Balance, unselfishness mark Hanover Park’s efforts

By Mark Kitchin


HANOVER TWP. — The basketball players at Hanover Park have gotten into the habit of stepping up for each other whenever the team needs it. That goes for the coaches, too.

Even though Todd Hartman couldn’t make Tuesday’s game due to illness, his assistant Rob Lenox stepped up and helped guide the Hornets to another victory.

John Crown scored 19 points and Matt Geisser added nine points to lift Hanover Park to a 64-54 win over Whippany Park. Sophomore guard Ryan Gaynor scored 19 points and classmate Joe Michelewsky added 15 points for Whippany Park. The Hornets took control with a 34-25 halftime advantage.

The players stepped up, too. Hartman was able to contact them before the game on senior guard Emmet Simmons’ cell phone and give them the information they needed against their sister-school rivals.

“It was a little weird not having him there,” Hanover Park guard John Burbella said of Hartman. “We talked to him before. He gave us the game plan. He gave us the scouting report — the plays — what to do. We went out and executed it.”

Hartman has a way of keeping the Hornets relaxed and loose before and sometimes during games. It also helps that the Hornets have a strong group of seniors that know what is expected of them. Lennox, who was coaching his first varsity game, knew he could rely on them, too.

“Coach Lenox told us he wanted the seniors to be leaders tonight and control the game,” Burbella said.

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Tom Vadekkadam grabs rebounds and takes charges for the Hornets. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

It was because of this senior group that Hanover Park embarked on a basketball trip to Orlando over the holiday break for the first time in the program’s history. The Hornets were 1-2 in Florida, beating a team from Canada, losing to a Pennsylvania team and narrowly falling to Olympia High School from Orlando.

“They were big and athletic,” Crown said. “That was probably our toughest game. They were really good.”

Crown enjoyed the Florida experience. The Hornets have always been a close knit team. The working vacation, which was paid for by extensive fundraising, didn’t hurt their attitude toward each other.

“It enhanced the experience,” Crown said. “We went to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We were in our rooms. We had to talk more. I just love everybody on this team. We had such a great time. The parks were great. Going on rides with everybody. It was just a different feel.”

Hanover Park is 10-3 and has won seven of eight games since returning from the Sunshine State.

The all-for-one, one-for-all attitude translates easily on the court. Offensively, the Hornets have six or seven players capable of scoring double digits. Every game a spotlight shines on a hero of the day.

“I guess whoever is feeling it, we just get him the ball,” Crown said. “It’s fun playing for this team. Everyone is so happy for each other when somebody else scores. It’s so unselfish. It’s awesome.”

On Tuesday it was Crown. Another game could feature Brad Daugherty or Geisser or Donnie Dattolo or Burbella or Max Reynolds. Tom Vadekkadam or Kevin Healy also have their moments but their roles usually involve rebounding and taking charges.

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Hanover Park guard Nick Burbella takes the ball to the hoop on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“It’s something we do by feel,” Burbella said. “A guy can get hot one game. You never know. That’s what makes our team so difficult to scout. You never know who is going to go off from game to game.”

Crown scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half. The Hornets were aggressive on offense and pushed the tempo. Sometimes they pressed the Wildcats. Other times after Whippany Park scores, they immediately fired the ball to mid-court and beyond to catch the sleeping Wildcats. They eventually expanded their advantage to double digits in the fourth quarter and weathered a late Whippany Park run.

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Rob Lenox (middle) stepped in to coach Hanover Park to victory on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

A Michelewski layup at 2:08 made it a 56-50 game. However, Burbella made a layup after a timeout and Whippany Park was forced to foul after that. Four different Hornets went 6 of 8 from the line and the Wildcats missed five of their last six shots.

The challenges continue for the Hornets, but as long someone keeps stepping up when they need it, the team keeps rolling along.

“We all trusted each other,” Crown said. “We were just happy to be playing basketball together.”


About mcvbb

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

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