”
In addition to making steals and forcing violations and rushed shots, the Blue Streaks also cleared the boards. Senior Mini Ajayi pulled down 12 rebounds, in addition to adding five points. Junior Jenna Smith also went to the glass aggressively.
Youthful Tigers build around pair of veterans
In wrestling, Hackettstown started out 4-4 with a young squad which has veterans Alex Carida and Kyle Connelly as its cornerstones. Carida, at 138 pounds, is a returning state qualifier, and Connelly, at 220, is a returning district champion. They have been through the wars.
“Fortunately we are healthy and have 32 kids in the room,” said veteran Tigers’ coach Frank Rodgers.
The Tigers are not a finished project and Rodgers is hopeful that Hackettstown will be roaring by the time the post-season tournaments get into full swing. “We’re improving as the young guys gain experience,” he added.
Up and coming Tiger talents who have been winning in the early stages of the season include Steve Nicotra in the lighter weights and Joe Andes, a 285-pound junior, in the heavyweight anchor position.
Dave Post is 100/100 man
Phillipsburg has a glorious wrestling history and 20 Stateliner wrestlers, including Dave Post, have enjoyed 100-win careers.
On Jan. 12, Post became the first Stateliner in school history, to win 100 as a wrestler plus 100 as the head coach, as Phillipsburg downed old nemesis Hunterdon Central 34-24. The burg needed clutch performances from Travis Jones (113) and Lance Wissing (138) to hold a strong Red Devils’ team at bay.
The next night, the Stateliners got their coach’s 101st career win, against Kittatinny. Leading the way to a 45-19 win were P’burg pinners Cullen Day (in 2:43 at 106 pounds), Warren Hills transfer Cody Harrison (in 3:57 at 126), Wissing (in 4:41), Robert Melise (in 1:18 at 220) and Justen Carabello in 1:22 at heavyweight.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.