James D’Angelo drives to the hoop in West Morris’ MCT win on Saturday.
By Mark Kitchin
Going into the Morris County Tournament the West Morris players felt that they were better than the 10th seed they were given. On Saturday James D’Angelo and the rest of the Highlanders proved themselves worthy.
D’Angelo scored 29 points and West Morris went on an 18-6 fourth-quarter surge to distance itself from Morristown-Beard in a 56-46 upset triumph at Randolph High School. Zach Nolan added 12 points and Tom Cabarle added 10 for West Morris. The Highlanders, which are on a 10-game winning streak, will play sister school Mendham in next Saturday’s semifinal round. Mendham defeated Mountain Lakes 58-51. Delbarton and Roxbury round out the other MCT semifinal pairing.
Brian Bartner scored 17 points and Chris Jenkins scored 15 points for second-seeded Morristown-Beard. The Crimson rallied from a 12-point deficit early in the third quarter and led 41-38 early in the final period but seemed to run out of steam.
D’Angelo was tireless in sparking the Highlanders. He scored 13 of West Morris’ 18 fourth-quarter points and would not be denied.
“Our goal was just to make it to the final four,’’ D’Angelo said. “Now anything can happen. That’s what we did. And it’s not over yet.’’
A 3-point play by Crimson’s Harrison Rosemond gave the Crimson a 46-45 advantage with 3:15 left in the game, but West Morris would finish out the game by scoring the last 11 points.
“We went to the 1-3-1 (zone) defense and I think it caught them off guard a little bit,’’ D’Angelo said. “We forced some turnovers, converted layups and got to the free throw line. It was a good adjustment. We were fortunate to benefit on it.’’
Highlanders’ Zach Nolan battles for a rebound with Crimson’s Zaki Williams.
Layups by Nolan and Cabarle gave the Highlanders a 49-46 edge with about 2:30. Another Crimson miss was followed by a driving 3-point play by D’Angelo and a six-point lead at the two-minute mark. After another missed Crimson 3-pointer, the Highlanders controlled the ball and D’Angelo was 4-for-4 on free throws to complete the win.
“Not every high school program has a point guard (like D’Angelo),’’ Shapiro said. “I feel blessed. James is a unique player. We have to figure out a way to get point guards like him in our program every year.’’
Morristown-Beard led 13-10 after the first period but West Morris rallied for a 26-20 halftime advantage. West Morris was crafty in throwing 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones against the Crimson and keeping them off-balance.
“The 1-3-1 has been successful at times,’’ Shapiro said. “It was just a matter of when to use it. We were forced to use it (near the end).’’
The 2-3 seemed especially tough on Jenkins, who was in the middle of the zone. Morristown-Beard had difficulty finding their top scorer inside. However, the Crimson started finding better ways to attack it in the third quarter.
“He’s definitely a great player,’’ D’Angelo said. “We just wanted to force him outside a little bit. He’s one of their bigger kids and we didn’t want him inside at all.’’
The Crimson’s best stretch of offense came in a four minute, third-quarter stretch in which they scored 13 consecutive points. Bartner scored seven of the points including one 3-point shot. They eventually took back the lead at 35-34 with two minutes left in the third quarter. They would lose and then regain their advantage just before the end of the quarter on a Jenkins 3-point play to make it 40-38 . However, West Morris had other plans for the end of the game.