Sports Chatter: Runner Commits, Basketball Gets Fierce

Andy Loigu, local sports extraordinaire, brings Inside Warren's readers the Sports Chatter.


The Hackettstown girls’ basketball team lived up to the nickname Tigers on Friday evening by taking leads of 20-3 and 43-18 in emulsifying the visiting Middlesex Blue Jays. The starters sat out the final four minutes of the game, as Hackettstown breezed 55-30. The Tigers’ win improved their record to 10-4.

“We keep up a fast offensive tempo, going strong, fueled by our defense,” said point guard Amber Sagan. “Passing the ball is the key. We work on making decisions in practice, so we’ll always have ways to counter what the defenses try to do, and do it quickly, instinctively.”

She added, “Trusting my teammates, when I set up the offense from the point, gives me options. The burden isn’t always on me to score.”

The Tigers’ man-to-man pressure defensive dominance comes from working hard in practice, she added. “We go hard at each other and that makes all of us more intense players. We have a deep team with good team chemistry. We help each other. We’ll need to be a good defensive team if we want to go far in the state tournament.”

Sagan led the Tigers with 20 points, six assists, and three steals. Stefanie Jaxheimer added 10 points and Nicole Ivin scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds.

The second game of the evening’s doubleheader featured a much-anticipated boys’ matchup between the Tigers and visiting Minutemen of Mendham. “The Jungle” was packed and a big-game atmosphere made it a hostile environment for the visitors, but Mendham made the right adjustments.

Although Mendham stormed to a 17-9 lead, the Tigers clawed back to within 21-19 at halftime.

Hackettstown got to within a point at 24-23, but Mendham then went on a 7-0 run and maintained control the rest of the way with a patient offense, posting a 43-34 triumph and ending Hackettstown’s six- game win streak. Ryan Stolz led Mendham with 13 points. Nick Pellecchia and Vince Falvo each contributed an eight-point game.

The Tigers did a good job of slipping through Mendham’s man-to-man defense for layups, when Hackettstown forced the Mendham players to make switches. However, Mendham prevailed by protecting the ball, not committing turnovers, particularly in the fourth period.  Although Mendham had several players in foul trouble, the visitors got solid performances from their bench.

Ten players saw action for the Tigers in each half, as Hackettstown used two five-man platoons, substituting frequently so they could have fresh legs to play a press and run game. However, Mendham’s guards were able to dictate the tempo when the Tigers tried to come from behind.

The Tigers’ 6-5 junior center Jack Quinoa sparked Hackettstown’s win streak, averaging 14.7 points, including a career-high 24 in a tough battle against Dickinson, of Jersey City, who is 10-4. Hackettstown is now 9-6 heading into the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament.

Also in boys’ basketball, a young and improving Warren Hills team defeated a tough Voorhees squad 54-38. Mike Montana and James Jordan each scored 18 points for the winning Blue Streaks. Tim Gallagher led Voorhees with a dozen points.

Spolarich is Pitt commit

Warren Hills cross country runner Brian Spolarich will continue his athletic career at The University of Pittsburgh.

He was the area’s fastest finisher in the New Jersey Meet of Champions, running the course at Holmdel Park in 16:22. This followed a third place finish at the North Section 1 Group 3 meet and eighth place time at the Group 3 state meet.

Also, he was the Skyland Conference Valley Division and Randolph Invitational champion and fourth place finisher at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex championship meet.

The top runners in the county included North Warren senior Will Summers, Belvidere junior Braden Keenan, Hackettstown freshman Arjun Pillai and Phillipsburg senior Kevin Cockerline.

Phillipsburg’s Meyer wins prestigious award

Phillipsburg junior Brian Meyer defeated Easton’s Darius Joyce 3-0 in the 152-pound bout in the Stateliners’ 40-27 win over their cross-bridge rivals on Saturday. Meyer was named the Brad Weaver Memorial Award winner, an honor which is bestowed annually to the Outstanding Wrestler in the traditional match. Meyer has a stellar 20-6 record on the season.

Wrestlers having outstanding individual seasons include Phillipsburg’s Cullen Day (20-5) and Belvidere’s Quinn Melofchik (18-2) at 106 pounds. Matt Valli, a Warren Hills senior, is 19-3 at 132 pounds.  Alex Carida, a Hackettstown junior, is 21-2 and also at 138 pounds, Warren Hills senior Zach Nauta is 18-2. Drew Horun is 22-4 at 195 pounds and Robert Melise, also a P’burg senior, is 19-2 at 220 pounds.

Warren County wrestling fans are looking forward to some outstanding performances in this year’s post-season tournaments.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.  

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