By Mark Kitchin
DENVILLE — Sophomore Nick Giuliano hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left and Wayne Valley played furious defense in the closing seconds to earn a 58-55 victory over Hanover Park in the final of the Morris Knolls Summer Basketball League on Thursday.
Wayne Valley finished the league with a 10-0 record including a 43-35 triumph over host Morris Knolls in the semifinal round. Hanover Park rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second half. The Hornets briefly took the lead on Nick Burbella’s three-point shot at the 5-minute mark to make it 47-46.
Wayne Valley fought back to tie the game at 49-all. Senior forward Jordan Walade knocked down a 3-pointer at the 3-minute mark to go ahead. A jump shot by Walade at the two-minute mark and a pair of free throws by senior center Adam Brody helped Wayne Valley build a 56-51 advantage with 1:30 left.
Hanover Park’s Emmet Simmons knifes through two Wayne Valley defenders during first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Hanover Park responded with a layup by Nick Burbella and a steal by Max Reynolds. Reynolds drove to the basket and was fouled on a layup attempt that rimmed out. He hit two free throws for the Hornets with 31 seconds left to make it 56-55. Hanover Park was forced to foul and Giuliano knocked down by his free throws at the 15-second mark to make it a 3-point game. The Hornets had time to set up one more play. They moved the ball back and forth but couldn’t create an open chance for one of their perimeter players. Tom Vadekkedam was forced to put up a contested shot at the buzzer that fell short.
In the other semifinal, Hanover Park rallied from a 15-13 halftime deficit to defeat High Point 39-33. The Wildcats rallied from an 11-point deficit to make it a 33-28 game at the 5-minute mark. Hanover Park sealed its victory by hitting 6 of 6 from the free throw line in the final minutes. Emmet Simmons was 4 for 4 and Tom Vadekkadam knocked down a pair for the Hornets to advance to the final.