Hall helps Mendham with break out game

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

RANDOLPH — The athletes on Mendham’s team always knew that Keith Hall was something special. Now, the rest of the county knows it, too.

Mendham’s senior guard scored a career high 19 points in a performance that lifted the Minutemen to the Morris County Tournament title game. Mendham topped Hanover Park 56-47 in semifinal round action on Saturday afternoon in front of an excited crowd at County College of Morris in Randolph.

Brian Kenez added 14 points and eight rebounds and Brendan O’Donnell chipped in with nine points for the fourth-seeded Minutemen (17-5). Mendham advances to play third-seeded Chatham, a 50-32 winner over Morristown in the other semifinal contest. The title game will be held at CCM on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Matt Winschuh scored 15 points, John Crown had 12 and Donny Dattolo added 11 for eighth-seeded Hanover Park (17-7).

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Keith Hall, left, gave Mendham a huge lift in Saturday’s Morris County Tournament contest. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Hall’s performance set the tone for the game. Mendham’s quiet but supportive guard became the team’s best option on the press break. He also made solid decisions on what to do with the ball once he broke free in the open court.

“He is so quick with the basketball,” Mendham coach Kevin Schmid said. “He’s so quick and he finishes. He can jump a little bit and he finishes at the rim so well. We wanted to rebound it and get it out and get it up or press break to Keith or Brian Kenez in the middle and we wanted to attack, attack, attack.”

The Minutemen had a distinct height advantage on the Hornets but they also felt they could get a jump on their lively opponents with some transition baskets. They did not want to do was get into a frenzied up-and-down battle which would negate their half court advantage and benefit Hanover Park.  All week long, the Minutemen emphasized finishing their drives. That was something Hall showed he could do.

Hall has had only one other double-digit scoring game all season. It was no surprise to his teammates that Hall executed the strategy so well in such a big game.

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Brendan O’Donnell (23) and the Mendham defense made it difficult for Hanover Park’s Brad Daugherty to work down low. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“He was quicker than the other team,” Kenez said. “We’ve known how good Keith is. He is so athletic, so quick and he is such a shy kid. He doesn’t really assert himself but we’ve been telling him, ‘come on, let’s show the world what you’ve got’. Today he just came out and had the game of his life.”

As for Hall, who saw little time on varsity last year, he seemed surprised to be gaining any attention. He was just executing the strategy that the Mendham coaches drew up.

“Our game plan was press break and score in transition,” Hall said. “I like to run and get out in the break and my teammates got rebounds and pushed it. That’s really all it was.”

Hall also split time with Kenez guarding Hanover Park’s talented guard John Crown. Crown was in foul trouble early and although he got some scoring attempts, his game seemed a little off.

“We were just trying to get over screens and make sure (Crown) didn’t hit shots and drive because we know he likes to drive,” Hall said. “If he doesn’t finish at the rim he likes to pull up. He hit some deep ones so I give him credit for that.”

The Minutemen gave Hanover Park’s other top scorer Brad Daugherty a tough time, too. The Mendham players did their best to hold their ground and not get fooled by some of the shot fakes and quirky moves the 6-foot player uses to score against larger opponents.

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Mendham’s Brian Kenez has his eye on the basket while Hanover Park’s Joey Jandoli is in pursuit. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Mendham led throughout. The Minutemen had a 25-17 lead at the half and maintained a similar advantage going into the fourth quarter.

Hanover Park tried to rally with the help of Winschuh, who erupted for 13 fourth-quarter points including three 3-pointers. With every basket, Mendham always seemed to have an answer. Winschuh’s last 3-pointer made it 52-47 with inside a minute to play. However, Mendham went 4 for 6 at the free throw line in the final seconds and the Hornets didn’t get another field goal.

Getting to the title game is a dream come true for many of the Minutemen players who are accustomed to coming to CCM as fans to watch successful Mendham boys basketball teams in past tournaments. Now they are part of that legacy.

“It’s awesome, growing up and watching all those Mendham teams,” Kenez said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Now that I’m here, it’s awesome. I can’t wait to play Chatham.”

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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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