Mount Olive edges West Morris in Group III

By Mark Kitchin


MOUNT OLIVE TWP. – The fog never really lifted while Mount Olive and West Morris battled in their Group III state tournament quarterfinal round contest, but the questions as to whether the Marauders had the heart to come back from a huge first-quarter deficit dissipated in a hurry.

Mount Olive rallied from a 6-1 first quarter deficit to stun West Morris 13-12 in Group II state tournament quarterfinal action on Thursday.

Tyler McEvoy added four goals and Nick Verrone had two for the Marauders. Mount Olive will playMorristown, a 17-4 winner over Wayne Valley in Saturday’s Group III semifinal contest.

Joe DeBiasse had a hat trick and Jason Mackewicz and Alex Kennedy had two goals apiece for West Morris.

The Wolfpack did a have a chance to tie in the final seconds but Marauders long stick midfielder Nick Verrone scooped up a ground ball with 20 seconds left and after a time out, the Marauders were able to clear the ball into the offensive zone as the buzzer sounded.

Conor Buoye scored five times including this goal on a diving play during first half action on Thursday.

“When he got that last ground ball I just told him to run,’’ Mount Olive goalkeeper Brandyn Merkle said. “I didn’t even tell him to pass the ball. I told him to run.’’

Merkle was relieved.  He blamed himself for some of those goals even though they were more the result of some early defensive break downs than his ability to see through the fog.  He had complete faith in the team’s defense to get settled and his team’s offense to fight back.

“Any win is great,’’ Merkle said. “We’ve never been past the state quarterfinals. This one is really good.’’

The Marauders have an efficient offense and don’t seem to be fazed when given the task of making up a couple of goals.

“We are primarily a senior team and we’ve been here before. So we knew we had plenty of time in the game and we had to keep fighting,’’ Buoye said. “West Morris is a great team and it seemed as if it had our number in the beginning. We knew we had to make a couple of adjustments. We did that and we ended up putting in some goals.’’

The battle between West Morris Kevin Reidinger (22) and Mount Olive’s Chris Sanchez (22) loomed large in the faceoff circle on Thursday.

“Much of the game seemed to be dictated right off the face off. West Morris’ Kevin Reidinger won the draws early and created transition scores which lifted the Wolfpack to a 6-1 first-quarter lead. Once Mount Olive’s Chris Sanchez was able to capture some face offs in the second quarter, the Marauders defense had time to regroup.

“We really didn’t know what they were doing offensively,’’ Merkle admitted. “We found out how to play the pick game and we pretty much slid hard after that. Tightening up was just something that we needed to do.’’

The defensive unit of Merkle, Logan St. John, Joe Brown and David O’Connor was playing without their starter and senior leader Austin Niblett, who has been out with an injury. They have been working hard over the last week to compensate for their loss and establish new roles.

 After goals we talked and they kind of just figured it out and started communicating more,’’ Merkle said

West Morris got off to a blazing start and took a 6-1 first-quarter lead against Mount Olive.

Once Mount Olive started getting possessions, it went to work in cutting down the deficit. Buoye and Tyler McEvoy are so confident in their ability to create offense that by halftime they had whittled the Wolfpack’s sizable lead to 8-6.

“We did what we do every game,’’ Buoye said. “We just run our set and the looks will be there. We had looks in the beginning and we weren’t putting them away and towards the end of the game we were — that’s why we got the win.’’

McEvoy tied the game with nine minutes left in the third quarter when he connected on a low shot off a Buoye feed to make it 9-9. After exchanging goals, Mount Olive took the lead for good when Nick Verrone popped in a quick shot off a ground ball in front of the West Morris cage to make it 11-10 with 6:08 left in the third quarter.

Buoye would score Mount Olive’s 13th and eventual game winning goal on a fast break with 7:13 left in the game. He was ready for the transition goal that was initiated by O’Connor.

“He just picked up a great ground ball and came right down the field,’’ Buoye said. “No one guarded him and my guy ended up sliding. He just put me one-on-one with the goalie. I faked low, shot high and put it away.’’

Buoye’s righty shot in the top right corner made it a 13-11 game. Less than a minute later, West Morris’ Max Evans connected to make it a one-goal game again. After a Wolfpack slashing call,MountOlivegambled by running five minutes off the clock. West Morris didn’t help its cause when it drew a cross checking penalty with 2:44 left while trying to make a play.

Mount Olive goalkeeper Brandyn Merkle saw through the shifting fog to nab numerous West Morris shots.

A turnover did get the Wolfpack the ball with 1:15. After a timeout and a Reidinger shot attempt, West Morris still had a chance to set up a game winning goal, but an errant pass deflected off a Wolfpack player and Verrone scooped the ball up with his stick at the 20-second mark. Mount Olive called time out to set up a clear and eventually end the game.

“It was awesome,’’ Buoye said. “It was the best feeling to know that we had the win.’’

Other state tournament scores

Group III

Morristown 17, Wayne Valley 4 – The Colonials pulled away with an 8-1 second-half effort. Stephen DeLargey had seven goals and four assists, Kyle Wimley had four goals and four assists and Brad Hersh registered a hat trick forMorristown.

Group II

Chatham 14, Mendham 2 – David Gill, Kyle Howard Johnson and Joey Ritter each had hat tricks in the Cougars’ triumph. Sam Carson added a goal and four assists forChatham. The Cougars took a 9-2 halftime advantage and shut out the Minutemen the rest of the way.

Group I

Mountain Lakes 10, Caldwell 4 – Rob Orazietti had five goals and one assist and Jon Broome had four goals and two assists for the 15-3 Lakers.MountainLakes led 7-1 at half and cruised for the victory. They faceGlenRidge next.

Glen Ridge 14, Kinnelon 7 – The Ridgers were paced by Jameson Smith’s four goals. Kobi Frankel and Brian Gnad scored two goals each for the Colts.  



About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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