It all started with a broken down bus and ended with a Morris County Tournament championship.
The bus that was supposed to transport the top-seeded Mount Olive boys basketball team to the County College of Morris on Saturday broke down in the high school parking lot and the seniors transported the team over in their cars.
“We had some good laughs about that,” Mount Olive coach Kevin Moore said. “As we’re meeting in the parking lot, we’re getting out cars, people were looking at us wondering, why are they so far away, where’s their bus, so it was pretty funny.”
The mishap obviously had no lingering affects as the Marauders went on to win their second-straight MCT title with a thrilling 75-73 victory over No. 3 Morristown.
With Mount Olive up 73-70 thanks to a three-point play from Marauders senior guard Rashaan Spencer, Morristown junior guard Jack Mongey hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds left to tie the game 73-73. Mount Olive then raced down the floor and Spencer scored on a layup in the final seconds to give the Marauders (22-3) its second overall MCT crown.
“After (Mongey) knocked down the shot I knew I had a chance, they only had two players back so I knew I had a chance,” said Spencer, who actually missed his first shot but then got his own rebound to win the game. “It happened off the rim, it happened to fall right back in my hands and I put the ball back in. I just knew I couldn’t give up on the play and I just jumped up, got the ball and threw it back in. It was the greatest feeling ever, not to have to go to overtime, exhausted, ended the game and got the win, it felt great.”
With 6 minutes and 39 seconds left in the game, Mount Olive led 61-57. A 3-pointer from senior guard Nick Duff cut it to one, 61-60, but a basket by junior guard Donte Wise stretched the Marauders’ lead back to 63-60 with 5:44 left.
Morristown senior guard Sean Hoehn then connected on a three-point play to tie the game 63-63 but senior center Zack Heeman sank a free throw to give Mount Olive back the one-point advantage, 64-63. Junior guard Jack Mongey gave the Colonials (20-2) back its first lead since late in the fourth quarter on a three-point play and a basket by Hohen put Morristown back ahead 66-64 with 4:32 left.
A basket by Heeman kept the Marauders close, 68-66, and Spencer tied the game 68-68 with 3:05 to go. Hoehn gave Morristown back the lead, 70-68, with 2:13 left, but Heeman pulled Mount Olive even at 70-70 with another basket less than seven seconds later.
“In the fourth quarter we able to keep with them, they’re a great team, they’re well-coached and they run well so to stay with them and get the win it’s a great feeling,” Heeman said. “We knew they were a good shooting team but the thing that was frustrating to us was that they were getting a lot of open looks, in the second half we were trying to contest some of those and I think they missed about three 3s they didn’t miss in the first half, so that was huge for us.”
After the first quarter Mount Olive led 22-18 and the lead went back and forth at the start of the second quarter. With less than three minutes to play in the half, a basket by Hoehn had the Colonials up by 10, 41-31, and Morristown stayed ahead the rest of the way and led 46-40 at the half.
Mount Olive opened the third quarter on a 5-0 run to get back within 46-45, but another 3 from James Mongey pulled Morristown back ahead, 49-45, with 6:11 left. The Marauders then went on a 12-0 run and retook the lead, 57-49. A 3-pointer from Duff with 4.1 seconds left in the quarter cut the lead to 57-52.
Spencer, who was named the tournament MVP, led all scorers with 36 points and he pulled down five rebounds. Heeman had 20 points and 14 rebounds while senior forward Ryan Traub had six points and nine rebounds.
“I’ve been playing with (Spencer) since freshman year and he’ll go off and you just have to take a step back and just try and get the offensive rebound because you know he’s going to go to the hole and you know he’s going to get to the hole,” Heeman said. “It’s like a tornado, you don’t know when it’s coming, it came the whole game today so we’re thankful for that.”
For Morristown, Hoehn had 22 points and four rebounds while Duff scored 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Jack Mongey had 17 points, including four 3s. James Mongey chipped in eight points and three rebounds.
The Marauders were playing in their third-straight final while the Colonials were appearing in their first MCT final since 2003 when they fell to Delbarton 58-54. Morristown last won the final in 2002. Mount Olive and Morristown last faced each other in last year’s semifinals when the Marauders took home a 62-60 victory.
Morristown’s James Mongey, Duff and Hoehn were named to the All Tournament Team along with Heeman and Mendham’s Jack Horan.