By Mark Kitchin
Pequannock season review
No team saw higher peaks or deeper valleys than the Pequannock basketball team did this past year. The Golden Panthers endured one of the worst upsets in Morris County Tournament history but also achieved something the Blue and Gold had not done in 42 years of roundball.
There were high expectations for the team that won a sectional title and went to the Group II final in 2009-10. They won 21 games altogether and started the season winning 13 of their first 14 games. However, their 15th game was a devastating loss to Morristown in the opening round of the Morris County Tournament. Despite that historic drawback, their season was largely a positive one.
Senior leadership – The Golden Panthers had plenty of leadership and Pequannock coach Jeff DeBell was usually happy for their efforts.
“They all played well – Tommy Sackmann, Stephen Boyd, Kenny Brunda, Ben Kohl and Joe Vedovino,’’ DeBell said. “At our dinner I usually pick one MVP. I picked all five seniors as my MVP because they all contributed in special ways. They are going to be missed but we have to move on and look forward to next season.’’
All the spots need to be filled next year. Sackmann, was a point guard. Boyd excelled as the team’s key perimeter scorer and good all-around defender. Kenny Brunda would swing between guard and forward and hit plenty of clutch baskets. Kohl was a strong rebounder and emotional leader and Vedovino was the strong inside threat on both offense and defense.
Pequannock’s Stephen Boyd drives for a layup in the early moments of state tournament play.
Highlights: Pequannock captured the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-Independence Division title. It was the first time the Golden Panthers had won a boys basketball conference since winning the Skyline Division more than four decades ago, even before DeBell suited up for Pequannock as a player.
“Winning our conference was huge for us,’’ DeBell said. “It was something we hadn’t done in 42 years. Going back to the state sectional final was big, too. It would have been great to win that against Pascack Hills but to win 21 games was great. It was an exciting season. I enjoyed seeing those seniors grow and play four years for me. It was a great year. Now, I’m sorry to see them go.’’
Pequannock’s state tournament run included wins against River Dell,Lenape Valleyand a dangerous and well-regarded Manchester Regional team.
Hope for the future – All jobs on the court will be open next year. Reserves Ryan Brogan, the team’s sixth man and returnee with the most varsity minutes, will lead the way. Dave Colombo and Phil LaPorta will also get the opportunity to play major minutes. “They are going to be our big three,’’ DeBell said.
Mike DeJohn, will probably play an important role as the teams’ inside threat.
“He’s a center,’’ DeBell said. “Hopefully, he will step up for us. They are a great group of kids. They work hard and I think they will be okay.’’
Pequannock’s Ken Brunda battles for a rebound against Pascack Valley in state tournament play.
Offseason plans – Pequannock gets much of its off-season work done at the William Paterson Summer League in Wayne.
“We’ve been doing that for the last couple of years and were looking forward to going down there,’’ DeBell said. “We will do two weeks. June 13 is the first week. They play two games a night for four nights.’’
Pequannock will also be a participant in the Morris Knolls Summer League. In past years they have done open gyms as well but that practice may be limited this year because of construction at the school. It is updating its facilities by installing brand new locker rooms.
“There won’t be many of them,’’ DeBell said of the workouts. “But we’re looking to play as much as we can.’’