Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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BIG BAD JON: Hun School post-graduate guard Jon Lee looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, Lee scored 22 points to help Hun to a 62-44 win over host Lawrenceville in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament title game.

Sparked by Lee’s Strong Backcourt Play, Hun Boys’ Hoops Surges to MAPL Title

Bill Alden

Coming into last weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, the Hun School boys’ basketball team had dropped four of its last six games and stood at a mediocre 9-13 on the season.

While the fourth-seeded Raiders didn’t seem like much of a threat to win the title in the MAPL competition which was being played at the Lawrenceville School, post-graduate guard Jon Lee believed that Hun was ready to apply the lessons it had learned over the course of its up-and-down season.

“We played all the teams in the MAPL and all of them were tough games,” said the 6’2 Lee, a native of Flint, Mich.

“Blair beat us at the buzzer. Lawrenceville got us here too. We knew what we had to do. The rest of the season was preparing us for this; we have seen it all.”

Lee and the Raiders proved they were ready to go all out as they topped No. 5 Peddie 50-42 last Friday in the opening round and then stunned top-seeded Blair 60-53 a day later in the semis to earn a spot in the title game against host and third-seeded Lawrenceville.

In Lee’s view, the win over Blair gave Hun plenty of confidence coming into the championship game on Sunday afternoon.

“That was a real confidence builder; we knew we could do it,” said Lee, who scored 22 points in the win over the Buccaneers. “That game made us sure of ourselves and we came out with the fire today.”

Hun didn’t waste any time showing its competitive fire in the championship game, jumping out to a 31-24 halftime lead and quieting the home fans at a raucous Lavino Fieldhouse.

Turning up the defensive heat, the Raiders outscored Lawrenceville 15-7 in the third quarter to break the game open on the way to a 62-44 triumph.

The 6’2 Lee knew that Hun had to put the hammer down in the third quarter against a Lawrenceville team that had produced a second-half rally to beat Hun in the teams’ regular season meeting.

“The last time we played them we got an early lead so the mindset was to not let them back in it,” said Lee.

“We had been leading at half the last time and the third quarter killed us. If we needed to play defense in any quarter, that had to be the quarter.”

Lee helped to trigger things on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 22 points with backcourt running mate R.J. Griffin chipping in 18.

The obvious chemistry between Lee and Griffin, who just started playing together last summer, gives Hun a special dimension. “That’s my man,” said a smiling Lee, referring to Griffin.

“He is a tough player; coaches can’t teach that. I find him and he sees me. He knows I know where he is at. We are together all the time at school and off the court as well. We hang around a lot.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone is proud of the way his team has hung together through thick and thin.

“I think we have been slowly coming together as the season has gone on which is what you want out of any season,” said a beaming Stone, who guided the Raiders to the MAPL and state Prep A titles in 2007. “You want to try to peak at the right time; I think we did.”

Like Lee, Stone came into the weekend confident of Hun’s prospects. “We have been doing a lot of good things; we had a real tough loss against Life Center,” said Stone, referring to a 75-64 defeat on February 10.

“I thought we played well enough to win in that game we just didn’t win. We have slowly been building up to some of this but you never know for sure.”

Things built into a crescendo Sunday as the Raiders pulled away from Lawrenceville.

“Our guys just played great, I can’t say enough about them,” said a grinning Stone, basking in the glow of his first win at Lawrenceville in his 10-season tenure guiding Hun.

“It wasn’t anything I did. They just came out and made shots, got rebounds and steals.”

In Stone’s view, it was his team’s defensive intensity that made the difference in his team’s championship run.

“That was the trademark of our weekend, our defense was incredible,” said Stone. “I think it was very good today as well but I think in all three games, our defense was really, really strong.”

The backcourt tandem of Lee and Griffin helps make Hun a really strong team.

“They are tremendous; they work so well together,” asserted Stone. “They have been great additions to our program in terms of fitting in and everything else. They have been very consistent for us all year long as well.”

For Stone, the fact that his team has overcome earlier inconsistency made the title even sweeter.

“It has been a good group all year long,” said Stone. “We have had our frustrations but it has been a growing process. Getting it now makes you not feel so bad any more about some of those early losses.”

With the Prep A tournament coming up this week, Stone is getting a feeling of deja vu from the 2007 season where his team rode the momentum of a MAPL crown to the Prep championship.

The third-seeded Raiders play at No. 2 Lawrenceville on February 21 in the Prep A semis while No. 1 Blair and fourth-seeded St. Benedict’s battle in the other semi. The victors advance to a February 25 title game showdown at the home of the higher remaining seed.

“It is going to be very, very tough; we have to come right back here and play the same team who is very, very good,” said Stone.

“There are a lot a different pieces but the same team spirit sense and some of the same chemistry sense.

Lee, for his part, believes the Raiders have the spirit necessary to achieve another title.

“I think we can,” said Lee. “Now the target is going to be on our backs and that is going to be hard. We just need to keep playing.”

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