FLANDERS, N.J.- The Morris/Sussex Senior All-Star Classic has came to be known as an exhibition basketball game showcasing the talents of each county’s local hoopsters. But for the ten members of Sussex County’s all star team Thursday night, this defense-lacking affair took on a much deeper meaning:
It was the last time they would ever represent their school on the hardwood.
Despite a valiant effort from New Jersey’s northernmost county, Team Sussex dropped a 133-115 decision to Morris County at Mount Olive High School. Zach Frick, Sparta’s electrifying point guard, dropped in 31 points and dished out 11 assists to earn co-Most Valuable Player honors (along with Randolph’s Ryan Harris) for Sussex.
“This game was a lot of fun. It was a really cool thing to play with players I played against throughout my career,” noted Frick after the game.
The highlight of the night came from High Point center John Mutch with 6:03 to play. With his team down, 112-89, Mutch converted a ferocious two-handed slam dunk following a breakway. On the ensuing possession, Mutch stole a Team Morris pass in the back court, and bought the house down again with another powerful dunk. One of the two representatives from Wantage, Mutch closed his career with a 15 point performance. High Point’s other player, Mike Ragnetti, added 7 points for Team Sussex.
Newton was also represented well on the night, with head coach Dirk Kelly and Sparta coach Brian Brennan co-coaching the Sussex aggregation. In addition, the Braves’ senior guard Daniel Griffin played an impressive game, chipping in 17 points. Fellow guard Matt Fischer also represented the county seaters in the game.
“I told them we had the chance to be only one of two teams in New Jersey to end their post-season careers with a win (along with New Jersey statewide champion Roselle Catholic). Morris was just a little deeper than us tonight,” remarked Kelly.
Wallkill Valley only sent three point specialist Kodie Hilbert to the game, but the guard wowed the crowd with this long range ability, sinking three triples on the night.
Vernon’s Justin Dinelle capped a three year varsity career with 8 points. Lenape Valley forward Tom Hoyt added five, as did Kittatinny’s Dan Leppert.
Seven of Sussex County’s ten high schools appeared in the game. Only Pope John, Hopatcong, and Sussex Tech did not have a player on the floor. Morris County dressed sixteen players, representing 13 of their 25 high schools.
And of course, it would only be a fitting ending for Frick to play his last game with fellow Spartan Jake Melville. The other half of Sparta’s brilliant backcourt, Melville scored 18 points in his last bow.
For Frick, his playing days will continue on the college level, but he took time to reflect his days as another fine guard in the 54 year history of Sparta Basketball.
“It was an honor to play four years for Sparta. Getting more than 20 (wins) each of the past two seasons, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
The box score:
Team Sussex: 45 70- 115
Team Morris: 59 74- 133
Team Sussex: Zach Frick 31 (Sparta), Jake Melville 18 (Sparta), Daniel Griffin 17 (Newton), John Mutch (High Point) 15, Kodie Hilbert (Wallkill Valley) 9, Justin Dinelle (Vernon) 8, Mike Ragnetti (High Point) 7, Tom Hoyt (Lenape Valley) 5, Dan Leppert (Kittatinny) 5, Matt Fischer (Newton) 0. Total: 115
Team Morris: Ryan Harris (Randolph) 28, Matt Williams (Hanover Park) 12, Ryan Kelley (Roxbury) 11, Sam Carson (Chatham) 9, Jake Waddon (Whippany Park) 9, Brian O’Neill (Morris Knolls) 8, Brendon Rudolph (Hanover Park) 8, Pat Barron (West Morris) 7, Brian Walls (Morris Hills) 7, Paul Tarnawski (Mountain Lakes) 6, Sean Haughey (Madison) 5, A.J. Holleran (Whippany Park) 5, Steve Leonardo (Mount Olive) 5, Joe Timmes (Chatham) 5, Bobby Stolz (Mendham) 3, Ryan Curran (Delbarton) 2, Will Gibbs (Mendham) 0. Total: 133
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