Balanced Braves Scalp Lenape Valley, 50-29

Newton guard Jalil Tajiddin attempts a free throw in the second quarter of Friday's 50-29 conference victory over Lenape Valley. Credits: Will Harrigan
Newton and Lenape Valley players converge on a rebound in Friday night's game in Stanhope. Credits: Will Harrigan
Lenape Valley forward John Leyden waits for a wing pass in the corner in Friday's 50-29 home loss to Newton Credits: Will Harrigan

STANHOPE, NJ - With a balanced, 2-3 motion offense, and a stifling man-to-man defense, Steven Kelly and the Newton boys basketball team continued to enjoy the program's renaissance season against NJAC-Freedom foe Lenape Valley, Friday night in Stanhope.

Kelly's 12 points, including four in an 11-0 second quarter, led the Braves to a 50-29 victory over the Patriots, raising their record to an impressive 8-3 in the NJAC-Freedom loop in the process. By virtue of the victory, Newton improves to 13-4 overall on the campaign, the school's best start since the 2000-01 team finished 21-5, and advanced to the North II, Group I sectional final.

"We executed our pattern offense well in the first half and Steven made his presence known in the paint and got the Lenape center in foul trouble," noted Newton head coach Dirk Kelly of his team, and son's performance in the first 16 minutes of play.

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It was a most auspicious start for Lenape Valley (5-13, 3-8 NJAC-Freedom), who jumped ahead to a brief 2-0 lead, following a John Leyden put back lay-up. However, it would be the Patriots only lead of the night, as three straight Kelly lay-ups quickly picked the visitors from the county seat ahead 6-2. A floater in the lane by senior guard Daniel Griffin, and a mid-range jumper by Brady Castle, staked Newton to a 14-8 lead after one.

After a Griffin three pointer from the wing, and a pair of free throws from Joe Selitto, junior guard Alex Keimel's fifteen foot mid-range jumper extended the Newton run to nine unanswered and a 21-8 lead midway through the second quarter. A pair of layups from Kelly and Griffin propelled Newton to a 25-8 lead at the half.

Lenape Valley's cold shooting (0-12 from the field) proved to be costly in the decisive second quarter.

"That quarter really hurt us tonight, going down 11-0 in the second and from there it snowballed," explained Lenape Valley head coach Dan Healy.

The third stanza proved to be more of the same for Newton, who were paced this time by shooting guard Jalil Tajiddin's seven points, including a long range two-pointer from the left wing. Tajiddin, who along with Keimel, present an outside shooting game to compliment Kelly's presence in the paint, that will surely give opponent's trouble in the upcoming state tournament. With a healthy amount of reserves rotated in and out of the game in the fourth quarter, the Patriots received baskets from Jimmy Fluke, Vin Gallo, and Ryan Mooney to complete the 50-29 final tally.

Newton now looks toward the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tri-County Tournament's Round of 16, which will be played tomorrow when the Braves host a Blairstown aggregation from North Warren. Looking ahead to the 95th annual New Jersey State Basketball Tournament, Lenape Valley presently remains on the bubble for a playoff berth, currently sitting in 16th place in North I, Group II. Newton, currently in 7th in that same section, has the chance to greatly improve its seeding pending the results of its next two games.

The box score:

Newton (10-4, 8-3): 14 11 13 12- 50

Lenape Valley (5-13, 3-8): 8 0 11 10- 29

Newton: Steven Kelly 6-0-0-12, Brady Castle 3-0-3-9, Daniel Griffin 2-1-2-9, Jalil Tajiddin 1-0-7-9, Alex Keimel 0-2-0-6, Matt FIscher 1-0-1-3, Joe Selitto 0-0-2-2, Marcus Allen 0-0-0-0, Charlie Grotyohann, 0-0-0-0, Chris Guth 0-0-0-0. Totals: 13-3-15-50

Lenape Valley: John Leyden 4-0-0-8, Kenny Costa 0-0-4-4, Vin Gallo 1-0-2-4, Ryan Peach 2-0-0-4, Bryan Galligan 0-1-0-3, Jimmy Fluke 1-0-0-2, Dwight Miko 1-0-0-2, John Mooney 0-0-2-2. Totals: 9-1-8-29

Halftime Score: Newton 25, Lenape Valley 8


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