Mountain Lakes pounds Lodi to reach sectional final

By Mark Kitchin


LODI – It looked much easier than it should have been but Mountain Lakes will take another state tournament victory any way it can. Dimitri Aiello scored 20 points and Ethan Lubowitz scored 18 to spark the Lakers to a 74-49 romp over Lodi on Saturday afternoon in state tournament play.

The win lifts the Lakers to the North 1, Group II sectional final against top-seeded Pascack Valley which defeated Manchester Regional 75-66. Brian Horn scored 23 points and Jared Shill added 19 for the Indians.It is the closest the Lakers have gotten to a sectional title in basketball since some of the talented teams in the early 90’s reached that level. The triumph was also John ByDook’s 400th victory as a varsity coach. He accomplished the mark coaching basketball teams at Kinnelon and Mountain Lakes.

The contest was a blowout almost from the beginning. The Lakers led 15-9 after the first quarter than pulled away with a 24-6 second quarter effort to take a 39-15 lead at halftime. The Rams are known as a strong 3-point shooting club but they misfired time after time. The Lakers often corralled the rebounds pushed the ball up the floor and beat the Rams to the rim for easy scores and putbacks. Mountain Lakes continued its domination in the second half and built the lead to as much as 36 points early in the fourth quarter before emptying their bench.

Mountain Lakes Ethan Lubowitz (30) splits the Lodi defense for two of his 18 points in Saturday’s state tournament semifinal.

ByDook was convinced even before the opening tap that the Lakers might have something special going for them on Saturday. Both teams share similar blue and orange colors so along with a spirited Lakers crowd, the sectional semifinal felt like a home game on the road.

“It was the energy,’’ ByDook said. “The energy we had in the time before we started the game. A lot of times I’ll talk and the energy is not there as much. Today the energy was there. The team energy, you can feel it. They were ready.’’

“Everybody made the drive to come out here and support us,’’ Aiello said. “It felt like a home game. If felt good. The second quarter everything was good. On defense we hustled. We got to loose balls. We rebounded well and the shots were going in.

Lodi was a strong perimeter shooting team and Mountain Lakes did a great job of getting out on the Rams 3-point shooters.Lodi only made one 3-point shot in the first half and six of them during the game.

“We knew how they liked to run and shoot threes,’’ Lubowitz said. “We knew if we could shut down their 3-point game that we had a chance to win the game.’’

“I definitely think it was the defense,’’ Aiello said. “We got out. We were pressuring them, hands in their face, every shot closing them out. We didn’t give them anything easy.’’

After building a 15-9 first quarter lead, Mountain Lakes exploded with a 24-6 second quarter effort which gave the Lakers a monstrous 39-15 lead at the half. They dominated the boards and pushed the tempo after every deep Lodi miss to earn fast break scores.

Mountain Lakes Paul Tarnowski puts a fake on a Lodi opponent before putting up a shot during Saturday’s state tournament victory.

“I’m happier with the way we played defense as opposed to everything else,’’ ByDook said. “Offensively and defensively I thought we controlled the boards pretty well.’’

Many of their scores were second chance putbacks. The Lakers weren’t afraid to crash the boards especially on the offensive end.  

“During practice we always work on drills that help us work on the offensive and defensive rebounds,’’ Lubowitz said. “We practiced it a lot and we succeeded. The whole year we’ve been trying to run. We knew they ran also. We were just hoping that we could step up today and we did.’’

Lubowitz, the team’s 1,000-point scorer who has been the steady offensive force for the Lakers all year, showed his versatility by putting in shots in a myriad of ways

“He does everything,’’ Aiello said. “He rebounds. He plays defense. He can handle the ball. He looks for open guys when he draws double teams. He’s a big part of our team, offense, defense and rebounding.’’

Lakers’ Paul Tarnowski (35) and Lodi’s Nick Hoxha (12) battle for the ball during Mountain Lakes’ state tournament triumph.

Aiello had 11 points and Lubowitz had eight points during the second quarter which pretty much sealed the victory.Lodi showed a brief flurry of activity when Donat Gashi drilled back-to-back threes to open up the third quarter. However, the Rams couldn’t sustain the momentum.

The Lakers built their lead to as many as 36 points and eventually emptied their bench.MountainLakesfans clamored for senior Sean Dunne. He put the cherry on top of the victory sundae by knocking down a 3-pointer to give the Lakers fans one last thrill.

“It wasn’t his first points but he’s a senior and everybody loves him,’’ Aiello said.

All the Lakers congratulated ByDook on his 400th victory afterwards including former Montville coach Rich Vuyosevich who has worked as an assistant with Mountain Lakes the last few years and is currently assistant coaching at Lodi.

“It’s a huge win,’’ Lubowitz said. “Coach didn’t want to tell us at first. We all knew. It’s a huge feat. We’re very proud of him and we are very thankful to have him as a coach.’’

Mountain Lakes coach John ByDook gives full credit to his players for Saturday’s triumph and 399 other varsity victories.

While the players enjoyed delivering the milestone to their coach, ByDook downplayed the honor and deflected any credit back to his players.

“It’s really simple,’’ ByDook said. “When you are here long enough you are going to get them. One of our goals is to win 20 games a year. But you know, it’s not about me, it’s about them. They do it for themselves. They do it for the parents. They do it for the team. I’ve been coaching a long time and If I stick around long enough — the good Lord willing — I’ll get 401 someday.’’

If the Lakers have their way, they would like to deliver it to him on Tuesday.

Other State Tournament results

North Non Public – A

Hudson Catholic 76, Morristown Beard 58 – The Crimson finished their season at 22-5. Harrison Rosemond scored 19 points, Chris Jenkins added 13 and Tyler Terens scored 11 for Morristown-Beard. Hudson Catholic was paced by Michael Young’s 24 points. Hudson Catholic took control early with a 23-6 first quarter run. They led 34-24 at the half and maintained an advantage the rest of the way. The Hawks will face St. Anthony of Jersey City in the North A final.



About mcvbb

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

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