By Mark Kitchin
Brian Monaghan doesn’t dunk at all during games but Morristown Beard’s senior guard was so determined to put the ball in the net at a key moment in the state tournament game, his will just took over.
“That was my first in-game dunk,” Monaghan said. “I had the adrenalin and I kind of went for it.”
Monaghan’s dunk was huge in the Crimson’s 62-60 triumph over Christ the King on Saturday.
The victory advanced Morristown-Beard to play St. Anthony’s of Jersey City in the semifinal round of state tournament Non Public B on Monday and made the Crimson’s final home game of the year a thrilling one for the capacity crowd.
Four Morristown-Beard players scored in double figures. Raphael Castillo scored 16 points including all of the team’s 9 first-quarter points. Monaghan had 15, Ryan Russo had 14 and Justin Rodriguez had 12.
Monaghan’s steal and dunk came at a pivotal point. He stripped a Christ the King player, picked up the loose ball, drove to the basket, and seemed to look everywhere before twisting to the side of the basket for a one-handed slam that made it 59-52 with 47 seconds left.
“I’d gotten denied three times going to the basket,” Monaghan said. “I wanted to make sure it was a good one.”
The Crimson put in a scrappy effort against the athletic players from the Newark school. Every rebound was a battle. Russo and unsung players Tyler Faccenda and Jared Levine played important roles in scrapping for rebounds and taking charges against their physical opponents.
“Those guys went through a brick wall to get the ball,” Monaghan said.
Morristown-Beard fell behind 10-3 but got within 10-9 by the end of the first period. A layup by Monaghan to start the second quarter gave the Crimson their first lead. Morristown-Beard led by eight at one point before Christ the King rallied and cut its deficit to 32-29 at half.
Although it was close a couple of times, the Crimson never relinquished the lead. Their biggest advantage was a 47-34 advantage with about two minutes left in the third period. However Christ the King rallied with six quick points off a pair of steals to make it 48-41 with 6:43 left in the game.
Christ the King continued to chip away and cut its deficit to three with about two minutes left. However, a pair of Monaghan free throws and then his steal and dunk ended up made it 59-52 with 47 seconds left. Free throws by Rodriguez and Russo in the last minute kept Morristown-Beard safely ahead even though their opponents hit a couple of threes in the final 28 seconds to make it close.
“This whole season has been storybook,” Monaghan said. “We did a lot of firsts this year. We had the most wins in school history. I couldn’t ask for a better season. Now we have the honor of going against St. Anthony’s.”
North 2, Group III
Chatham 52, Orange 43
The Cougars advanced to the finals of North 2, Group III. Mac Bredahl and Steve Conlin scored 12 points apiece and Jack Rooney had 11 in a balanced effort for Chatham. The Cougars rallied from a 12-11 first-quarter deficit and led 24-19 at the half. Chatham (21-6) host Barringer on Monday for the state sectional title.