By Mark Kitchin
MENDHAM — At some point during the season opposing teams will have to start guarding David Yee. When he is left open for a shot, he always makes them pay.
Yee hit a momentum changing 3-pointer to help Mendham to a 65-50 victory over Morristown in a North 2, Group III opening round state tournament game on Monday. Senior guard Drew Jacobs led all scorers with 33 points. Yee and teammate Nick Maguire added 13 points apiece.
Sean Hoehn scored 13 points and Ryan Brunnock added 11 for Morristown.
Yee hit a momentum changing shot that sealed the victory. After trailing by 15 midway through the third quarter, Morristown rallied and cut the deficit to 52-48 when Yee sank a 3-point shot from the left side to give the Minutemen a 7-point edge with 3:12 left. The shot damaged the Colonials spirits. Mendham outscored Morristown 10-2 the rest of the contest.
Mendham’s Will Gibbs (33) boxes out Morristown’s Ryan Brunnock (5) in first half action of Monday’s state tournament game.
“I just got the open look,’’ Yee said. “When I have the open look I have to take it. If teams aren’t going to cover people, we just have to hit the open shots.’’
Yee is often the smallest player on the court, listed at 5-foot-7 ,but he may also be the most fearless. The senior guard is not afraid to scrap for the ball or drive to the basket, or reach for a jump ball among players a foot taller. It has made him a fan favorite and a team leader.
“I don’t know where we would be without him all year,’’ Mendham coach Jim Baglin said. “It’s his confidence. I think guys double the ball and leave him open. They underestimate him. They think he can’t play but he’s a good player. He’s a really good shooter. He’s a good defender. He handles the ball. He’s really smart. He’s played terrific.’’
Another interesting aspect of the state tournament contest was watching the Colonials play for their current coach Bill Connolly. The first year coach is a Mendham teacher and former assistant coach. He coached many of the current Mendham players and made a brief visit to Mendham’s team room after the game.
“They have definitely taken some stuff from our book but Coach Connolly is a great coach,’’ Yee said. “He was my coach my freshman year. It’s hard to play against him because we love him so much.’’
Morristown’s A.J. Tracey (12) drives to the basket while Mendham’s Drew Jacobs (21) hopes for a rebound.
The Colonials this season have a markedly different look from teams in years past. They are more fundamentally sound on defense and run their offense with more precision and take better shots.
“He’s changed the culture,’’ Baglin said. “That’s the big thing. He’s doing a really good job of getting them to think like a class operation – a class program. He’s trying to do it the way he learned here and the way he learned at Montgomery. He’s a really smart kid. He’s going to end up putting his stamp on it.’’
Mendham led by 15 points during the third quarter but couldn’t put Morristown away until the final minutes of play. The Minutemen had their concerns about the Colonials. They did their best to take away Morristown’s 3-point opportunities and forced them to drive to the basket more but that gave players like Brunnock more chances to score in the paint.
“They play quick on defense,’’ Baglin said. “We wanted to take away their (3-point) game. They drove it at us and Brunnock is a tough cover for us. He scores around the bucket. He gets fouled. He’s good.’’
Morristown led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, but the Mendham players slowly got their shooting stroke together. Drew Jacobs usually sets the tone. He scored 11 of his team’s 21 second-quarter points and helped the Minutemen to a 25-20 halftime lead.
“Drew is a great leader and a great all-around player,’’ Yee said. “He always takes charge. If you give him the ball, he will do something special with it.’’
Mendham’s Alex Jacobs (22) drives to the basket as Morristown’s Ryan Brunnock (5) defends in state tournament action.
Jacobs knocked down back-to-back threes early in the third quarter to jump start a 15-5 run and help Mendham to a 40-25 lead with 4:40 left in the period. Morristownresponded with a 10-3 run of its own. Six of those points came from Brunnock. Mendham had a 43-35 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
With about five minutes left in the game, Mendham was ahead by 10 points when Morristown made its final push. A 3-point play by Dylan Black and Sean Hoehn’s put back off a missed Brunnock free throw cut the Mendham lead to 50-48 with 4:10 left. The Minutemen would regroup. Alex Jacobs caught a long pass from his brother Drew and hit a layup to make it a 4-point game. Then after a Colonials miss, Yee found himself open on the left side of the arc and knocked down his second and last trey of the game. It was a back breaker.
Black’s layup at the two minute mark was the only score that interrupted Mendham’s 10-2 game-ending run. The Minutemen are seeded third in their section and will host Irvington on Wednesday in the quarterfinal round of games
It’s dangerous to leave Mendham’s David Yee open. He hit for 13 points including a crucial 3-pointer on Monday.
Although Mendham did share an NJAC division title this year. The quarterfinal round loss in the Morris County Tournament has given them plenty of time to refocus. They seem determined to make another long state tournament run.
“We want to win something,’’ Yee said. “This is our chance to really get out there and do something special.’’
Other State Tournament results
Whippany Park 67, North Arlington 46 – A. J. Holleran scored 22 points and Ken Jones added 16 for the Wildcats in North 2, Group I action. Whippany Parkpulled away with an 18-6 fourth-quarter effort. Tyler Krychkowski scored 18 for North Arlington. Whippany Park hosts New Providence in the next round.
Rahway 76, West Morris 55 – Pat Barron scored 16 points and Charlie Savite added 15 for the Highlanders (6-19) in North 2, Group III action. Rahway, the section’s top seed is 22-3.
Chatham 60, Nutley 43 – The Morris County Tournament champions advance. The Cougars used a 10-4 third-quarter effort to build a 37-25 advantage going into the fourth quarter of the North 2, Group III contest. Chatham travels to Newark East Side in the next round.
Jefferson 46, Pascack Valley 45 – The Falcons (15-11) led 35-29 in the third quarter and held off their opponents in the North 1, Group III contest. They face top-seededTeanecknext.
Tenafly 50, Montville 34 – Nate Buckler scored 10 points for the Mustangs in North 1, Group III competition. Montville finishes the year at 12-12.
Passaic Valley 92, Mount Olive 76 – The Marauders were stunned at home in the North 1, Group III contest. PassaicValleyled 42-35 at the half and slowly pulled away.
Old Tappen 58, Morris Hills 43 – The Scarlet Knights ended their season on the road with the North 1, Group III loss.