SUMMIT, NJ - Two of the hallmarks of every Jim Davidson-coached team are an unselfish, team-oriented offense, and a tenacious, relentless defense. The Summit High School Basketball team is living up to that pedigree, and riding it all the way to the State Final.
For the second consecutive game, the Hilltoppers used a suffocating defensive effort in the second half to take control of their opponent and -- ultimately -- the game, holding Colonia to 11 points in the final two quarters, and reversing a seven-point halftime deficit to win 41-35.
With the victory, Summit, the number-three seed, advances to the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 title game March 10, where they will take on the number-one seed, Newark East Side, a 63-56 winner over Orange. The game is at East Side, with tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.
As they did in their quarterfinal win versus Barrington, Summit opened the game erratically and fell behind 5-0. Playing before a raucous crowd in a jammed-to-the-rafters High School Gym, the Hilltoppers looked jittery for stretches of the first quarter and first half, uncharacteristically turning the ball over and allowing too much space for Colonia's shooters.
Summit steadied themselves to trail just 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, but soon found themselves down 20-13 halfway through the second, as the Patriots were finding long-range joy from the left had corner. The intensity level seemed to escalate with each passing minute on the clock, and at the interval, Summit trailed 24-17.
Just as they did against Barrington, however, Summit began the third quarter at a different level, establishing a tone that carried through the end of the game. Defensively, there was no more room for Colonia's shooters. Every shot was contested, every rebound fought for, the defensive stops piled up, and the Patriots did not score a basket until there was two minutes left in the quarter. By that time, Summit had taken a lead -- at 29-26 -- that they would not relinquish. The quarter ended 34-29, setting the stage for a thrilling final period.
In the fourth, Summit's defense continued to force errant shots and turnovers and, when Kyle Crotty hit a leaning 10-foot bank shot with just over two and a-half minutes to go, followed by a Mac Wiesner drive to the bucket 30-seconds later, the game was there to be iced. Colonia fouled repeatedly trying to extend the game, but one free-throw by Wayne Wong, and two by Robbie Walsh sealed the Hilltoppers trip to Newark on Monday.
Walsh finished with 16 points to lead Summit, Crotty had 13, and Wiesner added 10. Wong was especially good in the second half, when he took control of floor being spread and consistently found open teammates and created scoring chances.
"We said we wanted to win the third quarter, being down seven at the half we knew we were just a couple of baskets from being back in front," said Davidson. "Offensively, we spread the floor and let Wayne see what he could do. They were doing a good job of denying the pass, so we went to a dribble drive set to get the ball to Robbie."
Of the first-half hiccups, Davidson said, "Our fans were great, there's a big crowd, and they are loud. Everyone's family and friends were here, and the guys got excited, got caught up in it." Not one to reflect on the journey when the destination has yet to be reached, Davidson said, when asked if he thought that, back in December, his team was capable of reaching this point , "it's not something we ever thought about, we just try to get batter every day. The kids deserve a lot of credit."