By Mark Kitchin Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball
HANOVER TWP. – Whippany Park coach Jeff Kleinbaum wasn’t sure if Jake Waddon and his gimpy ankle were healthy enough to start Friday’s varsity game against Madison. He figured it best to ease the senior forward into it as a reserve.
Waddon proved to his coach he was beyond ready to be on the Wildcats home court for the opening tip.
Waddon ignited his teammates and fans with a pair of first-half dunks that inspired Whippany Park to a 61-41 victory on Friday. Waddon finished with 16 points and A. J. Holleran had 12 including a rare 4-point play. Freshman Ryan Gaynor chipped in with 10 points for the Wildcats (6-5).
Sean Haughey led Madison with 25 points. The Dodgers dropped to 3-8.
Whippany Park broke the game open with a 29-14 fourth-quarter run. Holleran was fouled while knocking down a 3-point shot and sank the subsequent free throw. His play with six minutes left in the fourth quarter ignited a 15-0 run to give the Wildcats a 54-32 advantage.
Madison’s Gavin Wallace and Whippany Park’s Mark Bassista tangled under the boards on Friday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Whippany Park was charged up before that decisive play and Waddon was the reason. He missed three games because of a left ankle injury and was tentative and somewhat ineffective in games against Mountain Lakes and Dover. Against Madison, the 6-foot-4 athlete forgot his concerns and played like his teammates knew he could.
“It was the best feeling in the world,’’ Waddon said. “The first (dunk) was on a steal. I thought, “I’m just going to go for it.’ I went up and it was a great feeling. The second time I just wanted to do it again. Tonight, I finally hit my comfort zone.’’
The dunk helped Whippany Park take a 10-9 first-quarter lead and kept the excited Wildcats fans buzzing during the break between periods. In the opening moments of the second quarter he saw another opportunity on a breakaway and did it again.
“They were huge,’’ Holleran said. “Not only for the energy for the rest of the team but for himself. He was having a rough couple of games coming back from an injury and this got him over the hump.’’
“Jake looked alive again,’’ Kleinbaum said. “I’m thrilled. He played really well and he sparked us.’’
Whippany Park’ A.J.Holleran and Madison’s Sean Haughey battle for the ball. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
A healthy Waddon makes a huge difference to Whippany Park which has been banged up a good part of the year. Waddon brings athleticism and energy to go along with his size. He is also a solid scoring threat in the paint and his presence keeps opponents from submitting Holleran, the team’s leading scorer, to a diet of junk defenses such as a box-and-one zone, to limit his effectiveness.
“This is the third team that boxed (A.J.),’’ Kleinbaum said. “When Jake was out he didn’t have a lot of guys to go to.’’
Whippany Park led 20-16 at the half. The Wildcats opened up an eight-point lead at one point midway through the third quarter with the help of freshman guard Ryan Gaynor’s 3-pointer but Madison was able to keep within range. Gaynor, who has been another important addition to the Wildcats, sank his second long distance shot from behind the arc with 18 seconds left in the period to help Whippany Park to a 32-27 edge going into the fourth quarter.
“He’s been great,’’ Waddon said. “He’s that kid that always hits the open shot. He brings some energy back. He definitely helps A. J. bring the ball up and he’s just a great freshman.’’
Madison’s Sean Haughey puts in two of his 25 points in Friday’s game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
The Wildcats opened up a 5-to-7 point gap early in the period and the maturity of players like Holleran and Waddon, seniors who have been starting for the Wildcats since they were sophomores, really showed in the patient running of their offense. However, Whippany Park didn’t cement the win until Holleran knocked down a 3-point shot and was fouled in the process by Haughey. He sank the free throw for a rare 4-point play and a 43-32 lead at the 6-minute mark.
“I got past my defender and it opened up so I took it,’’ Holleran said. “The guy fouled me and it went in. It happens. As soon as it left my hand I knew it was in and then I heard the whistle. I always wanted to hit one. It never happened to me before.’’
The play sparked a 15-0 run that turned a 39-32 contest into a 54-32 rout. The run included field goals by Ryan Cahill, Ricky Tango, freshman Mark Bassista and Waddon.
“I think once we get a big play or a big adrenalin rush it always locks down our defense,’’ Holleran said. “That always leads to our offense.’’
The victory not only gives the Wildcats a boost going into the Morris County Tournament seeding meeting on Sunday, it also puts them in the right frame of mind for next Tuesday’s rematch against Hanover Park in an important Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference division contest.
Whippany Park’s Jake Waddon lets everyone know his ankle is fine. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Morris County Results
Morristown 51, Mendham 43 – The Colonials pulled away with a fourth-quarter surge on their home court. Sean Hoehn had 20 points and seven rebounds to pace Morristown (9-3). Alex Jacobs had 15 points and T. K. Hayes chipped in with 11 points for the Minutemen (6-6).
Hanover Park 62, Parsippany 42 – The Hornets led 33-23 at the half and maintained an advantage the rest of the way. Matt Williams had 19 points and five rebounds and Max Reynolds and Matt Geisser had 13 points apiece for Hanover Park (9-3).
Pequannock 57, Morris Catholic 31 – Kurt Weinmann scored 18 points and Nick LaPorta and Kevin Glynn chipped in with 12 apiece for the Golden Panthers. Pequannock outscored Morris Catholic 32-8 in the second half. The Golden Panthers (8-5) are on a 6-game winning streak.
Sparta 71, Morris Knolls 45 – Brian O’Neill scored 17 points for the Golden Eagles. Kevin Foulds had 18 points and Mitch Cohen had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Spartans.