Proud Morristown falls to Ridge in overtime thriller

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

BASKING RIDGE – No team wants to see its season end with a loss. However, if it has to happen it would be tough to end the year any better for Morristown on Saturday night.

The Colonials rallied to tie the game in regulation against Ridge only to see their season end with an overtime goal by the Red Devils’ Kevin Kelly in an 8-7 loss.

Freshman Brian Begley and Stephen DeLargy each scored three goals for Morristown (17-4). DeLargy sent the game into over time on a goal with 1:48 left in regulation.

Jason Mertz had a hat trick and Kelly had the first and the last goal for the defending Group III champs. The senior attackman connected on a feed from Conor Meth with 2:34 left in the four-minute overtime period. Ridge (14-6), the second seed, will defend its title against Moorestown which handled Ridgewood 8-2 earlier in the day.

Morristown’s season may have come to an end but every year the Colonials take a bigger step towards capturing a state title of their own.

“To fight against a team like Ridge and to be in it to the very end is gratifying,’’Morristown coach Jeff Bigas said. “The kids know that this game is where we belong and every year we take another step or two.

“There was a lot of good, strong lacrosse out there. The flow of the game dictated what was happening. They had some runs and we had some runs and they got the last goal. They were a very good team. You don’t see a lot of teams that can cut and feed the way they do.’’

Morristown’s Stephen DeLargy turns back on Ridge defenseman Sam Hill in Saturday’s state game.

A hearty band of Morristown fans braved a brief cloudburst that brought out a rainbow before the game started. They cheered and chanted and saw a Colonials team that wouldn’t give up.

“We had more fans than Ridge had in Ridge,’’ DeLargy said. “It looked like everybody was pumped up. We had so much momentum. We had the ball and they were kind of on their heels, but then … I don’t know.

“We played our hardest and we played the best that Morristown lacrosse has ever played. We stuck it to them, we just didn’t get the “W’’.

Morristown never led but tied the game twice in the second half after falling behind 5-3 at the end of the first quarter. All three of those goals were scored by Begley who has come on during tournament time and feasted on the short-stick defenders Ridge sent to guard him.

“He’s a freshman,’’ Bigas said. “He’s had a great year and he’s done it quietly. He’s going to be a heck of a player.’’

Morristown freshman Brian Begley (20) erupted for three first-quarter goals against Ridge.

Second-quarter scores by Brad Hersh on a Kyle Goss feed and DeLargy on an unassisted move helped Morristown make it a 6-5 game at the half.

DeLargy scored the team’s last two goals. He connected on a low righty shot off a Conor Dolan feed with 8:22 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 6-all.

With 3:52 left in the game, Ridge’s Jason Mertz scored a potential game winner but Morristown didn’t give up.

There were a number of wild loose ball scrambles during Saturday’s Ridge-Morristown contest.

After an exchange of possessions, a Ridge loose ball push gave Morristown the ball at the two-minute mark. DeLargy thrilled the Morristown crowd with a goal on a move from behind the cage with 1:48 left to make it 7-7.

“I saw my man jump a little to try an intercept a pass,’’ DeLargy said. “One guy slid and I literally gave him a little face dodge and just put it by him. After that I thought we were going to win it and it ended up going into overtime.’’

Morristown won the subsequent faceoff and possessed the ball for the final minutes of regulation but a DeLargy shot off a tight angle was wide of the mark and Kyle Goss’ effort in the final seconds was too late to count if it went in.

“We had burned all our timeouts by that point,’’ Bigas said. “It was a confusing situation. We were trying to get some pressure from (behind) and push the corner and try to get a shot with a lefty but we ran out of time.’’

Midway through the game the Red Devils switched to more of a zone defense which made it tougher for the Colonials to find openings to get off a quality shot.

“Our defense is smart in their zone and disciplined in their zone,’’ Ridge coach Ken Marsh said. “Last year we won a lot of games with it. This year we’ve been playing a little more man-to-man defense. We were able to jump in and out of it and it really helped us.’’

Morristown won the faceoff that started the overtime but on a restart a Colonials clearing middie was jumped by several Red Devils. A wild scramble of about 25 seconds occurred with both teams gaining and losing possessions in turn before Ridge’s Tyler Bliss controlled the ball long enough for his team to call time out.

The Red Devils set up a play in which Kelly, who has close to 100 points evenly divided between goals and assists, would convert Meth’s feed.

“He’s a special player,’’ said Marsh, who once coached at Mendham. “He’s a four-year starter but he got hurt and missed a good part of last season. He’s been playing with a sense of urgency in that he really wants to be one of the better players around. He’s one of our leaders.’’

The players for Ridge and Morristown warm up under a rainbow which appeared after a passing shower on Saturday.

After the game ended and hands were shaken, the Colonials wandered to a corner of the end zone and took a few minutes to gather their emotions. By the time they were finished, there were as many smiles as tears. They seemed to appreciate the season they had put together, which included a trip to the Morris County Tournament semifinals for the first time. The seniors got together and jogged the width of the Ridge’s turf field for the last time together while lingering Morristown fans cheered them on.

“Hands down this senior class leaves with more wins than any other Morristown team has ever dreamed of having,’’ Bigas said. “They can hang their hats on that.’’

The seniors have been part of an amazing turnaround in which Morristown has rebounded from a history of losing to being on the verge of competing in a state final. It’s a goal that the Colonials believe they are on track to attain soon.

“We’re still building,’’ Bigas said. “This will not be our last time in this game. This will not be the farthest we ever get. We’ll get past this.’’

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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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