By Mark Kitchin
RANDOLPH– In the timeout before an overtime period the Randolph High speakers blared an 80’s instrumental version of “One Step Beyond” that was recorded by a band called Madness. It was appropriate since that was all the Rams wanted to do – get one step beyond Ridgewood and just getting there seemed like madness.
Julian Aiken and Ryan Harris finished with 18 points apiece and Randolph survived a tough challenge to defeat Ridgewood 57-54 in a physical North I, Group IV contest on Tuesday.
Aaron Harris added eight points for the Rams. Randolph moves on to face top-seeded Paterson Eastside, an 81-39 victor over Union City. Evan Bartlik scored 16 points and Alex Cohan added 15 for Ridgewood in a battle between eighth and ninth seeds.
It was an Aiken free throw with 17.3 seconds that gave Randolph a 49-48 lead but Ridgewood’s Anthony Balboa also hit one of two with 6.5 seconds left to allow for the four-minute overtime session
In the overtime, four players scored for the Rams. Ryan Harris hit a pair of free throws with 10.3 seconds left to account for the final score. Cohen took the final shot for Ridgewood but his three point attempt bounced off the back of the rim.
Randolph’s Julian Aiken was held to 18 points but was keyed on by the Ridgewood defense all night.
“I think it was just great winning our last game and the seniors winning their last game at Randolph,’’ Aiken said. “It was a great win. A lot of people just thought we were going to give up after we lost in the counties.’’
It took awhile but Randolph did survive their tough loss to eventual champion Chatham in the Morris County Tournament semifinals. The Rams also wanted to send a message that Morris County basketball was no pushover.
“Basically teams don’t respect teams from Morris County and they don’t respect me either,’’ Aiken said. “We beat a good Bergen County team and it was a good win for us.’’
Randolph coach Bill Kilduff expected a battle but admitted some of action between the Rams and the Maroons might have been better played out on the gridiron than the court. However, Randolph’s toughness was able to win out
“I thought it would be physical because Bergen County basketball is physical,’’ Kilduff said. “I didn’t think it would be this physical. Our kids don’t quit. They just didn’t want to lose. That’s the third game we’ve won like that this year.
“That was a good test. That is what an eight-nine game should be. We went after it. We banged them. They banged us. We made plays at the end. Guys just stepped up.
Randolph’s Aaron Harris (33) goes up for a shot against a Ridgewood defender in first half action.
The contest was close throughout as Ridgewood bangers like Balboa and Jon Edghill were constantly clashing with the Hill brothers and Connor McMahon and Patrick Archer for rebounds and tough points in the paint. Like most of Randolph’s opponents, the Maroons did all they could to keep Aiken from getting to the rim.
Ridgewood led 22-21 at the half. The Maroons led by as much as five points in the third quarter, before the Rams rallied to tie the game on three separate occasions. Randolph took the lead late on a jumper by Garrett Gaudioso but a late Bartlik layup tied the game at 36 going into the fourth quarter.
Bartlik opened up the quarter with back-to-back threes and Ridgewood seemed to close to pulling away when Stefan Sangun knocked down a 3-pointer at the 5:10 mark to give the Maroons a 47-38 advantage
The Rams did not want to lose on their home court to end what has been a brilliant season. Poor free throw shooting byRidgewood helped let them back in the game. The Maroons were 2 for 10 from the line in the final five minutes of regulation which opened the door for a Randolph rally.
Aaron Harris knocked down a three and the Rams were 4 of 6 from the line. A layup by Michael Talbot on a pass from Ryan Harris helped cut the deficit, but it was an unselfish play by Aiken that tied the game and ended a 10-1 run. As many as three Maroons converged on Aiken when he drove through the right side of the lane and fed McMahon, who was on his left, for an open layup with 1:43 left to tie the game at 48-all.
“We’ve been doing it since sixth grade,’’ Aiken said. “I knew that if I passed to him just like I did in the Mo-Beard game, that he was going to make the shot.’’
After a pair of missed Ridgewood free throws, Randolphspread the floor and took a minute off the clock. Aiken was fouled on a drive with 17.3 seconds left. He sank one of two free throws in between time outs to make it a 49-48 Randolph lead.
Ridgewoodeventually got the ball in Balboa’s hands and the Rams fouled him near the basket. He also hit one of two to tie the game. On the inbounds with four seconds left, Aiken battled three different Ridgewood players but his shot attempt from halfcourt was way off. The Rams readied for overtime.
“I just told them to keep playing,’’ Kilduff said. “Play your game. We beat Mendham at the buzzer; we beat Mo-Beard in overtime. We won this one in overtime. We’ve won most of our close games this year.’’
Ridgewood’s Stefan Sangun (11) contests a shot by Randolph’s Aaron Harris (33) in state tournament play.
In the overtime, Ridgewoodwas 1 for 7 from the field and had three turnovers. A big field goal forRandolph occurred with 1:27 left when Aiken drove to the lane made a spin moved and knocked down a jumper to give the Rams a 54-51 advantage.
“They were trying to shut me down,’’ Aiken said. “I just spun around, pulled up and made the shot.’’
The Rams made it a 4-point lead, when Ryan Harris rebounded a Ridgewood miss and was fouled. He hit a free throw with 17.5 seconds left, but the Maroons weren’t ready to give up. Cohen pulled up and hit a desperation 3-pointer from the left side to make it 55-54 with 11 seconds left.
Ryan Harris was fouled on the inbounds and he knocked down a pair of free throws to account for the final score. Ridgewood did have time to get off a perimeter shot but Cohen’s effort bounced wide and Randolph had time to celebrate and will play another day.
State tournament scores
North 1, Group IV
Morris Knolls 66. Memorial 42 – The 20-6 Golden Eagles romped in their home triumph. Morris Knolls took a 20-7 first quarter lead and pulled away by outscoring Memorial 24-10 in the third quarter. The Golden Eagles play the winner of Montclair-Hackensack in the quarterfinal round.
North 1, Group II
Newton 43, Pequannock 38 – There was no Golden Panthers magic this year. The Braves led 17-12 at the half and Dirk Kelly’s team held on for the win. Pequannock finished at 13-10.
RiverDell 47, Kinnelon 35 – RiverDell plays Mountain Lakes in the quarterfinal round.
MountainLakes 59, Hawthorne 29 – The Lakers are 18-6 on the season.
North 2, Group II
West Essex 55, Madison 42 – The 15th-seeded Knights posted a stunner. Jason Caspert scored 14 to lift West Essex. Matt Gilbert scored 13 and Cameron Dias had 12 for the second-seeded Dodgers.West Essex led 31-25 after three quarters and pulled away. The Knights travel to Hanover Park next.
Hanover Park 60, Bernards 43 – A 22-12 third-quarter run gave the Hornets a solid 46-35 edge going into the final period.