RANDOLPH—It has been a long time coming, but the Morristown boys basketball program is going to play for a sectional title.
Not since 1973—when the Colonials fell to Weequahic of Newark in the North 2, Group 4 final—has Morristown advanced to the trophy round.
Traveling down the Sussex Turnpike to take on longtime rival Randolph, the sixth-seeded Colonials came away with a hard-fought, 50-44 victory over the Rams on Saturday night in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 Tournament.
Now 19-7 on the season, Morristown will travel to Hackensack for the sectional final on Tuesday night. The fourth-seed Comets defeated Union City, 75-71, in the other semifinal. Morristown has never won a state sectional laurel in the 107 year history of the program.
“Just looking around tonight, there were a lot of alumni from the basketball program that came out and supported the team,” said Morristown coach Bill Connolly, “(Morristown) has had a long, successful past, and I think we’ve built off that.”
Tied 42-all with under two minutes to go, Colin Brunnock put the Colonials up for good when he drove across the paint and finished an underhanded lay-up despite being fouled. Brunnock followed his clutch play by making the free throw to bump Morristown’s lead up to 3.
“We want to stay composed and be aggressive in those kinds of situations,” said Brunnock, a senior guard, “Driving to the basket is something we work on in practice all the time.”
After Randolph twice missed a pair of would-be tying three-balls on the ensuing possessions, Luke Haralampoudis of the Maroon & White converted both ends of a crucial 1-and-1 to open a 47-42 advantage. Two more free throws from Kevin Hoehn—who led Morristown with 15 points on the evening—made it a three possession game and put the victory on ice.
Four different Rams (21-7) scored in the opening period to stake the home team out to an early lead. Following a Josh Szott triple to open up the scoring, Randolph scored the next 5 points to take the lead.
A jumper from Brunnock knotted things up, but a pair of late baskets from Randolph sixth-man Andrew Sciancalepore gave his team a 14-9 edge after one.
Haralampoudis nailed a top of the key three-ball with 1:42 left in the half to give the visitors a 20-18 lead. It was short lived, however, as a Ryan Maughan basket evened things up again and a Ben Kapinos trey from the right corner at the halftime buzzer provided the Rams with momentum and a 23-20 advantage at half.
A big sequence in the game came with Randolph nursing a five point lead early in the third quarter. Morristown picked up the pace of play, forced three turnovers, and went on an 8-0 run to go up 30-27. Hoehn had two fast break lay-ins in transition, along with Brunnock on a feed from Hoehn on a 2-on-1 break.
The Rams—themselves gunning for their first appearance in a sectional final since 1981—again seized momentum at the end of a quarter when Julian Boykins sunk an amazing half-court shot to square things at 35 entering the decisive fourth period.
This was the 66th all-time meeting between Randolph and Morristown, and undoubtedly had featured the highest stakes involved in the series with the finals trip on the line. Morristown increased their lead to 42-24 all-time over their Sussex Turnpike neighbors.
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