West Morris Central’s freshman boys basketball team capped a near perfect season with a suspense-filled win over the Green Wave of Delbarton to capture the championship of the Morris Knolls Invitational Tournament Friday night.
The Wolfpack avenged their only season loss to Delbarton in a hard fought thriller that featured eleven lead changes and came down to Delbarton’s last second three point attempt that bounced off the rim securing the Wolfpack’s two point victory, 41 to 39.
Honorary game captains, Conor Barron and Sean McElwaine, both known for their excellent ball handling skills and unselfish style of play, led other starters Sean Roehrich, Billy Froetscher, and Kyle Fenske in a game that was hard fought underneath and marked by tremendous hustle exhibited by both the Pack and Green Wave players.
Delbarton won the opening tip and grabbed an early lead which they held through the first and for most of the second quarter. With six minutes remaining in the second quarter McElwaine drove the baseline hitting a shot from underneath to bring the Pack to within three. A determined Sean Roehrich then hit two of his eight second quarter points to bring the Pack to within one.
West Morris took its first lead of the game with four minutes remaining in the half when McElwaine drove the lane in traffic to sink a lay-up putting the Wolfpack up by one.
Tommy Hayes, Patrick Kennedy, and Jackson Weippert came off the bench to battle through four more lead changes before the first half ended with the score locked at 21 each.
During his halftime talk, Coach King reminded the boys to “play your game,” a quote that the boys had heard before during their 21 win, 1 loss season. After their final practice the night before he had told them that he felt that they were prepared to win and they took the court for the second half to prove him right.
Delbarton started strong with four unanswered points before Roehrich was fouled underneath and made both free throws. With just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, McElwaine again drove the lane to tie the game at 29.
Delbarton’s play featured a tenacious box-and-one style of defense with Conor Barron being shadowed throughout the contest. Barron managed to fight through the coverage for 11 points and multiple assists including taking the ball the length of the court as time expired in the 3rd quarter to put the Wolfpack up by one.
As the fourth quarter began, Delbarton’s Dean Grogg sank four of his team high twelve points by first making a hook shot then following it with a 3-point bomb that seemed to signal a momentum shift Delbarton’s way. It was then that McElwaine hit a clutch 3 point shot himself, West Morris’s only one of the night, to stem the Green Wave’s rising tide and close the gap to one.
Now back on defense, Kyle Fenske grabbed a key rebound off a missed Delbarton 3 point attempt. West Morris failed to score but underneath on defense, Roehrich won the battle grabbing one of his game high 17 rebounds with just over one minute to play. That led to a critical possession when Fenske grabbed an offensive rebound and went up to score on a put back lay-up.
With just twenty five seconds left, Barron completed a three point play to increase the Pack’s lead to four. Barron then fouled out with 17 seconds remaining and Delbarton capitalized by making both free throws. As a tense final few seconds ticked off the clock, Delbarton’s three point attempt for the win bounced off the rim and the Pack could finally celebrate this thrilling end to their championship season.
Following the game, Coach King told his team that their 21-1 season was the best record in his career as Central’s freshman basketball coach. David Pridmore, Brandon Grossmann, Brian Wagner, and Steven Woodring were also members of this memorable team who together brought not only the Morris Knolls Tournament Championship but also the overall Division Championship back to the freshman halls of West Morris Central High School.
Barron - 11 points, 5 rebounds
Fenske - 8 points, 6 rebounds
Froetscher - 0 points, 1 rebound
McElwaine - 10 points, 3 rebounds
Roehrich - 12 points, 17 rebounds
All information provided Gary Woodring, photos provided by Al Wehrhahn.