The Morristown High School boys basketball team received the gift of victory on Thursday as the Colonials defeated Watchung Hills 69-55 in the first round of the Hilltopper Tournament at Summit High School.
"We had a really good experience last year," Morristown coach Bill Connolly said when asked why he wanted his team to play in the Hilltopper Tournament. "It's local, there are some teams that we don't play during the regular season and Watchung Hills traditionally is a big Group IV school that's had some success and we felt it was a good game for us as we get ready for our conference schedule."
Two years ago the Colonials (3-0) scrimmaged Watchung Hills and at halftime the Warriors had a 50-15 lead. This time around, it was Morristown that was running the floor.
"Two years ago we scrimmaged and it was not very competitive, and Sean (Hoehn) and all the guys have come a long way since then," Connolly said. "The guys we had last year really paved the way for the guys this year so I think our guys' skill level has improved and they're playing well right now."
Against the Warriors (1-2), the Colonials started slow in the first quarter and scored all but two points on free throws to take a 6-3 lead with 4:02 to play. Two minutes later, Morristown started to pick it up, outscoring Watchung Hills 13-1 to take a 19-6 lead after one quarter.
The Colonials kept it going in the second quarter and, after two free throws by senior guard Sean Hoehn and a bucket by senior guard AJ Tracey, Morristown had a commanding 33-12 lead with 26 seconds left in the half. Watchung Hills managed to score but another basket by Hoehn gave the Colonials a 35-14 halftime lead.
"I think we played well," Hoehn said. "We put in a lot of time in the offseason to get to where we are now, so all the time that we put in then is finally paying off."
The Warriors went on a 6-4 run to open the third quarter to pull within 37-20, but Hoehn carried Morristown with nine points the rest of the way, including two free throws on a technical foul to keep the Colonials out of reach, 49-27 after three.
With Morristown up 65-46 with 2:50 to play and most of the starters on the bench, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run to get within 65-53 with 51.1 seconds to go on a three-point play by forward Devyn Spruell. But freshman Kevin Hoehn picked up two free throws for a 67-53 lead. Another two points from the free throw line by Spruell made it 67-55 with 27.4 seconds to play, but sophomore Rohan Walker scored with 22.6 seconds left and Morristown ran out the clock for the 69-55 final.
"I think we're just playing as a team, it's not really like one man, we're playing as a team," Sean Hoehn said. "We're playing well defensively, we're helping each other out, we're all holding each other accountable so if someone makes a mistake, we talk about it."
Sean Hoehn led all scorers with 32 points for Morristown. Senior forward Zach Certner chipped in seven points and Tracey contributed six points. The Colonials also went 15-for-25 from the free throw line while the Warriors went 17-for-23.
Morristown will face the winner of Summit and Piscataway Tech in the final on Saturday at 7 p.m.