MORRISTOWN – After a quarter of Saturday afternoon’s independent contest vs. Princeton, it appeared the Morristown boys basketball team was headed for defeat.
The Colonials – on the floor just 16 hours after dropping a hard-fought game to Delbarton – found themselves down 11-1 after one.
But Morristown’s defense would hold the Little Tigers to just 23 points the remainder of the game, and the offense did just enough to propel the locals to a 42-34 victory. The win moves the Colonials to 4-5 on the season, and puts them a step closer toward securing qualification in the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 state tournament come late February.
Despite not recording a field goal until 50 seconds were left in the half, when Kahleb Hicks finished a lay-up off a dish from Steve Leung, Morristown chipped away from the free throw line to trim the double-digit deficit to 13-12 after a malaise first half on both sides.
“I think it was a tough, quick turnaround for our guys after playing last night,” said Colonials coach Bill Connolly. “We haven’t practiced since Tuesday, and to win a game like this where we didn’t shoot well says a lot about the mental toughness of them”
Early on, Morristown had all sorts of trouble stopping Princeton’s Jaylen Johnson, a 6’4” or so center with a football frame. Johnson pumped in eight points in the opening quarter as Princeton hopped out to its early big lead. Following Amon Jasika’s mid-range jumper to put the visitors up 13-1 at the seven-minute mark, Morristown would close the half with an 11-0 spurt of their own, the first seven of which came from the free throw line.
Leung – who led the winners with 14 points – hit five charity tosses to trim the gap to 13-8 with 2:17 remaining in the half.
Following Hicks’ layup to break the ice-cold shooting spell, junior guard Timmy Ganning would follow that up with a steal and transition lay-up to make it a one point game at the break.
Five quick points from Johnson, who led all scorers with 21 on the day, put the Little Tigers back up 18-12 less than a minute into the third period. Morristown would get its first lead of the day at the 4:21 mark, when Steve Bergeman (12 points) sunk a left wing three-ball to put the Colonials ahead 20-18. After the lead changed hands three more times in the third, Bergeman’s lay-up to make it 24-23 with 1:04 in the frame would put Morristown ahead for good.
Princeton would make things interesting in the fourth when Thomas Doran buried a three-pointer to make it 34-30 with 2:57 to play. But five free throws inside the game’s final two minutes from junior guard Duncan Wild helped the Colonials put the game away.
Morristown will now turn its focus to Wednesday night, when they will host Roxbury in a crucial clash for state and Morris County tournament seeding purposes.
“There’s a lot of things we need to work on,” Connolly said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to practice, and I can’t wait to get out there.