L’ville falls at Peddie tourney
HIGHTSTOWN >> The Lawrenceville boys basketball team flashed its potential last weekend at the Kiski School Tournament, winning two games and romping Lake Forest Academy by 19 points. But Friday’s rematch against the Illinois prep school offered a reminder.
The Big Red are talented and have nine seniors, yet they have three new starters and are inexperienced playing as a group.
That manifested in a 73-60 loss to Lake Forest in the first round of the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, where a sluggish start ultimately doomed Lawrenceville.
“I think we’re going to improve throughout the season. We’re going to get a lot better,” coach Ron Kane said. “We’ve got terrific senior leadership, which is really helpful. That’s going to help us through the ups and downs, but it’s still early. We’re still finding an identity as a team and trying to play to certain guys’ strengths.”
Matan Zucker had a game-high 32 points and Ofure Ujadughele added 15, but only other three players scored for Lawrenceville. The Big Red made just three 3-pointers, misfiring on several shots from deep until Ryan Conroy buried the first one with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Lawrenceville netted only 18 points in the first half. At times the Big Red played frenetically and struggled to find high-percentage shots in the half court against Lake Forest’s quick guards.
“Right now it’s us,” Zucker said. “We’re a brand new team. None of us have played together before, but it’s early in the season and we know we’re going to figure this out. Once we get back from break and everything we know we’re going to put the pieces together and get it rolling.”
On Friday, the difference was Lake Forest’s balance. The Caxys had eight different scorers (four in double figures), made eight 3-pointers and converted 19of-25 free throws.
After an early 6-6 tie, Lake Forest started making shots from beyond the arc at a high rate. The Caxys scored the next 12 points and led 23-9 after the first quarter.
Lawrenceville scrapped defensively in the second quarter, holding Lake Forest to five points and trimming the deficit to six early in the second half. Once Lake Forest pushed the tempo and made more timely triples, the Caxys pulled away.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a 6-foot-7 post player, had 19 points for Lake Forest. Xavier Adams made four 3-pointers.
“They’re a hard team to play against because their big guys can take us off the bounce,” Kane said. “They’ve got five guys that can really penetrate, so then you’ve got to help and then they kick it.”
With a 3-2 record thus far, Lawrenceville has enough talent to become a Mid-Atlantic Prep League contender.
One of Mercer County’s top players is Zucker, who committed to Brandeis University on Thursday. The 6-foot-5 senior from Manalapan is a well-rounded wing player who has shooting range, post moves and crafty ball-handling driving toward the basket.
“I know every night I’m going to play hard and grab rebounds and score the ball inside, but I just pride myself on being a versatile player — being able to go outside in, inside out,” Zucker said. “In my opinion, not too many guys can do everything I can do.”
Including a nifty Eurostep, which he showed off Friday on a layup in the third quarter.
“That’s just what I get from watching (NBA player) James Harden on TV,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a good move. I wish I could dunk it off it, though.”
Ujadughele 6-2-15, Zucker 11-10-32, Rawlins 1-1-3, Conroy 2-0-5, Sassine 2-0-5. Totals — 22-13-60.
LAKE FOREST (73)
Duff 3-1-8, Prosper 6-7-19, Adams 4-3-15, Quest 3-3-12, Marcus 3-5-12, JWolf 1-0-3, DWolf 1-0-2, Weil 1-0-2. Totals — 22-19-73. Lawrenceville (3-2) 9 9 16 26 — 60
Lake Forest (6-3) 23 5 20 25 — 73
3-point goals — Ujadughele, Conroy, Sassine (L), Duff, Adams 4, Quest, Marcus, JWolf (LF).
Lawrenceville’s Matan Zucker shoots against Lake Forest Academy during a Peddie Invitational game on Friday.