By Mark Kitchin
It’s a well known fact that the ball travels faster than the man. When it was in their possession, the Mendham Minutemen put the basketball to work on Thursday.
The ball zipped in, out and around the Morris Knolls defense in such a crisp and deliberate fashion one would have thought it had a mind of its own and wasn’t propelled by a pair of Mendham hands each step of the way. The well-trained basketball found its way to the net enough times for the Minutemen, too.
Senior forward Tore Vicarisi scored 19 points and senior guard Colin O’Donnell added 13 in Mendham’s 46-32 triumph over Morris Knolls in Denville.
The win avenged a 53-50 loss to the Golden Eagles on January 20 and also got the Minutemen to forget the frustrations of Tuesday’s 52-43 regular season loss to Delbarton. Now the Mendham players are free to focus on Saturday’s game against sister-school rival West Morris in the Morris County Tournament semifinals on Saturday.
Niko Kotoulas and Bruce Mayo scored 12 points apiece for the Golden Eagles. Morris Knolls struggled from the opening tip. The Golden Eagles fell behind 7-0 in the first two minutes and 17-5 by the end of the quarter. Mendham built a 28-9 advantage at the half and was able to maintain a double digit lead the rest of the way.
“It wasn’t so much revenge,’’ Mendham point guard Drew Jacobs said. “We just wanted to have a good game going into the counties on Saturday.’’
Mendham’s Tore Vicarisi hits a reverse layup in Thursday’s victory over Morris Knolls.
Moving the ball was important and an element of Mendham’s game that wasn’t nearly as precise in the loss to Delbarton. Mendham players would string up to 8, 9, 10 passes or even more passes together while probing the Golden Eagles defense and often eventually getting layups from Vicarisi or open perimeter shots from O’Donnell.
“We had a great practice after losing to Delbarton,’’ Jacobs said. “We emphasized ball movement. Today, we were getting the ball into Tore and he was shooting or kicking the ball back out to the open guys.’’
It also helped that Mendham got off to a fast start and hit a couple shots early. Making baskets slowed down Morris Knolls’ tendency to push the ball up the floor.
“We wanted to slow down their transition,’’ Jacobs said. “We got back quick (on defense) but we also got off to a good start and made our shots.’’
Mendham’s Kyle Dennis looks to the hoop while guarded by Morris Knolls’ Jordan Harvey.
Meanwhile the Golden Eagles’ shots were not falling at all. The only player who had any luck at all was Mayo, who had a couple of picturesque drives in the third quarter that gave Morris Knolls a brief lift.
“It just wasn’t a good game for us,’’ Morris Knolls coach Ken Ferrare said. “They did an excellent job of passing the basketball. They passed the ball very well. It was not our night tonight. That was our first blowout loss of the season.
“The last time we played them we shot the ball and rebounded the ball better. Today we didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t rebound the ball well and we didn’t handle the ball well.’’
Other games of note:
Mount Olive 56, High Point 50 – The Marauders clinched the NJAC-American title with the triumph. Francis Mancho scored 14 points for Mount Olive (16-5).
Pequannock 53, Morris Catholic 40 – The Golden Panthers earned the NJAC-Independence Division title. It is their first conference title in boys basketball since winning the Skyline Division in 1969. Joe Vedovino scored 19 points for Pequannock.
Morristown-Beard 69, Butler 48 – The Crimson’s Brian Bartner scored a career-high 32 points.
Whippany Park 34, Boonton 27 – The Wildcats have won three in a row and five of their last six.
Roxbury 43, Parsippany Hills 35; Kinnelon 52, Lyndhurst 28, Parsippany 44, Hanover Park 39; Sparta 50, Montville 35; West Morris 64, Morristown 54; Madison 76, Dover 47; Vernon 67, Jefferson 61.