Whippany Park aims to reach new heights

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

Since he was a freshman starter Ryan Gaynor has thought about games when he would be knocking down shots and playing a prominent role in a significant game with the Whippany Park crowd behind him.

Last Saturday he lived a dream and was able to take the Wildcats someplace they have rarely (if ever) been.

Gaynor scored 27 points and Mark Basista had 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lift Whippany Park to a 64-55 victory over Morris Knolls in an opening round Morris County Tournament game.

The win advances the Wildcats to a contest against top-seeded Chatham in Saturday’s MCT quarterfinals at Randolph High School.

36 bb mct wpmkWhippany Park’s Mark Basista has an inside presence that helps the Wildcats. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Whippany Park trailed 28-25 at halftime and were down by seven points late in the third quarter against the Golden Eagles with point guard Joe Michalewsky sitting on the bench with foul trouble. However, Whippany Park rallied before the end of the period and Gaynor knocked down some key shots to give his team a 43-40 fourth-quarter edge.

We knew we had a shot at this game,” Gaynor said. “We had a higher seed. We had a good home crowd that helped us out. Coach (Maher) kept telling us not to quit. We didn’t quit. We kept digging, digging, digging. When the opportunity came we made our shots and won the game.”

The Wildcats rely on a good inside-out game. Although their front court is not the biggest, senior Mark Basista has proven capable of getting rebounds against bigger opponents and also scoring in the paint.

Mark is the heart and soul of this basketball team,” Whippany Park coach Brady Maher said. “He is the hardest worker. For 6-foot-1, he plays about 6-foot-6. He is so explosive. He has such a desire – such shear will. He is one of the top defenders and rebounders in the county. We are a team that feeds off each other’s energy and it starts with him.”

44 bb mct wpmkWhen the Wildcats need a basket senior Ryan Gaynor usually provides it for them. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Against Morris Knolls, Whippany Park was dwarfed yet again and a smothering 2-3 zone defense didn’t help matters. The Wildcats had to navigate their way through it.

The biggest thing was we had to be patient and move the ball,” Maher said. “The reason it opens up for (Mark) is that he has the ability to knock down a jumper but with his size he can split a double team and get to the rim and finish and knock down free throws.”

Whippany Park’s ability to find some inside scoring gave Gaynor more opportunities to find open shots on the perimeter. He knocked down five 3-pointers during the contest. Gaynor’s Whippany Park teammates knew when he was open.

At the end when it was just time to focus, we were locked in and Ryan is a scorer,” Maher said. “Scorers find ways to get open. Scorers find ways to get the ball. To Ryan’s credit, it was a big game and he is a senior and one of the best players in the county. He knocked down shots.”

Now 12-6 Whippany Park is headed to play Chatham, which has been dominating Morris County opponents early in the season but has been playing closer games as of late. The Cougars have posted narrow wins against Jefferson and Mendham. The Wildcats are thrilled with the challenge they have been given.

It’s such an honor to play Chatham,” Maher said. “I’ve joked around with my guys. When we had big wins we say we “Chathamed a team. When you watch them they are so well coached and they play the game the way it should be played and they do nothing fancy. They are just so good at what they do. They execute and its great basketball. It’s such a great experience for our guys, especially the seniors, who since they were freshmen have been told they are special and they are. We finally got that big win that proves they are special.

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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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