Second Half Surge Powers Vernon’s 47-42 HWS Title Win Over Hunterdon Central

The HWS Tournament Final took place on Friday night, and it saw the 5-seed Vernon Vikings take on the 3-seed Hunterdon Central Red Devils. The Vikings entered the game coming off an electric win at the buzzer to beat top-ranked Phillipsburg just last week, while the Red Devils grinded out a win against 2nd-seeded Delaware Valley. 

Hunterdon Central’s defense was the story in the first half, allowing the Vikings only to score 16 points in the first two quarters of play. Shots were not falling for Vernon either, with some open looks. The Red Devils came out firing in the game, burying back-to-back threes to start the game. Hunterdon Central took advantage of penetrating the Viking's defense with good ball movement and ended the first half with a 21-16 lead. Of the 16 points for Vernon, 11 were from junior guard Alex Fessel, but it was only a precursor to what would come in the second half.

The Red Devils started the second running when junior guard Cameron Diogene buried a three to put Hunterdon up eight immediately. Vernon needed a spark to get back into this game, and to start the half, they got just that from Ben Jurewicz. The Senior Forward scored seven straight points for the Vikings after being in foul trouble for most of the first half. 

A Landyn Marsh three put the Red Devils back up by eight points, but the Vikings quickly struck back, with Aden Karwoski knocking down a three of his own. It was a tremendous response that forced Hunterdon to take a timeout up 31-26 with a little over three minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. 

Coming out of the timeout, it was none other than Fessel who took over the game for the Vikings. Fessel cut the deficit down to 31-28 and then went on to hit FOUR three-point shots in a row, lighting up the John M. Reeves Rec Center.

Fessel helped the Vikings build a 9-point lead in the 4th quarter and have total momentum. The Red Devils forced a 5th foul on Jurewicz, and the senior fouled out with six minutes to go. Hunterdon took advantage, getting a second chance bucket from Matthew Schwartz and then a big three-ball from Marsh, making it a 42-38 game.

After a Vernon timeout, senior guard Dhamir Morfe-Chess laid one in to make it a 44-38 Vikings lead with under two minutes remaining in the game. The Red Devils cut the deficit to four, but Fessel and sophmore Dylan Heykoop iced the game from the charity stripe, putting the game on ice. Vernon historically wins its first HWS Title, with Fessel finishing with 29 points.

 One week ago, the Vikings took the court as underdogs. Friday night, they left the gym as champions.

Jersey Sporting News will have more coverage of high school postseason hoops.