Boys Basketball – Liberty’s Daniel Sofield Scores 59 Points Two Nights After Highway Scare
For the 40-or-so hours leading up to his team's game against Lacey Tuesday night, Jackson Liberty senior boys basketball star Daniel Sofield was shaken.
At midnight on Sunday night, Sofield watched a man die right in front of him. Back in his element on Tuesday, he had the night of his life.
Less than 48 hours after he and two of his family members were involved in a fatal car accident in South Jersey, Sofield turned in one of the greatest single-game scoring exhibitions in Shore Conference history by scoring 59 points in Jackson Liberty's 91-82 overtime win over Lacey.
The details of the car accident were not published as of the time of this post, but according to Sofield's father, Jim, a car travelling between 90 and 100 miles-per-hour struck his pickup truck from behind while driving north on Interstate 295 in the Cherry Hill area.
Jim, Daniel and the eldest Sofield brother, James, were unharmed in the accident, but Jim Sofield said the driver of the speeding car was killed after being ejected from the car.
"It shook us up," Sofield said of the accident. "I have tried to keep my mind off it, but I have been replaying it in my head a lot. I feel terrible for the guy who died and his family. It was a horrible thing to see. I'm really thankful that my dad and my brother were okay, but it was heart-wrenching."
The accident occurred around midnight while the Sofield's were travelling home from the Florida Gulf Coast at University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) basketball game to visit with the Florida Gulf Coast staff, which has expressed interest in Daniel Sofield.
After replaying the events of late Sunday night for the better part of a day, Sofield played a game he knew he had in him and showed a side of him that his head coach, Mike Antenucci, had not seen.
"His second half was out of control," said Antenucci, now in his second season at Jackson Liberty, of Sofield. "For the first time since I've been (at Jackson Liberty), he really took over and showed an incredible about of emotion."
"There have been times over my career when I knew I could play better," Sofield said. "Tonight, I just felt a spark and it all came out of me."
Jackson Liberty trailed Lacey by 10 points heading into halftime before Sofield ignited a second-half comeback that carried into an overtime period. He went off for 40 of his 59 points after halftime, including 33 in the second half. The 6-foot-6 senior closed out the win with seven points in overtime.
For the game, Sofield shot 21-for-27 from the field, 6-for-10 from three-point range and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.
"I had no idea how many I had at the end of the game," Sofield said. "I thought I had somewhere between 40 and 50 and when I heard what it was, I was like, 'Wow. 59.'"
Sofield's 59 points are the highest single-game point-total by a Shore Conference player since at least 1990. The last report of a higher-scoring game at the Shore was by Monsignor Donovan great Jim Dolan, who scored 63 in a game in the 1981-82 season, according to Donovan alumnus Dennis Smith.
Jackson Liberty lost its opener at Point Pleasant Boro on a last-second shot - a frustrating start to the season for a Lions team that has not been able to get over the hump during Sofield's career. Jackson Liberty has not qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament in Sofield's three years and has played in only one NJSIAA Tournament game, which it lost to Nottingham by 30 points.
Sofield has had plenty of big performances in losing efforts, including scoring his 1,000th career point in a loss to Brick Memorial last season. The four-year varsity starter was happy to be on the winning end of the scoreboard on the best individual night of his career.
"It was a great feeling," Sofield said. "We were down 10 at half, they (Lacey) were shooting the lights out of the ball. We didn’t give up, we played great defense in the second half, played great offense too and wound up with a win."
With a more experienced team led by a healthy Sofield - who was dealing with injury and illness for the better part of last year's second-half of the season - Jackson Liberty is hoping to make a run at a Class B South division title that could be up-for-grabs late into the regular-season.
"Personally, this is the most confident I have ever felt," Sofield said. "I feel really good, I'm as healthy as I have ever been. We are a confident and we know we are better than we played on opening night. We feel we should win the division this year and go on to do all those thing we haven't done, like make the Shore Conference Tournament and state tournament and win some games in both of them."
Note to Reader: This post was updated with a more recent report of a 60-point game than the one originally cited (Jim Hankins of St. Rose with 60 in 1975).