Boys basketball: South Hunterdon continues to impress

WEST AMWELL – The game was long decided Saturday afternoon as the South Hunterdon High School boys basketball team continued to chase loose balls, pursue missed shots and harass Belvidere players with its stifling defense.

The Eagles led by 25 in the third quarter of a Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament first-round game they’d win 76-45.

South Hunterdon has developed into a very tough out in coach Shayle Keating’s first season. Keating was a volunteer assistant coach at Delaware Valley and a head coach at Koinonia Academy in Plainfield before coming to West Amwell. He grew up in Teaneck, graduated from Seton Hall Prep and played at Rutgers under Fred Hill and Gary Waters.

“We talked basketball during the interview process and he just said a lot of the things that I kind of believe in for us,” said South Hunterdon Athletic Director and former longtime boys coach Jason Miller. “We have to pressure, press, play fast. I think when kids buy in, they will play very hard for you and that’s what you’re seeing this year.

“He’s been a perfect fit so far.”

The Eagles forced plenty of turnovers Saturday against Belvidere, who they had beaten 88-27 two days before in a Skyland Mountain Division game. South’s nine losses have been by an average of eight points.

“Coach Donovan (assistant coach Donovan McCleese) and I pride ourselves on our team conditioning,” said Keating, who lives in Alexandria. “Me being a coach, I always admired Nolan Richardson (former Arkansas coach) with his 40 minutes of hell. We have our own 32 minutes of hell.

“It’s hard for a lot of teams even if they are more talented than us to prepare for what we bring,” added Keating. “We are in every game we play.”

Keating said the team has a intense 32-minute conditioning drill before a basketball is even touched at practice. That was the approach he grew up with in Teaneck.

“Conditioning has really changed us,” said senior guard Jack Godown, who scored 30 points with eight three-pointers in Thursday’s 88-27 win at Belvidere. “It really doesn’t matter what the score is at halftime. He wants us to play and beat them in the second half when they are all tired.”

The Eagles also have a long list of offensive leaders – five players – Godown (143 points), Tanner McCaffrey (113), Thomas Warms (163), Aaron Zalescik (168) and Brayden Hinman (103) all have more than 100 points. Hinman joined the group Saturday when he scored 17 – all in the first half.

The biggest highlight so far was a triple overtime 77-75 win over Princeton Day School in the South-hosted Over The River Classic final December 28. Wins over Bernards and Voorhees have also been big.


The 10th seed Eagles (7-9) advanced to play a second-round game Tuesday at No. 7 Warren Hills. The Blue Streaks beat South 63-58 January 14 in an inter-Skyland Conference division game.

This article originally appeared on NJ Boys basketball: South Hunterdon continues to impress