Sports

Delbarton Basketball Defeats Randolph 52-50 in Semis; Face Chatham Cougars in the Finals

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RANDOLPH – In two consecutive weeks, the Randolph boys basketball team were involved in a dramatic buzzer beater.
 
Last week, it was Drew Brown’s coast to coast lay-up at the buzzer that vaulted Randolph over Morristown-Beard and into Saturday’s Morris County Tournament semifinal game vs. Delbarton.
 
But in that showdown vs. Green Wave, it was heartbreak at the horn for the Rams.
 
 
Jaedon Khubani’s 18-foot jumper – with a defender in his face – lifted third-seeded Delbarton to a 52-50 victory over second-seeded Randolph (17-6) in Saturday afternoon’s clash at County College of Morris. The 18-5 Green Wave – looking for their first title since the Justin Garris-led 2006 squad won it – advance to play top-seeded and two-time defending champions Chatham in next Friday’s final.
 
Khubani’s winner capped off a late Wave comeback that did not appear likely just a few moments earlier earlier, as Randolph held a 49-47 lead with 3:28 left following a pair of free throws from leading their scorer, Mario Haklaj.
 
From there, neither team found the net over the next two and a half minutes, but a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Pat Kelly moved the Rams advantage to 50-47 with 1:09 to play.
 
But on the other end of the floor, heralded Delbarton sophomore and Division I prospect Jacob Sussman drained a three-ball in the left corner to even things up. On the ensuing possession, Randolph turned the ball over out of bounds on an awry handoff exchange from behind the three-point line, setting up Khubani’s finish.
 
“When you look at the way this game ended, it’s a very tough way to lose,” lamented Randolph coach Matt Tighe. “We had the ball in a tie game with under a minute left, so we certainly had our chance there. Delbarton was just one shot better than us today.”

 
In a game featuring numerous runs in each direction, it was the winners who got off to a fast start. Khubani, a 5’9” guard who has the uncanny ability to wind his way through traffic and into the lane with the ball, scored seven points in the opening six and a half minutes, as Delbarton hopped out to a 16-5 lead.
 
Randolph would respond with a left-wing triple and a driving layup from Haklaj in the final minute of the frame to cut it to 16-10 after a quarter.
 
A long-range swish from Andrew Fusco was followed by a hook shot by Ahsan Huland El two possessions later to bring Randolph back to even at 19-all with3:53 remaining in the half.
 
Haklaj, who shared scoring honors with Khubani at 20 points apiece, sunk a three to put Randolph ahead for the first time, 25-22, with 1:44 to go in the second. A floater along the baseline from Brown gave the Rams a 27-22 halftime advantage.
 
“Mario’s been our leading scorer and go to guy all year. He had a good game today, especially with Delbarton really keying on Fusco’s three-point shooting,” explained Tighe.
 
With the Rams nursing a small lead late in the third, Delbarton sophomore Jerry Jabbour nailed two crucial three-balls of his own to bring the Wave within 37-35. A Sussman layup off a transition feed from Khubani put Delbarton ahead 41-40 after three.
 
A Haklaj lay-in off glass and with the right hand gave Randolph a 44-41 lead with 5:49 to play, but a 6-1 Wave run capped by a Nick Gubler driving finish put the see-saw contest back in Delbarton’s favor. A post up bucket by Huland El on the other end of the floor with 3:22 to play leveled things up at 47-47, setting up the finishing sequence.
 

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