RANDOLPH – In two consecutive weeks, the Randolph boys basketball team was involved in a dramatic buzzer beater; the first one went their way, but in the second they were not so fortunate.
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. the Green Wave, it was heartbreak at the horn for the Rams.
Jaedon Khubani’s 18-foot jumper – with a Randolph 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.
Khubani’s winner capped off a late Wave comeback that did not appear likely just a few moments 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 Green Wave 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 with 3:53 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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