Pequannock wins with heavy hearts

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

PEQUANNOCK — A state tournament basketball victory cannot possibly make up for the loss of a loved one. However, the Pequannock boys basketball team gave its coach a reason to smile on Tuesday during his time of sorrow.

Bryan Peters scored 18 points and Kevin Glynn added 16 in Pequannock’s 52-48 triumph over Mountain Lakes in North 1, Group II state tournament action.

Glynn knocked down a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining to account for the final score. The win advances the seventh-seeded team to face second-seeded Pascack Hills in the quarterfinal round.

Brad Smith and Luke St. Lifer scored 12 points apiece for Mountain Lakes (13-10). The Lakers rallied from a 50-39 deficit with 1:35 left to mount a 9-0 run. Mountain Lakes had the ball with 23.8 seconds left and had three chances to tie the game but each time the ball bounced off the rim. Glynn was fouled on a rebound and secured the win by knocking down his free throws.

Late last week coach Jeff DeBell’s father Frank died suddenly. He had been recovering from hip replacement surgery. The elder DeBell was a staunch supporter of the Golden Panthers teams that his son has coached over the years.

“Mr. DeBell was always at our games,” Glynn said. “He would have been here today. Since my freshman year he had been watching me play and supporting the team. I still remember him coming in the summer league, fall and spring leagues and always telling me how to get better. It feels like something was missing today.”

36 bb st pqmlKevin Glynn, right, sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds to lift Pequannock. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

It was acknowledged that the team played with a little more emotional energy than usual in what has become a very trying time.

“It’s been a tough, emotional week not just for me but for the players,” Jeff DeBell said. “I respect them so much as student athletes. They are coming to my father’s visitation and wake. Coming out and playing, it was tough. It was emotional for everybody. To step up tonight and play like they did. I am so proud of them.”

The season has been a struggle for the 9-15 team. After a good start, the Golden Panthers have had some chemistry issues and have never quite gotten on track. Pequannock had a miserable February which included an eight-game losing streak.

“Sometimes we get down on each other,” Peters said. “Our record might not show it and we definitely might not be the most talented team but we have the most heart.”

44 bb st pqmlMountain Lakes Luke St. Lifer (3) goes up for a shot as Pequannock’s Jamie Morella defends. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Pequannock split with Mountain Lakes during the regular season series. The Golden Panthers won 43-41 on January 9 in Pequannock. On February 11 it was the Lakers turn with 48-43 victory in Mountain Lakes. In recent weeks the Lakers seemed to be getting its game together. Pequannock was concerned with its opponents ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. It was something Mountain Lakes was finally able to execute with a flourish late in the contest.

“We were worried a lot about 24 (Matt Reese),” Peters said. “He dropped about seven of them (threes) in the last game he played against us. We shut him down the whole game. Other kids stepped up so we had to rearrange our defense.”

Mountain Lakes took an early lead but Pequannock rallied to take a 14-13 first-quarter edge. The Golden Panthers led 29-23 at the half. Pequannock maintained a mostly double-digit advantage and held a 42-26 lead with five minutes left in regulation before Mountain Lakes started to chip away. Then after missing the first nine 3-point shots they had taken from the start of the second half, their efforts behind the arc started to fall in.

Sophomore guard Chris Boyhan hit two of the three shots in a 9-0 run. He popped in the first one from the left elbow to make it 50-42 with 1:09 left in the game. The Lakers doubled with full court man-pressure and forced a turnover. They got the ball to Reese who was held to six points. He finally connected from the right corner to make it 50-45 with about 50 seconds left. The Lakers pressed full-court again but once the Golden Panthers’ James Hitchcock got the ball past the mid-court line they fouled him.

31 bb st pqmlPequannock’s Bryan Peters goes up for a shot during first-half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Both his free throws bounced off the rim with 45 seconds left. The Lakers pushed the ball up court again. After probing the Pequannock zone, Boyhan, an expert ball handler who stands about 5-foot-7, found space on the elbow again and knocked in another 3-point shot to make it 50-48 with 31.6 seconds left.

The Lakers called a time out to set up the defense. Then once Mountain Lakes fouled Pequannock guard Chris Coppola with 28 seconds left, it called two consecutive time outs in what seemed like an effort to freeze him at the line.

Although Coppola put both his efforts up softly, the ball danced on the rim but did not fall in. The Lakers took possession and eventually got a good look at the rim.  After an initial shot bounced out, two follow up opportunities were forced up in a wild scramble as time was winding down. When Glynn finally clutched the rebound, he was fouled immediately. Pequannock had an opportunity to secure the win. He didn’t want to let his team down.

“It’s my senior year,” Glynn said. “It definitely feels great to go out there and lead my team.”

Glynn, a physical rebounder and steady presence in the paint, had some struggles with free throw shooting last year, his first on varsity. This season he has approached the line more confidently and has gotten better results.

“It’s not the first time it has happened this year and it’s definitely a struggle,” Glynn said of the last second free throws. “You can only focus on the basket.”

He knocked down both free throws to make it a 4-point game. The Golden Panthers had a foul to give and took it at mid-court. A desperation alley-oop effort in the Lakers final offensive chance of the season missed the net. Pequannock walked off their home court for probably the final time, thinking it may have had a little help.

“I told them that I would never ask them to win a game for me ever,” DeBell said. “My dad was such a big part of it. He’s smiling down on us right now. I think they gave that little extra for him tonight.”

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About mcvbb

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

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