Hanover Park was typically characterized as a perimeter-shooting team in past years and lately reconfirmed that distinction after several early opponents tested its young guards with zone defenses.
The Hornets did almost nothing to enhance their outside reputation Friday night against Morris Catholic, though certainly set the table for some possible long-range festivals in the future.
On this night, Hanover Park abandoned the perimeter to attack the rim--on the open floor off rebounds and steals and in halfcourt sets against man-to-man. The jump shot was not apparent simply because it was not needed. But once opponents begin to sag toward the middle to cut down the dribble drive, well, that 3-point line will seem like an old friend.
Junior guard Jimmy Sivolella scored a season-high 29 points and Brendan Rudolph contributed 12 points and three steals to guide Hanover Park past Morris Catholic, 74-42, in a Northwest Jersey Conference-Independence Division clash in East Hanover.
"My teammates do hit lot of shots from the outside," Sivolella said. "That helps me get open in the lane. They know that our shooters are so good that if I go to kick it, they can't cover all of us at the same time."
The Hornets (6-5), who have won three straight games, paraded ceaselessly inside from the start, hitting 13 of its 14 first-half field goals from the paint on the way to a 35-20 lead. Sivolella opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer (on just the team's fourth attempt of the night) and would stroke three of Hanover Park's four that half. But his club's modus operandi had already been set.
"They know that we're a shooting team, so they do like to deny the wing," Rudolph said. "They try to pressure that, we see it, and we just run through our offense. We get the screens, some of our plays have back doors, we look to pass, we get the easy baskets."
Very little came without difficulty in the opening weeks for Hanover Park as it battled both youth and a challenging schedule. Head coach Todd Hartman started three juniors, a sophomore and one senior, Ben Alleman, Fridday night, and had three sophomores among his next four off the bench.
"The first few games I think we were worrying about individual things too much," Sivolella said. "And now that we're getting the ball to the man who's open, then the rest is taken care of.
"We knew we were going to be a little slow to start because we’re all young," he said. "But we knew the second we started to get wins and started building chemistry, we’d be alright."
Hanover Park was a few measures above alright on Friday as it knocked down 23 of 43 shots through the first three quarters to forge a 57-30 lead. Its turnovers were a little on the high side--16 in those first three periods--but the Hornets' defense also forced 15 turnovers in the first 24 minutes and continually denied open shots.
No one from Morris Catholic (4-9) scored in double figures, though senior forward Paul Shapiro played an excellent overall game with seven point, 10 rebounds and two steals. He also stepped in to draw three charges. Teammate C.J. Drury scored six points and took down seven rebounds.
"We have some guards that can get to the basket," Hartman said. "We've done a better job of spreading the floor and creating opportunities and those guys have been working hard."
Sivolella scored 11 points, Rudolph had 10 and reserve sophomore guard Matt Geisser sank all of his eight points in the second quarter. He kept with the night's general theme by hitting all four field goals inside, his last on a strong spin dribble off the left block for a 31-17 lead with 3:05 to go.
"We're a young team, but we’re growing up fast," Hartman said. "We were really inconsistent early on. Now we’re gaining confidence. They feel good about themselves, they really trust each other now. It's been nice to watch.
"It was kind of deer in the headlights at first," he said. "They have kind of a killer look in their eyes now."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS