By Andy Loigu
All the Warren Hills boys basketball players wear the name Murray on the backs of their jerseys this winter, in honor of their fallen teammate Evan Murray, who died of injuries sustained in a football game early in the fall.
“It has really given us extra motivation to give maximum effort,” said senior point guard Johnny Bamford, “to honor his memory. We’ve been a close knit team, really united, playing with a purpose. Evan would have been one of us, wearing his number 35. We think of him every day.”
After cruising to a 50-point win (74-24) over visiting Manville on Jan. 21, the Warren Hills Blue Streaks’ boys’ basketball team stood at 9-2 on the current season.
Both losses were down-to-the wire games, decided in the final seconds, and the Blue Streaks have rematches with those teams this week.
Warren Hills cleared the bench in the win over Manville, after establishing a 31-14 halftime lead and increasing it to 43-16. “Everybody on this team contributes by playing really hard on defense,” said Johnny Bamford, who led Warren Hills with 18 points. Shane Plenge and James Jordan added 14 and 10 points respectively.
“We’re running our offense real well, giving each other lots of open looks,” Bamford added. “We’re finding our groove as a team, working the ball.”
In their big rivalry game on Jan. 16 against the visiting Hackettstown Tigers, the Blue Streaks pulled away in the last two minutes for a 47-40 win. Hackettstown, also having a winning season, fell to 7-3.
Buster Bamford drilled a three-point bonus bomb giving the Blue Streaks a 41-39 lead with 1:43 left to play. Anthony Lea added to the lead with a pair of free throws. Johnny Bamford led Warren Hills with a game-high 17 points. Anthony Veneziano scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds for the winners.
It was the Blue Streaks’ first win over Hackettstown in Bamford’s four years with the team.
“It meant a lot to get that off our backs,” said head coach Stan Kubbishun, “but we can’t be looking back right now, a lot of big games remain and we’re looking to keep adding power points for high seeding in the post-season tournaments, so we can play big games at home.”
About the aggressive man-to-man defense Warren Hills plays, he said, “we don’t switch men a lot. We work at getting over the screens and that takes a team that talks to each other on the floor. We deny the other team’s big scorers the basketball, and work together. Everyone covers their man, but we also work together and help each other.”
“If we win some tournament games to extend our season, Bamford (Johnny) and Veneziano could both end their careers with over 1,000 points. You don’t see two guys on the same team do that in the same season, very often,” Kubbishun said, adding, “but the nice thing is, they are un-selfish players. Their game is team first. Teams can’t double up on either one of them, because we have guys who score if they are left open, and Johnny does a great job of distributing the ball.”
Johnny Bamford scored a season-high 21 points in a win against Pingry and led Warren Hills to a 10-point triumph over Phillipsburg with a 19-point game earlier this season.
From the Sports Chatter Archives: Where are they now?
Former Warren County Field Hockey Player of the Year Lindsey Schott, from Warren Hills, has one semester to go to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Lehigh University, where she majors in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
She recently was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll Team. To be named, a player has to maintain a 3.2 or higher grade point average while active in her sport.
Schott is an IT global technical operations business partner intern at Celgene in Berkeley Heights, where she serves on the innovation acceleration team to enhance their website, process flows, marketing, and social media usage.
At Warren Hills, she led the Blue Streaks to a 22-2 record in her senior season, being named All-State Group III, after scoring 27 goals and 16 assists. For her career, she totaled 72 goals and 46 assists.
LeGrand to visit Hackettstown
Rutgers University spokesman Eric LeGrand is paralyzed, and uses a wheelchair after suffering an injury when he played football for the Scarlet Knights five years ago. Instead of becoming bitter and despondent, his spirit has grown stronger and he has been positive and inspirational, serving as an analyst on the Rutgers radio broadcasts and making numerous public appearances in a variety of settings to speak about “the power of faith, hope and courage.”
He is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, in the sanctuary at Trinity United Methodist Church, 213 Main St., Hackettstown. The public is invited. Call 908-852-3020 with any questions you may have.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.