By Mark Kitchin
DENVILLE – Junior guard Bryan Langan scored 18 points and Jefferson showed off its balance and depth in a 60-41 triumph over Belleville in the opening round contest of the Morris Knolls Holiday tournament on Thursday.
Tyler Jones added 14 points and Jeremy Decotiis added 10 for the Falcons (4-0). Jefferson took a 36-14 lead at halftime and cruised to its fourth consecutive victory. The Falcons will play host Morris Knolls in Friday’s final.
Jacob Duban scored 14 points for Belleville, which will play Parsippany Hills in the tournament consolation game.
Every Jefferson game so far this season has had a different hero. Langan took control right from the beginning by scoring 11 of the team’s 18 first-quarter points, including three 3-point shots. His penchant for knocking down open jumpers is a necessity for the Falcons.
Bryan Langan got Jefferson off to a flying start in Thursday’s Holiday tournament game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
“He has not been scoring for us, he’s been distributing,’’ Jefferson coach Joe DiGennaro said. “We had a long talk about. He’s got to start shooting for us. We’ve been seeing a ton of zone defenses this year because we are pretty athletic. He needs to shoot the ball for us to be successful.’’
Chemistry issues have haunted the Falcons in the past but not this year. Although they were NJAC Division co-champs last year, they graduated nine seniors including most of their starters. The bulk of this year’s varsity played together on the jayvee level and the cohesiveness shows.
“Keeping them together as a group was a huge thing for us,’’ DiGennaro said. “They are a pass first team for the most part. … They share the ball. They are very unselfish. That’s what is good.’’
Langan and 6-foot-4 Kevin Silverstein received solid varsity minutes last season. A few of the players were swing players that may have suited for the varsity games but didn’t see much action. Coming in as a group, they had high expectations of continuing success at the top level.
“We expected big things,’’ Langan said. “Our jayvee had a good season and we had a good summer. … We know each other very well and coach has been doing a good job preparing us for each and every game and our zones have been working well.’’
Jefferson’s Danny Brown eyes a rebound during Thursday’s victory over Belleville. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).
The Falcons also appreciate their versatility. The players recognize that depending upon the situation a different player will be called upon when his special skill is needed.
“I play a lot of guys,’’ DiGennaro said. “There’s a lot of balance. It’s a different guy every night. We mix defenses up and we play a lot of different things. Some guys play a couple minutes one night and more minutes another night.’’
So far Jefferson has had a relatively easy time this season. All four wins have been by sizable margins. The Falcons know that situations won’t go on forever.
“We’ve been up doubles every game at halftime so far,’’ DiGennaro said. “We have lulls. We had one a little bit today, too. These guys didn’t play varsity last year so they are learning.’’
Jefferson led 18-10 at the end of the first quarter then went on an 18-4 second quarter tear. Decotiis scored six points and Trevor Thompson added five for the Falcons in the period to take a 36-14 halftime edge.
Belleville did chip away during the third quarter and at one point cut its deficit to 45-31 when Isaac Diamonique knocked down a 3-point shot early in the fourth quarter. DiGennaro called timeout and put a stop to some sloppy play.
Jefferson put together a 9-2 run to end any hopes of a Belleville upset. The Falcons hope to keep their unbeaten string alive against host Morris Knolls on Friday.
“We can match up with most teams,’’ DiGennaro said. “And we are tough to matchup (against). We have a lot of challenges in front of us. Right now we are excited.’’
Jefferson’s J. R. Reese drives to the basket against Belleville’s Shaq Richards in first-half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Other Tournament Results
J.P. Flynn Tournament
Morris Hills 61, Morris Catholic 27 – The Scarlet Knights took control with a 33-13 halftime advantage. Both teams are 2-2 on the season.
Sparta 68, West Morris 48 – The Spartans led 39-23 at the half. Jake Melville scored 18 points and Zach Fricke had 14 points and 10 assists for the Spartans. Pat Barron paced the Highlanders with 12 points.
Mendham 47, West Milford 37 — T.K. Hayes and Alex Jacobs scored 13 points apiece and Will Gibbs grabbed 10 rebounds for the Minutemen. Mike Otero had 15 points for the Highlanders. A 14-8 third-quarter run gave Mendham a 35-26 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Rangers Holiday Tournament
Wallkill Valley 66, Kinnelon 41 – The Colts fall to 2-2 on the season. Sean Robbins scored 22 points and Sean Walsh added seven for Kinnelon.
Pequannock Blue and Gold Tournament
Clifton 52, Mountain Lakes 45 – Clifton prevailed despite a strong Mountain Lakes run. The Lakers dominated the third quarter with a 17-4 run to take a 33-29 edge. Clifton rallied back to earn the win. Paul Tarnawski scored 13 points and Pierce Langlois added 10 for Mountain Lakes (1-2).
Newton 53, Pequannock 48 – Nick LaPorta scored 18 points and Dan Ryan added 12 for the Golden Panthers. A trio of players scored in double digits for the Braves.
Madison Holiday Tournament
Governor Livingston 52, Madison 36 – Steve Duda scored 10 points in a balanced effort for Governor Livingston. The Dodgers led 25-23 at half before GL dominated the second half. Gavin Wallace paced Madison with 16 points.
Marlboro 48, Whippany Park 43 – Marlboro led 37-29 after three quarters and held on for the triumph.
St. Mary’s Tournament
St. Mary’s (Eliz.) 61, Morristown-Beard 53 – St. Mary’s led 30-26 and thwarted Mo-Beard’s second half efforts. The Crimson drop to 2-2.
Butler Holiday Tournament
Parsippany 52, Butler 49, OT – The Red Hawks rallied from a 35-31 third quarter deficit. Leonard Lee scored 18 points including three of Parsippany’s seven overtime points. Nick Ballestreri scored 15 points and Billy White added 10 for the winless Bulldogs.
Montville 51, Pompton Lakes 48, IT — Jesse Warech had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Jacob Kaplan had 13 points and six rebounds to propel the Mustangs. The teams were tied at 47 going into the overtime period. It is the first win this season for the Mustangs (1-3).
Dover 52, Kittatinny 33 – Dwayne Brown paced the Tigers with 11 points. Dover (1-2) took a 30-18 lead at the half and maintained an advantage the rest of the way.
Boardwalk Classic at Wildwood
Mount Olive 62, Collingswood 44 — The Marauders are having fun on the beach. Zac Heeman had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Rashaan Spencer added 15 for Mount Olive (4-1).
Cutoia Tournament – South Plainfield
Dickinson 60, Randolph 46 — The Rams trailed 36-21 at the half. Michael Talbert had 20 points including four 3-pointers and Thayer Wallace added 11 points for Randolph.