RANDOLPH, NJ- For the second straight game of the NJSIAA state playoffs, the Randolph boys’ basketball team started slowly and watched their opponent run out to an early lead. And, for the second straight game of the NJSIAA state playoffs, the Randolph boys’ basketball team woke up with a vengeance, making a dominant mid game run to blow away their opponent, the victim being Morristown this time as the Rams took a 53-40 win.
“Morristown threw a run and jump press at us, and to be honest we had not prepared for it,” said Rams coach Matt Tighe. “Morristown never presses so a run and jump had us a little confused the first few possessions.”
Trailing 8-2 in the first quarter and 10-5 in the opening minute of the second quarter, the sleepy Rams saw their giant wake up first, when Luke Nathan put up seven points in a short span to spark his team to an 18-12 halftime lead.
The Rams didn’t slow down there. When they came out from the break, Nathan’s teammates decided to join the scoring parade, as Randolph outscored the Colonials 16-5 in the third quarter to take a commanding 34-17 lead.
“Early on it took a while to figure them out,” said Nathan. “They were doubling me every time I got the ball so at halftime my coaches told me to be patient and let the game come to me. After that I could hit my teammates for open jump shots and it was also much easier for me to operate on my own inside.”
The 29-5 scoring run spanning the second and third quarters derailed everything the Colonials tried to do, and Randolph pushed the lead up to 21 at one point early in the fourth. Morristown trimmed it during garbage time to make the game appear closer than the final score of 53-40 would indicate.
“At half time we spent most time talking about a couple defensive changes and pushing them more to the sidelines, trying to Keep their guards out of the middle of the floor,” said Tighe. “Our assistants talked about where the double on Luke was coming from and we showed them some ways to find open space Vs their half court man. Once the shots fell the flood Gates seem to open up and we were able to push the ball a little more.”
Ryan Maughn and Morgan Gleniewicz each drilled two 3-pointers en route to scoring 11 and 8 points respectively for the Rams, while Justin Polesuk and Chris Cheng each added six points in the win.
Nathan dominated the paint, totaling 20 points on the game while grabbing 14 rebounds and being credited with 10 blocks.
"Luke played a great game and kept us afloat on the defensive side of the ball that first quarter,” said Tighe. "Morristown has always done a great job of making it tough for teams to score and we definitely struggled to score the first quarter. Our team two weeks ago would have let the scoring drought affect our defense but Luke blocking a couple shots gave our team some time to wake up and get our offense back on track."
Nathan and his Rams teammates were happy to get the chance to repay the favor to the team who ended their season last year.
“It felt great to get this win, especially versus Morristown,” said Nathan. “We have a nice rivalry going and it only grew when they knocked us out of states last year. They have some very good guards and we always expect their best against us.”
The Rams have a tall task ahead in the next round, when they face the No. 1 seed Bloomfield, on the road Friday Mar. 3.