By Mark Kitchin
HOPATCONG– The Morris-Sussex Senior All-Star Classic meant something a little different to every member of the Morris team except for one thing – they all wanted to win the game.
The Morris team built a 32-point lead and then overcame a late threat to defeat the Sussex squad 147-138 in a game held at Hopatcong High School. Randolph’s Julian Aiken scored 30 points and game MVP Morris Knolls’ Niko Kotoulas added 24 for the Morris team in the season-ending showcase.Vernon’s Doug Tintle led the Sussex squad with 25 and Pope John’s JaQuan Bryant added 24.
A layup by Tintle tied the game at 136-all with 1:50 left in regulation before Morris went on an 11-2 run to win the game. Aiken scored six points and Mountain Lakes’ Ethan Lubowicz, who finished with 13, knocked down a 3-pointer to help Morris pull away late.
“We got a little bit lazy, a little overconfident,’’ Aiken said. “We picked it up and we got the win.
“It was what I expected. They didn’t let me get a couple of dunks I wanted in the fast breaks. I just got tackled. It was definitely fun playing with these teammates.’’
Pequannock’s Ryan Brogan goes up for a shot during Wednesday’s Morris-Sussex All-Star Classic.(photo courtesy of Dawn J. Benko — WWW.DawnBenko.com/sports)
Kotoulas, who played in the New Jersey North-South Classic over the weekend, admitted that it was a good warm up for Wednesday’s contest.
“It prepared me for a run-and-gun game,’’ Kotoulas said. “These (Sussex) kids are all great shooters. I knew that right away. If they could come back, it was going to be because of their great shooting ability.’’
Kotoulas’ overall expectations for the showcase were very simple.
“It was a pretty good game,’’ Kotoulas said. “I just wanted to make my coaches proud and my parents proud and represent the Morris Knolls Eagles.’’
For some kids, like Madison’s Matt Gilbert the game was one final fling on the court. The Dodgers’ standout, who scored 13 points including one bucket on a nifty scoop shot,will be playing soccer for Boston University next year.
“This was a great way to finish my high school career,’’ Gilbert said. “I had an awesome game and it was great to be able to play with the best in the county.’’
Morris Knolls’ Niko Kotoulas goes up for two of his 24 points during Wednesday’s Morris-Sussex Classic. Hopatcong’s Hunter Guard looks on. (photo courtesy of Dawn. J. Benko – WWW.dawnbenko.com/sports)
Morristown-Beard’s Harrison Rosemond isn’t sure if he will be playing basketball next year. He scored 11 points and he was pleased to be on the floor with Crimson teammate Brian Bartner one last time.
“I was just trying to have fun out there playing with some of the best players,’’ Rosemond said. “Some of them I had never met before so it was a fun experience.
“I played with Brian for the last time. I’m going to miss (my teammates). You don’t think about it during the season but being a senior every day goes by so fast. I’m always thinking about the experiences I had with Brian and all my teammates.’’
Everyone capable of suiting up on both squads got a chance to play and scored in the wild contest that did show flourishes of defense. The Morris team got off to a flying start with a 46-33 first-quarter lead. Aiken scored 12 points and Kotoulas had eight during the run. When they were both on the floor, they usually provided a flurry of offense to help the Morris team pull away. The duo combined for all the points in a 12-0 run that gave Morris a 77-51 lead two minutes before halftime.
Bryant was a major player in the comeback. Sussexended the third quarter with a 24-10 run. Bryant had 13 of those points. Sussexcut its deficit to 114-104 by the end of the third quarter. Some of the Morris players knew what Bryant was capable of achieving.
“I played against JaQuan a couple of times at Pope John in open gyms,’’ Aiken said. “He’s a pretty good player.’’
Sussex spent most of the final quarter chipping away at the lead. Bryant had nine points, Tintle had seven points and Sparta’s Trey Smith had seven of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. They eventually tied the game but Morris surged ahead in the final seconds.
“When we needed to pick it up we picked it up like that,’’ Aiken said. “When we needed to play serious we could turn it on. It was fun playing together.’’
Morris County will be the host for next year’s All-Star showcase. Mount Olive will be the location for the season-ending contest for the next two years.
Julian Aiken (Randolph) 11-2-2-30, Drew Jacobs (Mendham) 1-1-0-5, Ethan Lubowicz (Mountain Lakes) 5-1-0-13, Jonathan Berntsen (Chatham) 2-1-0-7, Niko Kotoulas (Morris Knolls) 12-0-0-24, Brian Bartner (Morristown-Beard) 1-0-0-2, Esaun Mobley (Morris Knolls) 1-0-0-2, Harrison Rosemond (Morristown-Beard) 4-1-0-11, Ryan Brogan (Pequannock) 3-1-0-9, Matt Gilbert (Madison) 3-2-2-14, Evan Staikos (Morris Hills) 4-0-2-10, Dylan Black (Morristown) 3-1-2-11, Drew Hall (Jefferson) 2-1-2-9. Totals: 52-11-10-147.
Hunter Guard (Hopatcong) 1-2-0-8, Corey Zervas (Kittatinny) 2-1-0-7, Nate Sammons (Newton) 1-0-0-2, Owen Law (Wallkill Valley) 0-1-0-3, Glenn Gavin (Pope John) 1-0-0-2, JaQuan Bryant (Pope John) 9-1-3-24, Cody Wilson (Pope John) 1-0-2-4, Jack Scari (Pope John) 3-1-1-10, Trey Smith (Sparta) 6-2-0-18, Anthony DePalma (Sparta) 3-0-0-6, Chris McIlvaine (Sparta) 0-2-0-6, Doug Tintle (Vernon) 10-0-5-25, Ethan Vallellanes (Vernon) 2-1-0-7, Zack Arcona (Hackettstown) 5-0-1-11, Glenn Jobeless (Hackettstown) 1-1-0-5. Totals 45-12-12 – 138
Morris 46 – 36 – 32 – 33 – 147
Sussex33 – 23 – 48 – 34 — 138