Roxbury Advances to First MCT Final

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

 Roxbury’s Angelo Mangiro rolled his eyes and admitted he seemed to do everything he could to lose Saturday’s Morris County Tournament semifinal game in the final seconds. His friends and teammates were more than happy to pick him up after everything he had done for them this year.

Roxbury advanced to the title game for the first time in the 42-year history of the MCT with a 53-52 triumph over Delbarton in the second half of a doubleheader played at County College of Morris in Randolph.

Shaun O’Donnell scored 17 points and Ike Iloh had 12 for the eighth seeded Gaels. They will advance to play Mendham a 42-40 winner over West Morris in the other semifinal. Surprisingly Roxbury and Mendham are scheduled to play their second regular-season contest on Monday.

Senior forward Dean Brierley scored 14 points and Scott Curren had 13 for the fourth-seeded Green Wave which lost last year’s final to Mendham in double overtime.

“We haven’t been to the semis since my sophomore year,’’ Mangiro said. “We split the season series 1-1. We felt like we had a good shot at beating them. It wasn’t pretty but we did it.’’

“It feels great,’’ Roxbury point guard Mike Giordano added. “We always wanted to do this. Ever since we were in eighth grade and we started coming in, we knew what we wanted to do. We finally made it.’’

Roxbury’s Shaun O’Donnell (23) and Angelo Mangiro defend Delbarton’s Dom Rizzo during Saturday’s MCT semifinal.

Roxbury would have never gotten this far without Mangiro – their center of attention. However, on Saturday the Penn State bound football standout was swamped by the Delbarton defense and spent much of the time setting up his teammates for layups and open looks.

Teammates O’Donnell, Iloh and Giordano rose to the occasion. The Gaels even got some help from unlikely heroes. Defensive specialist Ryan Roumes and Ryan Kelly, who had missed a month of play because of a stress fracture in one of his legs and was just cleared to play in the last few days, each hit clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Gaels preserve the lead.

“Everybody knows what they have to do,’’ Giordano said. “They know their roles. Like Kelly coming back and hitting a little tear drop (jumper) and two free throws. We knew what we had to do.’’

It was a surprising lapse by Mangiro which gave the Green Wave some late chances at a comeback. Roxbury was up 53-50 with 13.5 seconds remaining when Mangiro was inbounding under the Delbarton basket. He couldn’t find an open man and started running along the baseline and even dribbled the ball once before referees whistled either a traveling or five second call. As a rule, players inbounding the ball can only run along the baseline after a made basket.

“Everything was taken away,’’ Mangiro said. “I had nowhere to go with it. I don’t know why I took a dribble. I was going to throw it and hope some way it got kicked back to me. I basically had to take the last 20 seconds to lose the game but somehow we were able to win. It just shows the (character of) guys on this team and how much resilience we have.’’

There was a scramble on Delbarton’s ensuing inbounds as well and Roxbury’s Mike Giordano forced a jump with Delbarton’s Wade Morgan which gave the Gaels the ball back on the alternate possession rule. Mangiro was fouled but he missed a pair of free throws with 8.2 seconds left.

Roxbury still had a 53-50 lead when Roumes fouled Brierley with 4.2 seconds left in the game before he could get off a shot to tie.

Brierley hit the first free throw and looked like he was trying to put the second shot hard enough against the backboard so he or a teammate could tie the game with a last minute tip but the ball rattled in. This time Roxbury launched the ball to halfcourt on the inbounds to secure its first trip to the final in a total of five semifinal chances in its tournament history.

“We’ve had a good run,’’ Roxbury coach Jon Deeb said. “To now take it one step further feels great. I think these seniors are very determined.’’

Roxbury coach Jon Deeb instructs his players during a time out during Saturday’s MCT semifinal.

The teams had split their regular season series and Roxbury felt comfortable on the wide CCM floor. They took a 10-6 at the end of the first quarter. One reason was their defense on Delbarton’s most consistent scorer Brierley. He was stuck inside the Gaels 2-3 zone defense with Mangiro, Iloh or Andrew Volpe often doubling him up.

“We knew they would get their sets going and their shots,’’ Giordano said. “We just wanted to use the 2-3 and contest, make sure no one hits anything and rebound. Against Brierley, we contested every shot he took. We didn’t want him to get anything easy.’’

O’Donnell and Iloh combined for 15 first-half points to help Roxbury build a 26-17 halftime advantage. The Gaels were ready for the Green Wave’s comeback surge and it came in the form of 3-point shots. Delbarton went on a 9-0 to end the third quarter due to treys from Wade Morgan, Kevin Dunleavy and Dom Rizzo to make it a 39-35 game going into the final period.

Delbarton tied Roxbury twice in the fourth quarter but never took the lead despite bringing a lot of pressure late. In the last three minutes the Gaels hit only one field goal, a turnaround bank shot from Mangiro with 1:05 left to make it 49-47. They preserved their lead at the line. Giordano, Kelly and Roumes each knocked down a pair of free throws to keep the Gaels ahead. Roumes, who did not have a field goal in the game, hit his with 19.5 seconds left to make it a 53-47 game. However, Morgan responded for Delbarton when he knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a 3-point game with 13.5 seconds left.

Despite all the last second craziness, it was enough to advance the Gaels to a place they have never been — the MCT title game.

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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