Roxbury upends Pequannock in MCT preliminary

By Mark Kitchin


PEQUANNOCK — Junior guard Ryan Kelley scored all of his 13 points in the second half and Tommy Alliegro chipped in with 11 to lift Roxbury to a 47-40 triumph over Pequannock in preliminary round Morris County Tournament action.

Roxbury rallied from an 18-14 deficit to earn the road win. The 18th-seeded squad will face second-seeded Morris Knolls in the next round. Ryan Brogan scored 17 points to pace 15th-seeded Pequannock (6-8).

Roxbury’s Ryan Cullen looks for an opening against Pequannock Matt Jachera in the first half of Saturday’s Morris County Tournament contest.

 “This is our best win of the year,’’ Roxbury coach Jon Deeb said. “We’ve had a couple of good wins. Any time you win in the tournament and advance it is a great win for your season and to do it against Pequannock at Pequannock wasn’t easy and I was proud of how we played and finished the game.’’

It has been a tough season and even a tough week for the Gaels which advanced to the Morris County Tournament finals for the first time in school history last season. Those days with Angelo Mangiro in the middle are far away now. This year’s Roxbury team doesn’t have nearly the size or the experience but they still have the same tireless tenacity especially on the defensive end.  

 Last week, saw a dismal defeat to Hanover Park followed by a tough loss against Mendham but somehow those losses may have planted the seed for the Gaels preliminary round triumph.

“They had been playing better going into the Hanover Park game and that was an awful game for us,’’ Deeb said. “We bounced back and played Mendham tough at the end of the week. I think our conference schedule is difficult. That helps us out when it comes to the Morris County Tournament.’’

Pequannock’s Ryan Brogan drives on a Roxbury defender in Saturday’s MCT game. Brogan finished with 17 points.

Kelley, who was the only returning player who played major tournament minutes, can see where the varsity newcomers are beginning to find their way. Athletes like Tommy Alliegro and Malcolm Chavis are gaining experience and confidence with every step on the court.

“We’re starting to click more on offense together and were playing tougher defense,’’ Kelley said. “On defense were playing more as a team. I’m excited to see what we can do down the stretch.’’

Kelley said that because the team has been gaining experience over the course of the season they don’t necessarily have to look for him as much for leadership. However, the junior guard provided just that type of leadership by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half.

“He has always been a leader on the floor,’’ Deeb said. “I think he’s looking to lead in the moments where everyone wants him to. He did that today.

Early in the season Pequannock pounded Roxbury 44-21 in the Gaels gym. Roxbury proved to be much more resilient in the rematch.

A slow second quarter made for a tight 18-14 Pequannock advantage at half. There were times that the Golden Panthers and their sharp shooters Brogan and Dave Colombo seemed ready to take charge but the Gaels gritty defense wouldn’t allow it. A Ryan Cullen three at the end of the third quarter cut the Roxbury deficit to 30-26 going into the final period.

Roxbury rallied to take the lead with a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Five of the points came from Chavis including a steal and a layup which gave the Gaels a 35-30 advantage with 3:52 left in the game. When Pequannock drew close again with a Mike DeJohn layup and a free throw, Roxbury responded with a Kelley 3-pointer with two minutes left to make it 38-33.

Roxbury’s Doug Alexander pulls away from Pequannock’s Dave Colombo in first half action.

 Pequannock was forced to foul, but Roxbury handled the pressure and built on its lead by hitting 7 of 9 from the free throw line in the final two minutes. Alliegro hit 3 of 4 and finished with 11 points.

“Just to get a little cushion down the stretch was nice,’’ Kelley said. “We took care of the ball down the stretch. Free throws are big. It’s all about focusing. You have to shut everything else out.’’

Second-seeded Morris Knolls is the next MCT opponent, a team that Roxbury also will see in a regular season contest on Tuesday. The Gaels are feeling no pressure and with nothing to lose they are gaining in confidence with every contest. 

“In the beginning of the year we didn’t know where we should be half the time,’’ Deeb said. “We’ve come a long way as a team. The players are executing better on both ends. We’re just hoping to continue to get better and make a run in this tournament .’’







About mcvbb

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

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