Boys Basketball – Matt Hodge Scores 38 on Near-Perfect Shooting in St. Rose Win
SOMERSET -- In his first year of basketball in the United States, Matt Hodge led a transformation of the St. Rose boys basketball program, earned First-Team All-Shore honors for his play and commanded the interest of Division I college coaches.
It turns out Hodge was just getting comfortable, because in year two, he has showcased another level of his game.
That next level was on full display Saturday at Rutgers Prep, where Hodge exploded for a career-high 38 points on 15-for-17 shooting from the field in 27 minutes to lead the Purple Roses -- ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 rankings -- to an 86-70 win over the Argonauts.
Hodge shot 7-for-7 from beyond the three-point arc, hit his lone free throw, and added eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots to his Saturday stat line. His only misses were a missed dunk in the first quarter and a blocked shot in the second quarter. Hodge followed up his missed dunk with a tip-in at the buzzer that put St. Rose up, 22-19, at the end of the first quarter.
"Last year, he didn't have the alpha in him to come out and drop 30," St. Rose coach Brian Lynch said. "It was more like, 'Let me find my way on this team, be a good team player, let the game come.' I think he realizes that for us to be great, he has to have that (former Manasquan guard) Darius (Adams) in his game where he says 'I have to take this game over.'"
Hodge scored 21 points in the first half and he and his younger brother, sophomore Jayden, combined for 33 of St. Rose's 38 points in the first half, with St. Rose taking a 38-33 lead into the locker room.
While Hodge scored most of his points in the first half, the third quarter was when he and his team did the most damage. Hodge shot 6-for-6 from the field in the third, including 3-for-3 from three-point range, for 15 points. St. Rose rode Hodge's hot-shooting in the third to a 26-14 advantage in the quarter and a 64-47 lead heading into the fourth.
The only thing that could stop Hodge on Saturday was the hardwood floor at Rutgers Prep's field house. Hodge stole the ball with just over five minutes left in the fourth and took off on the break. He elevated for a potential dunk, but was fouled, landed awkwardly and hit his head on the floor.
Hodge walked off under his own power and said he felt no ill-effects from the fall after the game, but his career-best performance was over. He spent the rest of Saturday's game on the bench.
"There are so many ways that he impacts the game outside of just scoring -- the drop-off passes when he hits his brother or Gio (Panzini) on cuts -- it's unbelievable," Lynch said. "What I love about Matt is he is not your typical high-profile guy, and we've got some great players in this state, like (Don Bosco guard) Dylan Harper. What Matt does differently is he is impacting every aspect of the game on top of the scoring and that's what makes him so special. He is a complete player."
"The amount of vertical contesting that he does in changing shots at the rim, it's not a stat, but we benefit so much from that."
Jayden Hodge backed up his brother with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, while senior Gio Panzini chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds for St. Rose. After Rutgers Prep stormed out to a 13-5 lead, Jayden Hodge led the charge St. Rose made to get back in the game by scoring nine St. Rose points in a row.
The 38 points on Saturday marked the second time this season Matt Hodge has hit the 30-point mark. The first instance came in a loss on opening night, when he scored 30 points in a 62-59 win for the Patrick School in Belmar.
St. Rose has won four straight since that loss to the Celtics and in the first three wins, Hodge averaged just over 11 points. His scoring exhibition over the summer helped him land a scholarship at Villanova and now that his promising college future is set, Hodge is focused on getting St. Rose to the top of the state rankings by the end of his final season.
"He has been doing this since the summer," Lynch said. "He had 42 (points) at Philly Live, he had a 45, fall league was tremendous. He has started off (the high school season) okay. I'm only playing him 16 minutes tops against the Shore teams, but in big games like this, he has the ability to do this. It's just my opinion, but he is one of the most dominating high school basketball players in the state of New Jersey because he is impacting a lot of other things other than scoring."