Heartbreak For High Point, Banner For Lions
Friday, February 22, 2013 • 10:59pm
HOPATCONG, NJ - It was a bittersweet night for Sussex County basketball in the girls and boys championships of the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex tournament. In the mid-afternoon lid lifter, High Point’s lady hoopsters could not recover from a lackluster second quarter, dropping a 45-36 decision to Phillipsburg. In the nightcap, Pope John defended its boys hoops title a second year in a row, outlasting cross-town rival Sparta, 76-56, at the neutral Hopatcong High School gymnasium.
In the opener, a cold first half, particularly the second stanza, hurt the Wildcats’ chances of winning its first Tri-County laurel since 2011. High Point only mustered nine points against the stifling Stateliners defense in the first half, only being able to connect on two attempts from the field.
“We really did not play well that whole first half and the second quarter it all began to slip away,” lamented High Point head coach Chris Dexter, whose crew is now 20-5 on the campaign.
Throughout the second half, it appeared High Point was preparing to give the ‘Liners (24-2) a run for their money. The Wildcats clawed within seven, 40-33, after a foul line jumper from Kirsty Gartner, with five minutes to play. Two minutes later, a triple from freshman Maddie Smith cut the deficit to six, but the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Phillipsburg’s Loren Kaiser, scored a transition lay-up to put the game away and give the Warren County program its first tri-county championship. Kaiser was the high scorer of the evening with 17 points. Gartner and April Peterson shared the scoring honors for High Point, each scoring eleven.
The box score follows:
High Point (20-5): 6 3 14 13- 36
Phillipsburg (24-2): 11 11 12 11- 45
High Point: Kirsty Gartner 1-3-0-11, April Peterson 3-0-5-11, Maddie Smith 0-2-0-6, Darby Smith 0-1-1-4, Meghan O’Leary 1-0-0-2, Erin Woop 0-0-2-2. Totals: 5-6-8-36
Phillipsburg: Loren Kaiser 6-0-5-17, Jess Kovatch 5-0-0-10, Molly Zgoda 2-1-1-8, Ally Raulf 1-0-3-5, Kylie Devlin 0-1-0-3, Rachel Edwards 1-0-0-2. Totals: 15-2-9-45
Halftime Score: Phillipsburg 22, High Point 9
In the boys fray, Pope John set the tone early behind the play of a sensational freshman. Bryce Aiken struck from behind the arc on three different occasions early in the opening quarter, scoring a quick eleven points to stake Pope John to a 15-6 lead they would never relinquish.
However, the Spartans soon showed the energized crowd how they took a superb 21-3 mark into the championship. The backcourt tandem of Zach Frick and Jake Melville combined to send Sparta on a 12-5 run, closing the gap to with four minutes to go in the half. A beautiful fade away jumper from Frick with three seconds left sent the Spartans down single digits at the intermission, 34-26.
But the Lions’ Moustapha Diagne would respond in the third, scoring five in a row to balloon the lead to 40-28. Sparta would continue to stay in reach until the 1:30 mark of the third, when tournament MVP Ryan Izzo converted a layup and three in succession, putting the game.
Pope John put an emphatic cherry on top with 5:40 to play, when Aiken found an open Diagne cutting to the basket, leading to a perfectly executed alley-oop dunk that sent the partisan crowd into a frenzied state.
In addition to Izzo’s MVP honor, Aiken and injured Lion Jermaine Lawrence, the Jamaica, Queens native heading to Cincinnati next fall, made the All-Tournament team, along with Melville and Frick of Sparta.
Melville, who delivered a brilliant performance in defeat, led all scorers with 31 points.
Pope John (19-7): 20 14 19 23- 76
Sparta (21-4): 10 16 15 15- 56
Pope John: Bryce Aiken 2-3-4-17, Ryan Izzo 5-1-3-16, Moustapha Diagne 4-0-5-13, Matt Zignorski 3-1-4-13, Noah Brown 1-1-4-9, Patrick Mekongo 3-0-0-6, Vince Moore 1-0-0-2. Totals: 19-6-20-76.
Sparta: Jake Melville 7-5-2-31, Zach Frick 4-0-2-10, Kevin Foulds 4-0-1-9, Ryan Altieri 1-0-0-2, Matt Chemis 1-0-0-2, Austin Unglaub 1-0-0-2. Totals: 18-5-5-56.
Halftime Score: Pope John 34, Sparta 26
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