Eagles top Lions in first basketball meeting in two years

Middletown High School South's Jack Himmelberg and Middletown High School North's Brian Haddow battle for the loose ball during a game played on Jan. 20 in Middletown. Middletown South defeated Middletown North 53-36.

MIDDLETOWN – The latest chapter in the Middletown North High School and Middletown South High School boys basketball rivalry took place on the court at Middletown South on Jan. 20 after two years of delay brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

This chapter between the crosstown rivals belonged to Middletown South (4-7).

Led by seniors James Mayerhofer and Thomas Schork, the Eagles soared to a 53-36 victory over the Lions to record their fourth victory of the 2021-22 season.

“The North-South game is something our kids and the whole town looks forward to,” Middletown South coach Jimmy Cranwell said. “Just being able to play it and have this fun environment is a good experience for the kids. Coming out on top always makes it a little better, too.”

The rivals were tied 8-8 to start the second quarter when Middletown South took control. A three-point field goal by junior Dylan Csik gave the Eagles an 11-10 lead.

Mayerhofer scored at the buzzer when he drove into the lane and went over Matt Kenny to connect on a right-handed floater. The Eagles outscored the Lions 18-8 in the second quarter and led 26-16 at halftime.

Mayerhofer scored eight points in the first half (six in the second quarter).

“I saw the clock ticking down and didn’t see anyone open, so I just took it myself and luckily I made it,” Mayerhofer said of his final shot in the second quarter. “It really gave us a boost going into the second half.”

Mayerhofer scored nine points in the fourth quarter as the Eagles sealed the win. He drilled his only three-point field goal to push the lead to 47-30 and followed that basket with a layup off a turnover for a 49-30 lead with 3:11 to play.

Mayerhofer, who has battled injuries the past two years that kept him off the court, was buoyed by his performance.

“It’s been a long ride and it feels great to be back ready to play,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Schork hit four three-point field goals and finished with 15 points. He said, “I made a couple of threes early on and it got us all on a roll. It was a total team effort. Everyone is excited we got the win. Hopefully we can get on a roll.”

Csik gave the Eagles three players in double figures by adding 14 points. The junior leads the team in scoring at 16 points per game.

Middletown South is 4-2 in its last six meetings against Middletown North.

As for the Lions, seniors Tommy Giannone and Zac Searight each scored nine points.

Middletown North (4-5) has recorded impressive victories against Brick Memorial and Neptune.

First-year coach Kevin Spies believes his players have the talent and the makeup to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament and to make a run in the state sectional tournament.

“They are a tough group of kids,” Spies said. “Our best basketball is going to be in front of us. We have some really good wins, so I know how good we can play. You have to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and that is what we are going to hope to do.”

In the girls game between the rivals, Middletown South won its eighth consecutive contest with a 37-30 victory over Middletown North.

Cassidy Brown scored a team-high 12 points for the Eagles, while Renee Wells chipped in 11 points. Ronni Brucato scored a team-high 12 points for the Lions.