The Sponheimer Explosion: Sam Sponheimer’s Big Fourth Quarter Propels Raiders Past Cranford 58-48

Matthew Levine, Editor in Chief

Sam Sponheimer was tired of Cranford daring him to shoot all game; tired of not getting the respect he should be getting every time he touches the ball. 

 

“They were slacking off [me] all game,” the sophomore said. “My teammates told me to go put pressure [on them] and be myself. That really helped and it got me going a little bit.” 

 

With the return of Raider Nation — a largely silent nation for the better part of three quarters — and the absence of two of the Raiders’ starters in senior Damon Schumann and junior Khadar Jackson, the boys varsity basketball team found themselves in a scrappy, low-scoring game down 39-38 entering the fourth quarter against the Cranford Cougars Thursday, Feb. 3 (8-8). 

This was a huge team win and just shows we have strength in numbers.”

— Steve Siracusa

With the game tied at 42 with 4:35 left, Sponheimer took over: he would assist or score on the next 10 Raider points finishing two fast breaks, draining a three, tallying an assist on a three to his older brother Max and igniting a 16-6 run to close the game resulting in a 58-48 Raiders victory. 

 

“He played very hard tonight,” head coach Steve Siracusa said. “He uses his length and athleticism to really disrupt other teams and I’m proud of how hard he played. I think he’s capable of doing that on a nightly basis, to be honest, and it was nice to see him shine tonight.” 

 

SPF outscored Cranford 20-9 in the fourth quarter and limited big man Kyle Fay to four of his game-high 17 points in the final period. 

 

“The message [in the fourth quarter] was we need to defend,” Siracusa said. “If we could defend and make them work on all offensive possessions and not give them easy opportunities, we’re gonna create more rebounds and steals and get better looks on offense. I think our defense was our best offense tonight, especially in the fourth quarter. I think that was the difference-maker.” 

We talked to the team earlier this week about being the next man up and I’m just proud that our guys trusted one another and we played together as a team.”

— Steve Siracusa

Sponheimer bounced back from his quiet night on Tuesday against Oratory Prep — a game the Raiders lost 65-48 — where he passed up open looks and only finished with three points. In the absence of Jackson and Schumann, the Raiders needed Sponheimer to step up and he answered the call against the Cougars. 

 

“This was a huge team win and just shows we have strength in numbers,” Siracusa said.  We talked to the team earlier this week about being the next man up and I’m just proud that our guys trusted one another and we played together as a team.” 

 

The Raiders improved their record to 7-5 largely due to the offensive contributions of Sponheimer, junior Matt Nervi — who led the team with 15 points —and senior guard Jaden Carter who finished with 11. SPF also looked to their bench where senior guard Cole Cooke scored four points at the end of the second quarter to bring the Raiders to within one going into halftime after Nervi had to leave the floor to cover up a cut. Sophomore Jaden McDonald also played a part in the Raiders’ 20-point fourth quarter explosion finishing with six in the fourth and 10 for the game. 

 

“We’ve been talking about [the importance of playing as a team] since day one,” Siracusa said. “Cole Cooke stepped up today in the second quarter and had a huge four points at the end of the second quarter and that just goes to show, you never know when your number is gonna get called and when it does, be ready to play and perform.” 

 

The Raiders now have four days to get healthy before a four-game stretch with massive playoff implications beginning on Monday, Feb. 7 on the road against Summit. SPF then plays Hillside the following day on the road and then New Providence and Oratory Prep at home, respectively. Although the Raiders beat New Providence and Summit, the Raiders lost their first matchups to Hillside and Oratory Prep, setting up a very important week for Raiders basketball.