NEPTUNE - As a diabetic, Neptune sophomore Sam Fagan has to strictly manage his nutrition and blood-sugar levels just to be able to practice the game he loves to play. It is a labor of love for a budding basketball junkie and the son of a long-established one - Neptune boys basketball coach Joe Fagan.

The elder Fagan has seen what his son has gone through the get himself to where he is today - a rising star in New Jersey as a modestly-sized, 5-foot-10 sophomore with the unflappable confidence of an older player and the basketball brain fit to handle his dad's current job.

That is why Joe Fagan and his non-relative Neptune players were so beside themselves Sunday night despite beating Payne Tech, 60-51, to win the Neptune Holiday Jubilee.

Neptune sophomore Sam Fagan. (Photo by Matt Manley)

With 2:19 left in the game, Sam Fagan went up for a shot, landed awkwardly on his left leg and sustained a serious injury to the area near his knee. The sophomore guard climbed to his feet and attempted to track back on defense and when he realized the severity of the injury, he hopped toward the Neptune bench. Once Joe Fagan saw the injury, he ran on the court to carry his son off, with play stopped on the other end of the court.

Fagan lay next to the Neptune bench with Neptune's training staff tending to him for 15 minutes before paramedics arrived to take him off on a stretcher and into an awaiting ambulance. The game was delayed for approximately 25 minutes, with many of Fagan's teammates visibly shaken during the ordeal.

"He has had some incredible bad luck," Joe Fagan said. "He has broken two collarbones, he’s got diabetes, he had (mononucleosis) last year – I played him the whole year without knowing he had mono. He had an unbelievable freshman year and I had no idea he had mono until the end of the year. And now this."

Neptune led, 48-43, at the time of Fagan's injury and when play resumed, the Scarlet Fliers closed out the win thanks to tournament MVP Dwaine Jones. The senior guard assisted a three-pointer by junior Sean Young, came up with a steal on the next defensive possession and found senior Saddiq Armstead for a layup and a 53-44 lead.

Jones then went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 1:03 to cap an 18-point performance that also included seven assists. Prior to his heroic finish, the senior was visibly upset on the bench while his fallen teammate was being tended to by Neptune staff.

Young and freshman forward Malik Fields each added eight points, with Fields also grabbing eight rebounds in the win.

Fagan scored 17 points, handed out four assists and connected on five three-pointers before exiting Sunday's game - including the three that gave Neptune the lead for good, 45-43. Should his injury prove to be season-ending - a reality the Neptune staff seemed resigned to accept following the game - Fagan will finish his sophomore season averaging a team-best 16 points over the first six games.

During the Jubilee, Fagan averaged 17.7 points in the three games while Jones nabbed MVP honors by putting up 19.7 per game, including 47 points in the last two Scarlet Fliers wins.

The back-court duo was slated to serve as the heart-and-soul of Neptune's squad this season and Fagan and Jones were just beginning to click simultaneously. Neptune started slow by dropping losses to Matawan and Middletown North but responded with three straight wins at the Jubilee behind the two guards.

Photo by Matt Manley

Fagan said his son's spirits were high, all things considered, but the road for him and his teammates in the immediate future is an uncertain one.

"This kid is just constantly battling something and it’s a shame," Fagan said, fighting back tears. "I have had a lot of good teammates and I think he is right up there with the best of them. He’s an incredible teammate, he cares about nothing else but winning. That’s it. He doesn’t care about his points, he doesn’t care about MVP’s – none of it.

"He is an incredible, incredible competitor. You guys don’t know what he is going through as a diabetic on a daily basis just to be able to practice. He just doesn’t need any more bad luck. He just doesn’t. He has finally been feeling a little bit better for the first time in his life and now - who the hell knows what now?"

 

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