RANDOLPH, NJ- The Morris County Tournament semifinals was a see-saw battle, as West Morris and Randolph both had big runs and took turns having the momentum. In the end however, it was the Free Throw parade in the final minute that proved the difference, and the Wolfpack walked away with a 74-63 victory.
West Morris came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, and quickly ran up a lead of 17-5.
“To start the game, we just couldn’t get anything to fall, and they couldn’t miss,” said Rams coach Nick Lavender. “At no point did our guys hang their heads though, they kept battling.”
The Rams then took a turn fighting back, trimming the lead down to 6 in the middle of the second quarter. But the pendulum swung again, and West Morris finished the half strong by ballooning their lead to 36-21 when they scored just before the final horn.
“At halftime I told them just to continue to be aggressive,” said Lavender. “Shots would start falling like they have all year, but we had to continue to do the little things to get ourselves going. They came out with a huge response in the 3rd and 4th quarter which helped us crawl ourselves back into the game.
The Rams won the third quarter, and as the clock ticked down, they had sliced the lead to eight behind a mix of three pointers and slashing drives to the net from Ryan Ross who was unstoppable in the quarter. A half court heave at the buzzer by West Morris ended in a bank shot 3-pointer that just made the Rams job more difficult.
Showing no quit, Randolph turned up the heat defensively in the fourth, and with three steals by DQ Hendrickson they once again switched the momentum. Brian Eames then started dishing out assists as the game turned into a frantic pace. Jamal Santana then took over as the offensive assassin, and after knocking down two 3-pointers and a fast break layup, the lead was down to six.
Santana then sent the crowd into a frenzy when he drilled a step back three right in the face of Wolfpack star Christain Cevis to make it a 62-59 game with three minutes to go.
But from there, two straight highly questionable calls that went against the Rams swung the see-saw back the other way once again. As the clock reached one minute with the Rams down by six, and the Wolfpack having the ball, Randolph was forced to start fouling. The free throws fell but the Rams answers at the other end did not and the lead swelled to the final score of 74-63.
Hendrickson also had nine points in the game, while Dylan Haun had four points and five rebounds. Justin Lawler grabbed 15 rebounds and Ross added eight.
“I knew our guys had a lot of fight left in them, so we just tried to apply some more pressure defensively and make something happen,” said Lavender about that fourth quarter. “Our effort on the defensive end helped result in some good looks on the offensive side which we were able to knock down. Our guys fought until the end.”
The Rams now prepare for their state playoff opener on Tuesday Mar. 3, home against Union City