Cougar Cagers Stun Blue Devil Boys, 60-44
CARPIEN, SPONHEIMERS, POLLACK, HUNTER, WALL
Impressive results especially towards the end of the season from last year’s Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School boys basketball team has ignited a flame for the Raiders, who would open their season against a highly improved Cranford Cougar squad on December 14 in Cranford and find out that they would need to do a bit more building.
Last year, the Raiders held its own against a host of very talented Union County teams, won the Mountain Division of the Union County Conference with a 10-0 record, stunned the fourth-seeded Elizabeth Minutemen, 65-55, in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Tournament and finished with a 16-10 record.
They were led all season by a pair of talented seniors in Khadar Jackson and Matt Nervi. “We lost a 4-year varsity player and last year’s Conference Player of the Year, Matt Nervi due to graduation. We also lost Khadar Jackson who had a great senior season due to graduation as well,” Raider Head Coach Steve Siracusa said.
But this season would look bright for the Raiders as a group of talented underclassmen contributors figure to step up and take the lead. Among them are seniors Jaden Carpien, Anderson Pollack and Sam Sponheimer who provided solid defense and deadly three-point shooting last year. Junior Jack Sponheimer got valuable experience and should take a prominent role moving forward. Others with playing time are seniors Jack Wall and Kyle Hunter.
Coach Siracusa pointed out, “We return some starters and key contributors to last year’s team. We are expecting returners Sam Sponheimer, Jaden Carpien, Kyle Hunter, Anderson Pollack, Jack Wall and Jack Sponheimer to all increase their contribution into larger roles this year. We also have some promising underclassmen that we are excited to see what they can do on the varsity stage.”
A number of players on the Raiders’ roster will add depth and keep the legs fresh by subbing in an out. They include seniors Jack Merkel, Joseph DeFrancesco, Sean Saggio and Carter Stephens and juniors Cooper Tamase, Brayden Gal, Jacob Handy, Josh Matty and Quinn Beckhan, along with sophomore Caleb McDowell.
“We are really excited for the season and looking to build on last season’s success. We have a lot of depth and will look to use our strength in numbers to our advantage. If we can play hard, smart and together, I think we can have a very successful season. Of course, we always want to compete and try to win our conference, county and state championships,” Coach Siracusa said.
In their opener against Cranford, the Raiders built an immediate 9-2 lead but the Cougars regrouped and went on to claim a 60-44 victory. After the Cougars scored first, Jack Sponheimer (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists) sank a 3-pointer then Gal (12 points) banged the first of his four 3-pointers to make the score 6-2. With 3:13 left in the first quarter, Sam Sponheimer sank a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to up the lead to 9-2.
But the 1-0 Cougars’ comeback began with Nick Amitie, who would lead all scorers with 22 points and 13 rebounds, putting up a 2-pointer then Enzo Madrini (10 points, 3 rebounds, assist) nailed a 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 9-7 with 42.6 left on the clock. As time expired in the first quarter, Chase Teel (8 points, 9 rebounds, assist) was fouled while going underneath for a lay-up and sank both free throws to knot the score.
That seven-point surge in the final minute inspired the Cougars to outscore the Raiders, 23-10, to seize a 32-19 lead at the half. From there, both teams virtually matched points until the final buzzer blared. Sam Sponheimer finished with 11 points, seven steals, three assists and two rebounds. Hunter sank a pair of 3pointers and added two rebounds and a steal. Pollack had seven points, a steal and a rebound. Handy had a pair of steals and a rebound. Quinn sank a free throw and Wall pulled two boards and added an assist.
Cougar Chris Santarelli finished with six points, a rebound, a steal and an assist. Josh Ketschke netted 10 points and added two rebounds, three assists and two steals. Dylan Aveno had two points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Darren Bush scored two points and added three assists and three steals. Dennis McCaffery and Ryan Klimko each pulled a rebound.
Next, the Raiders would try to regroup with a match-up against the Hillside Comets on December 16 and the Cougars would face the Oratory Prep Rams on the same day.
Sc Pl-Fanwood 9 10 16 9 44 Cranford 9 23 10 18 60