Delbarton survives and advances

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

 The sweat pumped out of Dean Brierley as if he’d been working in the salt mines the last eight hours. Delbarton’s exhausted senior forward and his teammates did everything they could to make sure the Green Wave wouldn’t end their season at home. It wasn’t easy.

Brierley scored 26 points and the Green Wave survived a late rally to edge DePaul 65-60 in Non-Public A play on Tuesday.

Scott Curran chipped in with 10 points for Delbarton which will have to deal with St. Peter’s Prep in the next round on Thursday. St. Peter’s pounded Pingry, 84-46.

Josh Marquez had 22 points and Davon Jacobs had 11 for the Spartans. The victory avenges a 47-44 loss to DePaul in a J.P. Flynn Tournament game in December.

Delbarton led 44-29 going into the fourth quarter but the Spartans used an intense full court press to fight its way back into the game.

DePaul’s Gonzalo Marquez tries to block Delbarton’s Dom Rizzo during Tuesday’s state tournament game.

“It was a real tough fourth quarter for us,’’ Brierley said. “It was probably the longest I’ve ever been a part of. We just had to grind it out. We didn’t play well in the fourth quarter but we kept the lead and we won.’’

DePaul was able to force a couple of five-second calls and several scrappy turnovers. The Spartans hard work cut the Green Wave advantage to five points but they never got closer.

“They played a diamond press,’’ Delbarton guard Wade Morgan said. “They had people coming up so it was difficult to inbound and they kept a guy back so you couldn’t go long. We couldn’t get the ball to the middle. That’s the reason we had some turnovers, but we kept our composure. We didn’t give up and we didn’t give in.’’

 “They were probably one of the quickest teams we have faced,’’ Curran added. “They were desperate to win.’’

Delbarton coach Dan Whalen (middle) gathers his troops during Tuesday’s state tournament win.

A couple of Brierley plays stood out down the stretch. After a DePaul missed, Brierley drove the length of the court for a layup to give his team a 59-51 lead with 1:07 left.

Depaul scored six consecutive points, but a pair of Brierley free throws made it 61-57 with 29.2 seconds left.

After a few DePaul misses Dom Rizzo corralled a rebound and was fouled. He hit both his shots to make it a 63-57 but DePaul followed with Marquez hitting a 3-pointer. Then the Spartans fouled Brierley with six seconds left.

Brierley hit his first free throw, missed the second but split two DePaul defenders to rebound his miss and was fouled again. He hit one of two again from the line to stretch the advantage to five points and cement the victory.

“You are playing to win and if you lose you go home,’’ Brierley said. “That’s what it comes down to at the end of the season. Neither team wanted to go home but someone had to. I’m just glad it wasn’t us.’’

The former Northern Hills Conference rivals have had plenty of great games over the years but Tuesday’s game didn’t start that way. Delbarton had the upper hand and built a 14-point lead at one point.

“We came out with a lot of energy,’’ Morgan said. “We jumped on them 14-4. We knew this was going to be our last home court game. The seniors have been together for six years and we wanted to go out on top.’’

Not only was the Green Wave able to score but they played solid defense in order to build their advantage.

“It’s more than wanting it — it’s doing it,’’ Morgan said. “We knew who their scorers were and the emphasis was keeping people off the boards.’’

Delbarton led 14-6 after the first quarter and 29-19 at the half. When Kevin Dunleavy knocked down a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and open up a 44-29 advantage, the Green Wave seemed safe. However, in state tournament play proud teams don’t go away easily. It’s a good lesson to learn especially with even better opponents looming.

“It’s really just survive and advance,’’ Curran said. “We were happy to win but we want to keep trying to win the next game, too.’’

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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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