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The home opener for the Jefferson Falcons was a success as they took on the Lenape Valley Patriots Wednesday night. Both teams looking to start off the new season with a 2-0 record, after both gathering wins on their opening nights. It would be the Falcons who would prevail in the end with a 57-49 final.

The game got off to an exciting start for the home crowd when junior forward Matthew Johnson won the jump ball, and quickly headed up court to receive a pass and throw down a dunk, to set the Falcons up with an early lead. However, the Patriots wouldn’t just fold over as they managed to keep pace with the Falcons led by senior center Bobby Winegar. The Falcons finished the first half with a 17-10 lead.

As the second quarter began, the quick tempo’d Falcon offense continued, with a quick three-pointer by senior guard Joe Batelli. The Patriots continued to show no quit, as they put together a 9-point run, cutting the Jefferson lead to just 1 point. The half came to an end, with the Falcons holding on to a 26-21 lead.

The third quarter was when the momentum began to swing. With a lot of back and forth scoring, the game remained close. However, when the third quarter was over it was the Lenape Valley Patriots, who had a slim 1 point lead, 39-38.

The fourth quarter bought nothing new to the game. A lot of back and forth action as the game was still a slim 3 point Patriot lead going into the final 4 minutes. Jefferson quickly began to regain control, hitting dagger after dagger from long distance with the help of Johnson, Batelli, and senior guard Stefan Tisma. Lenape continued to have fight also, with Winegar and Senior guard Matt Kunarasa. The game was tied going into the final 2 minutes. This is when Jefferson pulled away with many hustle plays from the whole lineup, grabbing themselves a 57-49 victory and a 2-0 start to their season.

“I don’t think we played our best today. I think we were a little rattled and didn’t shoot very well today. But, we hit some big shots down the stretch, with Joe B, Stefan, and Mattie Johnson, which really helped us and got us the win,” head coach Joe Digennaro said. “We’ve been in a lot of big situations when Lenape doesn’t have as much experience so I knew we would be able to slow it down and handle it better than them,” Digennaro added, about going into a late nail-biter.

“It felt great they came out hot, but we gutted it out at the end and did what we needed to win,” said Senior guard Joe Batelli. “It’s a big conference win, our goal this year is to win the league so this is a great start.”

“It felt great. It was a great way to start the game and got the team and crowd really pumped up for the rest of the game,” said Junior forward Matt Johnson on his early dunk. “My teammates getting me the ball was the biggest thing for me this game… going into the break 2-0 was a goal of ours and we made it happen,” Johnson said.

“Everyone is working hard this whole game so it felt really awesome just getting a good team win,” senior guard Paulie Monaco added.

The Falcons take on Whippany Park, in another home game, December 27. As the Patriots attempt to avenge the loss, as they take on Parsippany Hills December 21.

Johnny Knox is an intern at Morris Sussex Sports specializing in sports journalism. He's also a junior at Jefferson HS where he is also a varsity baseball player.

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