By Mark Kitchin
MorriscountyvarsityboysbasketballMORRIS TWP — It’s always important to learn from mistakes but are there times where it is okay to forget them? That’s tough to say but it might be good that Morristown-Beard’s Stephen Sangree has a short memory when it comes to a turnover or two during a game.
Sangree, a junior forward, scored 22 points, made some key plays, and overcame a few mistakes in the Morristown-Beard’s 52-45 triumph over Montville in the preliminary round of the Morris County Tournament on Saturday.
Junior guard Ben O’Connell added 10 points for the Crimson. The 15th-seeded team has the difficult task of facing second-seeded (and last year’s finalist) Mount Olive in next week’s opening round contest.
Junior forward Jesse Warech scored 20 points for 18th-seeded Montville (5-10). The Mustangs have lost five in a row. The game was still in doubt with 19 seconds left. Morristown-Beard had a 48-45 lead but Montville had possession. Warech stepped out for a lengthy 3-point shot from the top of the key that rattled in and out of the net. Crimson’s Mark Abouyoun grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He sank a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds left to make it a 5-point game. Sangree added a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds left to account for the final score.
Morristown-Beard’s Mark Abouyoun puts up a shot as Montville’s Eric Werheim defends in MCT action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Morristown-Beard is a team filled with sophomores and juniors, most of whom are playing consistent varsity minutes for the first time and a finding out a little about themselves from game to game. Fortune favors the bold at times and Sangree, who scored nine of his team’s 15 fourth-quarter points, is a player who seems anxious to test his limits but he still has plenty of work in front of him.
“He’s not done growing and that makes him a little awkward,’’ Morristown-Beard coach Eddie Franz said. “He’s 6-foot-3 and long. He can shoot but his footwork is a little off and we work with him on it all the time. He hit a three today (one of three) and he was lunging but he followed through and made it.’’
It was on one particular play that Sangree tested his own courage and Franz’s patience. The Crimson had a tenuous 44-43 lead with 1:02 left to play. Franz called the timeout and told his team to take care of the ball in order to close out the game and keep it moving with the possible exception of a wide open layup. The Morristown-Beard players complied but when Sangree got the ball and saw a path to the basket, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up.
“I was bringing the ball up and I saw an opening,’’ Sangree said. “The help defender was looking out. I decided to get another bucket and I went in and got it.
“I’m pretty confident in my driving ability. My teammates trust me to drive and score. I do it in practice and I work on it a lot. When I see an opening, I’m going to try and take it and help my team out.’’
It was less than a minute earlier that Sangree had lost the ball on the baseline on a similar drive. He counted several times that he made mistakes on Saturday, but he’s learned not to let it affect his game.
“I just move on to the next play,’’ Sangree said. “My coach tells me I have a short memory. I try to forget the bad things. I move on to the good things and capitalize on them. I just try to move on.’’
His score made it 46-43, but he missed the free throw. It would be the last one the Crimson would miss. In the final 23 seconds Sangree went 4 for 4 from the line and Abouyoun also knocked down a pair of free throws to keep Morristown-Beard ahead. Twice Montville got the ball in the final 23 seconds and set up Warech for 3-point shot attempts but the Montville sharpshooter was just a little off on both chances.
Morristown-Beard’s Jordan Panella (34) came off the bench to put in a bucket on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
“He has a good pump fake,’’ Sangree said of Warech. “He caught me with it a little bit. We just wanted to stay down and stop the dribble drive and force him to settle for a long shot. He’s a good player and he’s going to score on some of them.’’
The Crimson have been mixing up its lineups all season. Recently the Crimson decided to go with more speed and defense by starting Matt McFadden and Chris Pooler.
“McFadden has real long arms and legs like a spider,’’ Franz said. “He has a good basketball body and if he works at it he could be a pretty good player. Pooler is long and athletic and he just has to learn how to play. I told them, ‘guys go out and kill yourself defensively. If you make mistakes on offense I’m not going to bark at you.’
“McFadden was a spark. He got after it and he started deflecting balls and Montville started stumbling around and those guys could tell they were in for a long night trying to score on us.’’
Morristown-Beard’s Mark Abouyon puts up a shot over a pair of Montville defenders. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Morristown-Beard led 14-9 after the first quarter. The Crimson got a huge boost from Malik Valentine. The senior guard knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner, his second long distance trey of the season, to give them a 27-17 edge at the half.
A couple of 3-pointers by Warech triggered a 10-3 run to start the third quarter. The Mustangs whittled the Crimson lead to one point on two separate occasions but they never took the lead. Morristown-Beard had a 37-34 advantage going into the fourth quarter and Sangree knocked down a 3-pointer to open the final period.
The Crimson never lost the lead although it did get dicey at times, but then again there are moments when it might be best to have a short memory.