January 25, 2017

Sparked by Sutphen’s Hustle, Clutch Play, Hun Girls’ Hoops Holds Off Willingboro

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Leah Sutphen drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Sutphen scored eight points to help Hun defeat Willingboro 54-49 and improve to 6-7. Hun hosts Peddie on January 25, plays at Pingry on January 27, and hosts Nottingham on January 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman on the Hun School girls’ basketball team last winter, Leah Sutphen took her lumps as the main inside threat for a squad that struggled to a 1-22 record.

With the Raiders adding several new players this season, including sophomore guard/forward Jada Jones and freshman forward Alexis Harvell, the 5’6 Sutphen is shouldering less of a burden in the paint.

“I am more comfortable on the court with my teammates,” said Sutphen. “We have got Alexis Harvell, she has been a big asset.”

Last Saturday against visiting Willingboro, Sutphen showed her increased comfort level, scoring eight points and grabbing some key rebounds to help Hun earn a 54-49 victory as it improved to 6-7.

In the third quarter, Sutphen hit a jumper and then made a superb putback, sprinting down the court to tip in a missed lay-up.

“I was going for the ball a little bit more,” said Sutphen, reflecting on her third quarter heroics.

“I knew if they got into foul trouble we could get into the bonus and take advantage of that so that is what I tried to do.”

In the fourth quarter, the Raiders weathered a storm as the Chimeras used a full-court press to go on a 6-0 run and make it a 40-38 game with 7:04 left in regulation, turning the contest into a nailbiter.

“I knew they were going to come out strong but we kept our heads high,” said Sutphen.

“They went for the ball a lot on the 50/50s and we weren’t always going to the ball so they got a lot of steals from that and a lot of easy layups.”

Sutphen calmly hit two free throws with 5:04 left to give Hun a 48-38 lead and Jones made eight free throws down the stretch to hold off Willingboro, which narrowed the gap to 48-45 with two minutes left in the game.

“Those were big moments for us,” said Sutphen, reflecting on Hun’s clutch shooting from the free-throw line.

“We practice free throws almost every single practice and if we don’t make them, we run.”

In Sutphen’s view, playing some tough defense also helped Hun pull out the victory.

“We came out strong with tight defense; we knew that they had a really good scorer in No. 15 (Jasmine Fitzpatrick, who passed the 1,000 point mark in her career during the contest),” said Sutphen.

“We knew that we had to mark her tight and that is what we did and we were tight on the boxing out. We really tried hard with that.”

With Hun off to a good start, the players have developed a tighter bond this year.

“We have changed a lot since last year; one more win and we are .500, I think that is something to be proud of,” said Sutphen.

“We have got a lot of different personalities on the team and it is coming together. We have a lot better chemistry this year too.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup saw the win over Willingboro as a sign of progress.

“After beating Mercersburg (35-30 on January 15) and then Stem-to-Civics (64-26 on January 18) last week, we took half a step back, losing the Hightstown game (41-36 on January 19),” said Holup.

“Today we came back and stepped forward again and I think that is what we need to do. We learned from the Hightstown loss and if you don’t learn from mistakes what good is making the mistake. You have to learn so you don’t do it again.”

Holup liked the way his team came up big down the stretch. “It was a good, combative, physical game and fortunately we came out and overall had less turnovers than they did,” said Holup.

“It seemed like every time we got a steal, we gave it right back. Bottom line, we made the baskets when it counted and we got some good rebounds and did a good job overall.”

In Holup’s view, Sutphen’s hustle helped spark the Raiders. “In her case, the effort is always there; she never gives up on any play,” said Holup.

“You saw that where we missed a layup and she ran and grabbed the ball and put it right back up and got the basket. She knows that every play you don’t give up on. She is definitely much more confident, she is more talkative. Last year she was a little bit quiet as a freshman, which is understandable. She is coming out a little more, which is great.”

Jones produced a great game, scoring 30 points and handling the ball in the absence of point guard Anna Maguire, who is currently sidelined by a leg injury.

“Jada is really stepping up; with the burden of losing Anna and the fact that she is more of a scorer than a point guard, she has had to assume a lot more of that responsibility,” said Holup.

“Some of the shots that she hits are pretty incredible. She is legit and she is only a sophomore. We are happy to have her. She has been a great addition to the school community not just the basketball program but the school itself.”

With Hun having won three of its last four games, Holup is looking for his players to keep stepping up.

“We are fighting every game and every day we are getting closer to having Anna back, “ said Holup, whose team hosts Peddie on January 25, plays at Pingry on January 27, and hosts Nottingham on January 30. “I am very happy with the win.”

Sutphen, for her part, believes that showing a little more poise will help the Raiders pile up more wins.

“What I think we need to do more of is to take smarter shots,” said Sutphen.

“A lot of times, we are rushing the ball up. If we pull it back sometimes and take a deep breath, that will be a lot better.”