Mendham rallies past Delbarton in season opener

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

MENDHAM — Mendham began a new era in boys basketball on Friday but by the end of the game it seemed liked the same old Minutemen.

Alex Jacobs scored 22 points including the game-winning basket with 27.1 seconds left in regulation to lift Mendham to a 41-40 victory over Delbarton in front a packed Mendham gym in the season opener for both teams.

Mendham rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to help Kevin Schmid earn his first victory as a Minutemen varsity coach. Schmid replaces long time coach Jim Baglin who had coached the Mendham varsity 33 years before stepping down after last season. Baglin was at the varsity game. The schools athletic director, who has taken over coaching the freshman team, supported Schmid who has been an assistant at Mendham for six seasons.

“There’s no better feeling,’’ Mendham center Kal Roemer said. “We have a brand new coach. I never started a varsity game and barely played a varsity game. To get a comeback like that, there’s no better feeling in the world. … Starting a new legacy with a win like that means a lot.’’

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Delbarton’s Rob Thoma and Mendham’s Mike Sinzer fight for position on Friday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“It’s a great way to start off coach Schmid’s career,’’ Jacobs said. “It’s a character win. It shows how hard he’s worked us and how resilient we are because of him.’’

Delbarton guard Asad Braswell scored 10 points including a go-ahead score on a drive to the basket. His layup made it a 40-39 game with 42 seconds to go. The teams exchanged possessions before Mendham took the lead for good on Jacobs’ short jumper from the right side.

After a slow first half in which Delbarton took a 20-16 edge at the break, the Green Wave went on a 11-0 run. The highlights included a Braswell 3-pointer and back-to-back layups by Ryan Curran. A pair of free throws by Braswell with 5:51 left in the third quarter gave Delbarton its largest lead at 33-18.

Mendham never panicked and Schmid, who had coached varsity teams at Parsippany High and Morris Catholic, assured the players they were still in the game.

“We started pressing a little bit and we got a couple of turnovers,’’ Schmid said. “We made some big shots.’’

Climbing back into the contest was no easy feat. The Green Wave has size inside as Ryan Curran and Rob Thoma clog up the paint and make it difficult for the Minutemen to succeed on the drive or grab rebounds. They can be just as effective on offense.

“We had to stay low,’’ Roemer said. “ I recognized I was able to stay behind (Thoma) and fight for position. I didn’t let him catch it too deep.’’

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Mendham guard Bobby Stolz looks to get by Delbarton’s Asad Braswell in the first half of Friday’s contest. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Minutemen whittled the Green Wave advantage to 36-28 going into the final period. Back-to-back 3-points shots by Jacobs and Bobby Stolz would tie the game at 38-all. There was some doubt that Jacobs was going to play on Friday. He took a hard fall earlier in the week that bruised his coccyx. However, at game time he couldn’t be stopped and after he launched his 3-point shot from the top of the key at 2:52, the gym buzzed with excitement.

“Will (Gibbs) was screening down,’’ Jacobs said. “Since they switch everything, Curran was sneaking up to the top and Will did a great job turning and getting Curran and I just slipped underneath.’’

Jacobs’ steal set up Stolz game-tying shot. Stolz is a first-year varsity guard for the Minutemen, however he handled the ball well and when his 3-pointer from the right corner dropped, the capacity crowd exploded in cheers.

“That play was the game changer,’’ Jacobs said. “Right there when we tied it up on that shot, our side was elated and jumping up and down. You looked at their bench and they all had their heads down dejected. That was the turning point of the game.’’

“He played jayvee last year because we didn’t have a spot for him (on varsity),’’ Schmid said of Stolz. “He’s a kid that just worked his butt off over the summer trying to get better and he has gotten a lot better.’’

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It wasn’t quite the way he drew it up but Kevin Schmid’s first victory as Mendham varsity basketball coach was an entertaining one. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Jacobs hit a free throw off a Braswell foul to make it 39-38 with 1:39 left. The teams exchanged possessions without scoring. Then Braswell found a seam in the lane and drove for a layup at the 42-second mark.

A missed Mendham shot was followed by a Delbarton turnover under full-court pressure. Jacobs put the Minutemen ahead for good by sinking a shot on the right side just inside the 3-point arc.

“In the timeout we drew up that play,’’ Jacobs said. “It was something we had gone over a lot in practice. Coach always tells us to listen and concentrate in practice so everyone knows what they are doing on every single play. We ran it perfectly and I ended up getting the shot.’’

Delbarton tried to respond but a contested baseline jumper was too long. Mendham’s Will Gibbs rebounded the ball and was fouled with 1.2 seconds left, but he missed both free throws. The Green Wave called time but their inbounds pass from under the basket was picked off at halfcourt and the Minutemen celebrated beating their private school rivals from down the road.

“There’s no better win,’’ Jacobs said. “It just showed we had a lot of heart.’’

Note: These and other photos of the Mendham-Delbarton game are now available for purchase. Just click on the photo below for access to the Smugmug site for this particular contest.

Other games of note:

West Morris 54, Randolph 51 –  Senior Pat Barron scored 21 points and sophomore Conor Barron added 11 points to lift the Highlanders to victory. Pat Barron hit a pair of foul shots and his younger brother had another inside a minute to break the 51-all tie. Sophomore Sean McElwaine added 10 for West Morris. Randolph’s Ryan Harris led all scorers with 23 points.

Pequannock 52, Kinnelon 41 – Kevin Glynn scored 13 points and Nick LaPorta added 12 to pace the Golden Panthers. Pequannock took control early and led 27-16 at the half. Sean Robbins had 16 points and R. J. Giannetti grabbed 16 boards for the Colts.

Mountain Lakes 51, Butler 46 – Paul Tarnowski scored 20 points and Pierce Langlois added 11 including four free throws in the final minute to lift the Lakers.

Hanover Park 49, Whippany Park 46 – Matt Williams scored 16 points and Matt Geisser added 10 in a close contest in Whippany.

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About mcvbb

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

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