RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph boys basketball team showed their grit and resiliency down the stretch on Saturday Feb. 15, pulling out a 45-41 victory in the Morris County quarterfinals against Mountain Lakes. Captain Brian Eames got things started with a hot hand early, Justin Lawler was the workhorse in the middle with 24 rebounds, and Dylan Haun put the nail in the coffin by sinking 5 out of 6 from the free throw line in the final minute to seal the win.
“I felt good in warmups and was able to hit my first couple shots, which helped jumpstart our offense for the rest of the game,” said Eames. “My teammates were able to then find openings and add on to our early success.”
Eames drained three from downtown in route to a 10-point first quarter giving Randolph the early momentum with a 14-6 lead.
In the second quarter the Lakers fed their big man in the paint for a few easy buckets and took a brief 1-point lead. But Lawler, who seemed to come up with every loose ball throughout the night, scored on a put back with 3 seconds left to grab the lead back at 19-18 heading into the halftime locker room.
The Lakers secured a 31-30 lead heading into the fourth, setting up an intense battle that went down to the final seconds.
With the game tied at 35-35, Lawler rose to the occasion once again, with a key block on the defensive end. The ball was alertly saved from going out of bounds by a diving Ryan Ross. Back down on the offensive end, Lawler battled for a key rebound that resulted in a tip in basket for a 37-35 lead with under two minutes left.
A full court press resulted in Rams guard Jamal Santana forcing a turnover by Mountain Lakes, prompting the Lakers to play the foul – free throw game to try to save the clock.
After Eames hit two free throws for a four-point lead, the Lakers converted a layup to trim it to 2 points, and then sent Dylan Haun to the foul line three straight times in the final minute.
“Dylan has proven all season that he’s one of our best free throw shooters,” said coach Nick Lavender. “He’s been such a key part of our team success over the last month.”
The junior calmly drained 5 out of 6 from the line to keep the Rams on top down the stretch. Two of those came with 19 seconds left and his team clinging to a 42-41 lead to help pull out the win.
“When I was at the line in the final minute of the game, I visualized that I was in an open gym by myself just shooting free throws,” said Haun. “I blocked out the crowd, the coaches, and the other players, and just focused on knocking down the shots.”
Haun finished the game with 14 points, while Eames had 17 and Lawler added 7 points for the Rams.
“We fought hard on the defensive end and that kept us alive late in the game,” said Lavender. Down the stretch we were able to make plays when we needed, and of course our free throw shooting at the end won us that game. We’ll have to be better for next weekend, but I’m very proud of our guys effort tonight.”
The Rams will take on top seed West Morris next Saturday Feb. 22 at CCM at 6:30.