Wednesday, March 6, 2013

WALDWICK — Connor Walsh and Waldwick chased Wood-Ridge‘s Mike Gibney and Gary Whritenour all over the court and never allowed them an easy shot.

Waldwick's James Moran putting up a shot as Wood-Ridge's CJ Madalena defends during their North 1, Group 1 championship game Tuesday night.

Waldwick’s James Moran putting up a shot as Wood-Ridge’s CJ Madalena defends during their North 1, Group 1 championship game Tuesday night.

The Warriors’ diligent defense and rebounding was the story behind their 68-50 victory in Tuesday night’s North 1, Group 1 boys basketball final.

Gibney and Whritenour are the most prolific scoring classmates in North Jersey history and the Warriors held them to a combined 27 points. Walsh, a junior forward, started on Gibney and senior guard Zack Neugebauer was on Whritenour and they had a lot of help.

“They’re so good,” Walsh said. “They’re really good players, and it was so tough.”

Waldwick won its first sectional title since 2000 and advanced to the state Group 1 semifinal Thursday at 5 p.m. at East Orange Campus to face Dayton.

Gibney scored 15 and his 2,215 career points place him eighth in Bergen County history. Whritenour, North Jersey’s all-time leader in career three-pointers, scored 12 and his 1,988 career points put him 13th.

Wood-Ridge is a prolific three-point shooting team, yet Waldwick had the edge in treys, 7-5. Junior guard Doug Palmadessa (game-high 18 points), Walsh and senior reserve guard Brian Nitsche had two apiece and junior reserve guard Matt Gimelli one.

“The boys executed the game plan exactly the way we wanted to,” Waldwick coach Adam Kaplan said. “We kept battling and knew if we gave away any kind of downtime, Wood-Ridge could score in bunches, and I don’t think we had any lapses.”

Walsh gave Waldwick a huge boost in the second half by scoring 14 of his 16 points. He stroked a three-pointer from the left corner, off an inbounds play, at the third-quarter buzzer for a 48-44 lead. He scored nine in the fourth, including a trio of layups.

Waldwick was bigger and stronger and enjoyed the edge in second-chance points. Walsh and senior forward James Moran (15 points) had a majority of their points on layups, and they combined for at least four baskets on put-backs.

Waldwick‘s defense kept Wood-Ridge from the kind of sustained runs that were the hallmark of Gibney and Whritenour’s four exciting seasons.

The Warriors pulled away midway through the fourth by holding the Blue Devils to one field goal and four free throws over the final eight minutes.

Wood-Ridge led after the first quarter, 14-9, thanks largely to a box-and-one defense that held Palmadessa to one basket and stifled the Warriors. The Blue Devils led, 14-9, on a transition layup by senior center CJ Madalena (11 points).

Waldwick opened the second quarter with a 12-0 run for a 21-14 lead. In the middle of that run was one three-pointer each by Gimelli and Nitsche, and the spurt ended with a Palmadessa transition layup.

“I know when the other team plays a box-and-one I just have to be a mature player and I can’t force anything,” said Palmadessa. “I think it paid off for us that they played a box-and-one, because my teammates were hitting shots.”

And rebounding and playing stellar defense.