Hoehn’s buzzer-beater lifts Morristown past West Morris

By Mark Kitchin


WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) – Ryan Brunnock didn’t want to go through another overtime period and his teammate Sean Hoehn agreed. Together they made sure that Morristown was going to end its road game against West Morris in regulation – and with a victory.

Hoehn scored 14 points including the game-winning, buzzer-beating shot in Morristown’s 49-47 triumph over West Morris on Thursday.

Morristown rallied from a 14-point deficit to tie the score at 47-all on a free throw by Brunnock with 33.5 seconds left in regulation. A turnover helped Morristown get the ball back for Hoehn’s game-winning shot, which was a putback of his own miss.

Senior forward Naeem Pierce led all scorers with 16 points for Morristown which improved to 5-1 on the season. Pat Barron scored 12 points and Sam McClellan added 11 for the Highlanders (4-2).

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West Morris  Pat Barron pounds the boards but he’s surrounded by Morristown players during Thursday’s game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Brunnock literally snatched victory from defeat by grabbing the ball out of a West Morris’ player’s hands at the top of the West Morris foul line and sprinting to the basket. He missed his layup but was fouled in the attempt.

“I was not ready for another overtime game,’’ Brunnock said. “I saw him turn his back and I just went for it. I knew he was going to be frustrated coming into me. I was fortunate to get the foul call. … I just wish I made my second foul shot.’’

In the Colonials final game of 2012 they battled through four overtimes but fell to Summit (67-64) for the team’s first loss of the season. The defeat helped teach the team the importance of putting the game into its own hands. The Colonials couldn’t wait for something to happen. The players had to make something happen.

“It’s emotional losing in a four overtime game,’’ Hoehn said. “Coming out and getting your spirits back up and coming back from a (big) deficit. This was great for us.’’

Brunnock missed the second shot of the two-shot foul. A battle for the rebound ensued and a West Morris player tried to save the ball from going out of bounds along the baseline. He flung a pass blindly and it landed in the hands of Hoehn just inside the mid-court line and the Colonials called time out with 26.3 seconds left.

Morristown held the ball for the last shot. Hoehn ran off a screen, caught a pass from a teammate and drove the ball to the basket.

“Coach set up a play we never ran before,’’ Hoehn said. “My guys set good screens and I went through them perfectly. (Pierce) and Trey (Davis) set a down screen for the two guys in their 3-2 (zone defense). It left the middle wide open.’’

Hoehn’s initial shot bounced off the rim but he rebounded his miss on the left side of the basket and scored just before time ran out. It was his 12th point of the fourth quarter.

“I missed the first shot and I thought we were going to go into overtime,’’ Hoehn said. “The ball came right back to me so I just threw it up and it went in.’’

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Morristown’s Naeem Pierce (4) fights for position in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).

It was a remarkable victory for Morristown considering it played in such a lackluster fashion for most of the contest. West Morris took a 17-12 lead after a quarter and built it to a 34-22 halftime margin.

While Hoehn and Brunnock were ice cold from the floor (four points between them), the Colonials stayed in the game because of the shooting and rebounding of Pierce. The senior forward scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half.

“Some of our players were missing some shots so I just stepped up,’’ Pierce said.

“He’s a kid who has really improved his game,’’ Morristown coach Bill Connolly said. “He’s worked really hard at it. I’m happy for him. He’s a big part of our team.’’

West Morris still seemed in control after three quarters. The Highlanders had a 41-29 lead, but as the fourth quarter advanced, the Colonials turned up the pressure and forced some turnovers.

“We just came out with a lot more heart and passion,’’ Brunnock added. “We really turned it up on defense.’’

Connolly praised his team for getting turnovers and forcing West Morris into poor or rushed shots. Their transitions helped open up the offense to get Hoehn some lanes to drive through and Brunnock some open shots from the 3-point range.

Hoehn scored 12 of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter points. The Morristown point guard knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:35 left to cut Morristown’s deficit to single digits at 45-38. After a Conor Barron basket, Brunnock responded with his second trey of the game with 2:38 left to cut the West Morris lead to six at 47-41.

“Ryan is a good shooter,’’ Connolly said. “He has the ability to make good shots down the stretch.’’

Morristown gained possession back on a jump ball and a Davis putback made it a 4-point game just inside of two minutes.

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West Morris’ Sam McElwaine (10) squeezes through  the lane but Sean Hoehn (22) and Naeem Pierce (4) are ready for him. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Our guys are high character guys and they’ve invested a lot into the season,’’ Connolly said. “It’s a testament to their ability to fight through adversity.’’

The Colonials gained possession off a Pat Barron miss and made the Highlanders pay with another Hoehn 3-point shot from the left side to make it 47-46 with 1:19 remaining. The 3-pointer set the scene for Brunnock’s grab at glory and a remarkable finish to a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback.

Morris County Results

Mount Olive 86, Morris Knolls 74 – Rashaan Spencer scored 25 points and Zach Heeman had 22 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Marauders (5-1). Steve Leonardis added 12 for Mount Olive. Carroll Rich scored 18 points and Mike Signer added 15 for the Golden Eagles (4-3).

Kinnelon 46, Boonton 38 – The Colts rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to earn the victory. R. J. Giannetti scored 21 points including 15 in the second half. He also grabbed 15 rebounds. Jarad Brown added 10 points for the Colts (4-2).

Whippany Park 42, Morristown-Beard 35 – A. J. Holleran scored 15 points and Ryan Gaynor added 13 for the Wildcats (4-2). Stephen Sangree paced the Crimson with 13 points.

Sparta 43, Morris Hills 36 – The Spartans remain unbeaten at 7-0. Brian Wells and Rob Sihlanick scored 13 points apiece for the Scarlet Knights.

Chatham 70, Delbarton 57 —  The Cougars jumped out to a 21-13 first-quarter lead to take control of the contest. Scott Baker and Robert Raiola scored 13 points apiece for Chatham (5-2). Rob Thoma had 16 for Delbarton (3-3).

Mountain Lakes 57, Pequannock 33 — The Lakers swept the two-game set against the Golden Panthers. Pierce Langlois had 18 points and Sam Walsh added 12 for Mountain Lakes (3-2). The Lakers led 32-15 at the break. Mike Leva scored 10 for Pequannock.

Randolph 53, Mendham 46 — Ryan Harris’ 25-point performance paced the Rams in an upset victory. Randolph improves to 3-6. Alex Jacobs scored 23 points for the Minutemen (5-2).

Hanover Park 67, Dover 52 — The Hornets rallied from a 13-11 first-quarter deficit to earn the win. Max Reynolds scored 17 points and Matt Williams had 14 for Hanover Park (5-2).


About mcvbb

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

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