Kings of Summit: OP Basketball Comes Out on Top Over Hilltoppers (Highlights Included!)

Seniors Peter Byrne (left) and Declan Mckee (right) lead the rams on the basketball team as captains.

Seniors Peter Byrne (left) and Declan Mckee (right) lead the rams on the basketball team as captains.

James Kim, Sports Editor

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Nearly four months ago, Oratory’s soccer team made headlines after shutting out cross-town rival Summit High School, ranked 19th in the state at the time. The 3-0 win was the first for the Rams over the ‘Toppers in 9 years, and members of the OP community were ecstatic over the historical feat for the school’s athletic program. More importantly, they were thrilled by the bragging rights that they earned, something they lacked in the town for years. This past Friday, the varsity basketball team took matters in their own hands, determined to make sure that they remain on top.

 

Despite the first home game opening during winter break, the Farrell gym was filled with rowdies, parents, and numerous alumni cheering on the rams. With the addition of Summit’s own group of fans and parents, the crowded gymnasium provided the perfect atmosphere for an energetic, intense, and loud game of basketball. The squad on the court, led by senior captains Peter Byrne, Declan Mckee, and Tyler Maloney, were on a roll. Following a three game winning streak, with dubs against Hanover Park, Newark Academy, and Morristown Beard (which brought home the holiday tournament trophy) the rams had high spirits and great momentum to continue dominating against their opponents.

 

6’8” sophomore Tommy Conniff gave the rowdies something to cheer about early in the game. Following a ruthless block on defense in the first few seconds, he showed off his range on the other side of the court by knocking down a 3-pointer behind the arc. Senior Peter Byrne had a trey of his own in the first quarter, giving a preview of his shooting abilities that would prove to come in handy later in the game. Freshman Michael Pirone and Senior Declan Mckee had some notable scoring plays of their own, including a cross over and finish from Pirone that broke the ankles of the Hilltoppers’ point guard and sent the rowdies to mayhem.

 

That wasn’t enough to secure a lead just yet, however. At the half Summit was ahead 26-23, a lead they continued to quickly extend in the third quarter until Byrne switched things around. On a fast break play, he drove to the basket and finished, drew a foul, and enthusiastically flexed his arm to rally the student section, shortening the lead to 30-25. The senior seemed to do it all, tallying up a couple more steals and baskets until the fourth quarter. 

 

It still wasn’t enough to get ahead, as The Hilltoppers had a comfortable lead at the start of the fourth with a score of 40-29. The Rams were not done, however. A couple more baskets from Byrne and Mckee gave OP hope, and everyone continued to fight until the lead was shortened to 43-37 with around two minutes remaining on the clock. A bounce pass from Declan to Peter behind the arc at the corner led to another three point shot for the game-leading scorer. OP fans had high hopes, especially with the senior captain heating up in such a critical moment. Later on, with around 40 seconds left on the clock and a Summit lead of 49-43, Peter Byrne continued to do what he does best. Several feet far behind the three-point line, Pete received a pass from fellow captain Tyler Maloney and quickly released a shot over the outstretched arms of two defenders. Following a clean ‘swoosh’ of the net, the gym erupted as the Rams seemed to be crafting a legitimate comeback. 

 

In the final few moments, the team inched its way to a two point deficit behind Summit 50-48, gaining possession of the ball with less than ten seconds left on the clock. Without a doubt, Byrne was the “go-to” man, looking to finish the game once and for all. Receiving a pass from Tommy Conniff far behind the arc, in almost the identical spot he made his previous three-pointer a few moments earlier, Peter flawlessly released another deep shot and watched the ball rattle in the rim. The crowd instantly erupted with roars, as the gym was overwhelmed with cheers and celebrations. The clutch sharpshooting senior was met by his teammates as his fifth and final three-pointer of the game proved to be the game-winning one. Several seconds were still left on the clock, and the Hilltoppers failed to get a shot up in the air. The rams were “Kings of Summit” once again.

 

The home-opener could not have been more eventful. Students, faculty, parents, and alumni witnessed one of the best basketball games in Oratory’s recent history, highlighted by an exceptional performance from star guard Peter Byrne against a rival opponent regarded as one of the county’s best. This win gives the team its fourth win of the year, and more importantly, a check mark in the win column against Summit. Despite its fair share of struggles against Summit’s athletic teams the past few years, Oratory has ended its losing streak and proven this year to be capable of beating them in not one, but two sports. If anything, this game is an indication of the type of season this team expects to have, and students should not hesitate to come out and continue to watch the Rams (especially Peter Byrne) make history on the court.