By Mark Kitchin
Colin O’Donnell is often counted on to provide perimeter firepower to the Minutemen. On Thursday it was his defense that made a difference for Mendham.
Senior forward Tore Vicarisi scored 19 points and Mendham rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Colonia 56-47 in a North Jersey Section 2, Group III quarterfinal contest in Mendham.
Junior guard Drew Jacobs scored 12 points including eight points in the fourth quarter and O’Donnell, a senior guard, added 10 for the Minutemen. The victory also earned Mendham earned a Saturday home game since Scotch Plains-Fanwood edged Newark East Side 53-52.
C. J. Gray scored 24 points and Dave Cole had 14 for Colonia, which fell to Mendham in state play for the second consecutive year.
Gray looked like he was going to have much more. The 6-foot-1 guard torched the Minutemen for 12 first-quarter points and Mendham decided to switch to O’Donnell on defense to slow him down.
“He’s probably the best player I’ve ever had to guard,’’ O’Donnell said. “He hit some but I think I did a pretty good job on him. He’s a great shooter — the best shooter we played all year — off the dribble — off the catch. We just had to deny him and a lot of my teammates helped.’’
On offense Mendham was able to convert most of its chances even though the Patriots were athletic. Tore Vicarisi connected for baskets in the paint and O’Donnell and Jacobs knocked down threes. The defensive switch allowed Kyle Dennis, the team’s usual defensive specialist, to concentrate on the long rebounds that would come with Colonia’s perimeter misses.
“(Gray) was the best perimeter player that we’ve played against all year,’’ Baglin said. “He was a great shooter with a hand in his face. We just put Colin on him and we wanted to deny him a little bit. It helped us because it allowed Kyle to rebound the ball more.’’
Colonia had a balanced squad with good speed but Mendham was prepared as they could be against a team they had not seen since last year.
“They were scrappy,’’ O’Donnell said. “They went after the ball hard. They rebounded. It was pretty much shoot and go get it with them. We had to fight it.’’
The game tied 14-14 after the first quarter and Mendham led 30-25 at the half. The teams were still close after three quarters although Tore Vicarisi carried the team with 10 third-quarter points. The period ended with the Minutemen clinging to a 42-37 advantage. Colonia scored the first couple of buckets to take a one-point lead. However, junior guard Jacobs brought the Minutemen back. He scored eight of his 12 points in the final period and helped Mendham recapture the lead for good.
“Drew got a layup and a three,’’ O’Donnell said. “After that the momentum was going our way.’’
State playoff roundup
North 2, Group III
Rahway 77, West Morris 62 – The Highlanders left the tournament but they left in style. James D’Angelo scored 23 points, Tom Cabarle added 15, Zach Nolan 13 and Charles Savite 11. West Morris finishes with an 18-9 mark. West Morris had trouble with Rahway’s Jonell Babrow who registered 22 points and 13 rebounds.
North Non-Public A
St. Peters Prep 68, Delbarton 43 – Teams run into great players in state tournament play. The Green Wave ran into Keith Lumpkin. Lumpkin had 18 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Kevin Walker added 19 points for the state ranked Marauders. Dean Brierley scored 21 points and Wade Morgan added 11 for Delbarton, the county’s last active private school. They finished at 19-8.