Trailing the Hill School by 10 points entering the fourth quarter last Saturday in the opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, the Hun School boys’ basketball team didn’t appear to be heading to a title.
But outscoring sixth-seeded Hill 19-7 over the last eight minutes of the contest, third-seeded Hun pulled out an improbable 37-35 win as Hashim Moore hit a lay-up with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
Hun head coach Jon Stone acknowledged that his mind was on survival, not trophies, as the teams headed into the waning moments of the contest.
“I was thinking how I am getting out of this with a win,” recalled Stone, who got 15 points from senior star Fergus Duke in the win including a three-pointer to tie the score at 35-35.
“We were a couple of seconds and a basket away from not winning. You have to make your breaks, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes it comes from hard work.”
Building on the momentum from that narrow escape, Hun kept winning as it topped host and No. 2 seed Peddie 49-38 on Sunday in the MAPL semis and then defeated No. 1 Lawrenceville 46-31 on Monday evening to win the title.
The victory over the Big Red in the championship game was particularly sweet since Hun had dropped a 47-45 overtime thriller at Lawrenceville on January 22 in the regular season meeting between the rivals.
“We knew that they were a very good team; we were hoping for a different result,” said Stone, reflecting on the earlier loss.
In Stone’s view, achieving a better result on Monday came down to mental toughness.
“We were focused today,” said Stone, who got 12 points from Grant Mackay in the win with Duke and Moore chipping in 11 apiece.
“We came out with a goal in mind and we made big plays. It was a big team effort. I told the guys in the locker room afterward that everybody was a part of it. The guys that didn’t play, work hard everyday in practice and push the other guys. The guys that did get in each made big plays.”
The Raiders have been getting big plays from senior stars Mackay and Duke all winter. “Grant is so good and so tough,” said Stone, whose team outscored the Big Red 14-4 in the fourth quarter to pull away to the victory.
“He doesn’t fill the scoreboard but he always fills the scoresheet. He does so much. He hit four 3’s tonight, he is playing so well. When they got close tonight, Fergus hit a couple of 3s and had an assist. They have hit big buckets all year long for us.”
It was a big moment for Stone as the Raiders celebrated their first MAPL crown since 2009.
“It is fantastic; I am very happy,” said Stone, whose team improved to 19-5 with the victory. “You play for winning this and the states. It is all the hard work paying off.”
In addition to putting in a lot of hard work, Hun’s players have developed bonds that helped them get through the ups and downs this winter.
“I think we had good chemistry from the beginning but it has grown and deepened,” said Stone. “This team has learned from its losses and gotten better.”
Stone is hoping his team can play even better as it wraps up its season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest.
“We have a hard game on Wednesday to come back here against Peddie,” said Stone.
“We have to build on this. I think we just need to stay focused on the task at hand and keep getting the leadership that we have had from the veterans.”