There was no one having more fun on the basketball court than Graham LeMon Wednesday night at Hackettstown.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder from Chatham was having a blast, sporting a headband and calling for the ball outside the 3-point arc. And when he got he got the ball he delivered a couple sweet-looking 3s and also a couple of comical airballs.
But it didn’t matter to the fun-loving big guy who played with a smile on his face the entire time at the annual Morris-Sussex/Warren Senior All-Star Game before a nice-sized crowd.
It was the final time he and the rest of participants would don their high school basketball jerseys and the squads put on quite the offensive show with Morris recording a 136-106 win.
The final score, however, does not matter. What mattered was these players who have given their blood, sweat and tears to their respective programs over the last four years had a chance to “lace’ em-up” one final time on the high school level in front of family and friends.
The game allowed players who have done battle against each other for four years the chance to become teammates. It also allowed players from programs that didn’t have a lot of on-court success a chance to show what they can do with the cream of the crop.
And it gives a guy like LeMon, a huge part of Chatham’s success this year in winning its second straight Morris County Tournament title, a chance to strut his stuff. During the regular season LeMon was usually anchored to the low blocks, and rightfully so.
But on Wednesday he made like Steph Curry and the crowd loved it. He also tried to take a charge in an All-Star game which was classic. The sight of him on the court calling for the charge with a big grin was too funny.
“This was about having fun,” said LeMon after the game in which he pumped in 16 points. “I wanted to show I can shoot and I hit a couple at first and then I had a couple of airballs. But it was all about having fun. It was nice to come out with a win in my last game after losing in the section final.”
The Morris squad had a dream backcourt of Brian Monaghan of Morristown-Beard and Kevin Hoehn of Morristown and the Morris put up 90 points at the half. That’s right, 90 points.
The Morris squad was desperately trying to get Randolph’s 6-10 center Luke Nathan an opportunity to dunk, but it never materialized. As LeMon said, “We were trying. I wanted to see him break the backboard.”
But it was Hackettstown’s Matt Arcona who was able to throw down with a couple of dunks to thrill the crowd as he finished with 22 points.
The game also gave Jack DeGroot of High Point a chance to end his career on a high note. He knocked down six, 3-pointers and finished with 18 points. The three-year starter and 1,000-point scorer, battled ankle issues in the later part of the season and missed some games.
But he was smooth as silk the other night, hitting treys off the dribble, by spotting up or coming off a curl. Good for him.
It also allowed a guy like Bryce Falk of Wallkill Valley a chance to play with the top guns and show he belonged. Falk scored his 1,000th point in a state tourney loss to Newton but he said to accomplish that and play in the All-Star game were a great way to end his career.
Sussex was coached by Andrew Carbone of Sussex Tech, who said it was cool to coach in the game at his alma mater, H-Town, Mike Lupo of Wallkill Valley and Dan Moylan of Lenape Valley.
Carbone was happy to see his senior star Justin Aguiar get a chance to show what he can do and Aguiar said the same.
Morris was led by Hanover Park’s Todd Hartman and Mountain Lakes coach John Bydook. Hartman said that he demanded only two things from LeMon. One, shoot 3s, and two, more importantly, that he wear the headband. Too funny.
The game also displayed the amount of hoops talent both areas have. Neither area is known as a hoops hotbed but the top talent matches up with most areas of the state.
Overall just a terrific night. Now, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, we have to find an outlet for the senior girls hoops players in the area.
I was told that there can’t be a similar showcase for the girls because Morris County holds its own All-Star game which is this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Morristown-Beard.
But on my to do list is forming a Sussex All-Star game for the girls like Mugs Media and Sussex County Community College did with softball. I’m hopeful to get the wheels turning so we can do it next March and Pope John coach John Slackman and High Point coach Chris Dexter have already said they would be on board.
GOOD NEWS…I received a very happy telephone call the other day from my old friend, great guy and football coach Joe Mattessich. The former Jefferson head coach called to tell me he is the new top man at Palisades Park/Leonia and I couldn’t be happier.
Mattessich’s departure from Jefferson was unfortunate and was due to politics as he voluntarily stepped down from a spot he didn’t want to leave. All he did was win a state title in 2008, win 53 games and a couple of division titles before he felt he had to leave due to pressure from sources outside of the school administration. I think you all know what I mean by that.
Last year he was an assistant to Ed Kopp at Pequannock and helped the Golden Panthers top Newton in the states. Prior to Jefferson, he was an assistant at West Milford, Vernon, Dumont, Ridgefield and Palisades Park where he got his start in coaching under his mentor Babe Mongilla in the early 1990s.
And everywhere he coached, the teams were winners and I have no doubt he will do the same at PalPark/Leonia which went 4-6 last year and last made the playoffs in 2013.
Best of luck my friend!
That’s it for now see you on the sidelines.