MORRISTOWN, NJ – The Morristown High School boys basketball team saw a late six- point lead in regulation erased, and the Colonials dropped a 51-44 overtime thriller to division rival Mendham Tuesday night in Morristown.
Morristown (3-6) fought back in the second half after trailing for much of the first, but Mendham senior Jesse Hafemeister had a game to remember, putting in a career-high 39 points to lift the Minutemen, now 5-4 on the season.
“(Jesse) has a great night every night and it’s very tough to guard him,” said Morristown head coach Michael Serra, who took over for now Mendham head coach Bill Connolly. “We threw a lot of different guys at him. It took us awhile to get a feel on how to guard him. They do a very good job at Mendham.”
A lot of the game went back-and-forth, and it was Morristown that won the second half to send the game into OT.
Led by Ray Mundrick and his 14 points – muscling his way for baskets in the paint – the Colonials fought back from a six-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 31 through three quarters. As Morristown tried to find ways to limit Hafemeister, the Colonials took a 35-33 lead after Mundrick converted a layup. It was the first lead for Morristown since the early stages, when it led 2-0.
The Colonials went ahead by six on two different occasions, with the second being a 41- 35 lead after Mundrick found Jack Harris for a layup with just minutes remaining. To Mendham’s credit, however, it kept fighting. Hafemeister made six free throws in crucial situations to tie the game at 41. The Minutemen had a chance for the win at the end of regulation, but Hafemeister’s 3-point look was off the mark. The Colonials had trouble offensively in OT, especially after Mundrick was out early with an apparent ankle injury. He was seen hobbling while being attended to on the bench.
“That one hurt,” Serra said of Mundrick’s absence in OT. “It was going back and forth at that point. We had something set and that took us out of that plan a little. I thought the
guys that came in did their best.”
Morristown stayed in it after Billy Scanlon made two free throws to cut Mendham’s lead to one, 45-44, with 56.5 seconds remaining.
Mendham’s Hunter Johnson made some pivotal plays down the stretch, making some big-time rebounds and making important free throws that led the Minutemen to victory. Someone who made life a bit difficult for Hafemeister was D’Shon Scott, who tried to play in-your-face defense on the talented Mendham playmaker.
For Mendham’s Connolly, who was the head coach at Morristown from 2011-19, the return to Morristown was special.
“I have a lot of good memories of coaching here for a long period of time,” Connolly said. “A lot of the graduates who played for the program, I’m still very close with them.
All those wins, all those trips deep into the county tournament and state tournament still hold really close to my heart. Coming back is not easy.”
The Colonials take on Randolph on the road Thursday night at 7.
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