The fiery Falcons suffered a devastating 51-50 loss at the hands of the West Morris Wolfpack on Saturday, February 23. The game went all the way to the final buzzer as the Falcons claimed the title of the number two team in all of Morris County.
The Falcons were led by senior Joe Batelli, who totaled 24 points in the championship matchup. Batelli was followed by Richie Botti, who added 12 points, and Matthew Johnson, with another six.
The game kicked off all-Wolfpack as they stormed out of the gate with an early lead. However, the Falcons would not let the lead hold up as they finished the first all knotted up at 16 apiece. The second quarter continued with a similar storyline. The Wolfpack would take a little lead and the Falcons would respond to tie the game back up. In the final seconds of the half, Batelli fired up a 3-pointer, hoping to expand on the Falcons’ 23-22 lead. Although the shot bounced out, a foul allowed Batelli to make two out of three free throws, giving J-Town a 25-22 lead at half.
The Falcons pulled away a little more in the third quarter. Both sides got quick buckets, with Batelli and Botti doing so for the Falcons. Jefferson had a steady 38-32 advantage heading into the final quarter.
The quarter started much slower than the previous three as the Falcons wasted one and a half minutes on the first possession. The Wolfpack quickly proved their worth by forcing many Jefferson turnovers and missed opportunities, bringing the score to an even 44-44 with just two minutes left. Batelli changed the score with a long 3-pointer and the Falcons lead. However, the Wolfpack answered quickly with a 3-pointer of their own.
With the Falcons trailing by two and a minute left, time seemed to be running out on the Falcons’ Cinderella run in the tourney. After a missed shot for the Falcons, West Morris moved the ball up the court. With the entire gymnasium expecting a foul, Johnson thought differently. He forced the Wolfpack to lose the ball out of bounds and Jefferson regained possession. Following a timeout, with the crowd in silence, Batelli pulled up with a very long 3-pointer, which fell with just eight seconds remaining and the Falcons grasping onto a slim 50-49 lead.
The Wolfpack quickly moved the ball up the court, as sophomore Christian Cevis attempted a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. Victory seemed inevitable for the Falcons. But, in what seemed to be a replay of last year’s state finals loss for J-Town, an offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer by Ryan Hillier cost the team the Morris County championship as West Morris sneaked a 51-50 thriller.