Northern Highlands heading to Jambo quarters

Lucas Dipasupil finished with a game-high 22 points for Northern Highlands, which advanced to the Jambo quarterfinals with a 46-33 win over Dumont on Saturday.

ALLENDALE – Losing 10 seniors from last year’s team, with a new head coach and with fresh faces in new roles, this could have turned into a rebuilding year for Northern Highlands. Just qualifying for the Bergen County Jamboree would have been a great accomplishment.

However, this team had a quiet confidence about it and with two six-game winning streaks already on their ledger this season, thanks in large part to the play of junior point guard Lucas Dipasupil, the Highlanders played their way into the No. 5 seed and a first round bye. Highlands kept its torrid play going against a confident Dumont team fresh off its first win in the Jambo since 2002.

DiPasupil hit the last of back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter that broke the game on his way to a game-high 22 points as fifth-seeded Northern Highlands advanced to the Jambo quarterfinals with a 46-33 win in the Round of 16 over No. 12 seed Dumont on Saturday afternoon in Allendale.

“We knew Dumont was going to get the ball to No. 33 [Freddy Herbst] every possession and it had to be a team effort to slow him down,” said Northern Highlands’ head coach Jonathan Schmitt. “We have a couple of kids who played valuable minutes last year and some other players who have really stepped up lately.”

The first quarter was an entertaining one with both teams playing physically and diving all over the floor for loose balls. On the opening possession of the game, Herbst nailed a 3-pointer from the wing. Unfortunately for the Huskies, that not only represented their only made 3-pointer (they missed their next 18 attempts) but also their only lead of the game.

Matt Boydell scored twice inside to put the Highlanders in front, and the Highlanders held a 15-11 lead after one quarter. When Boydell (who primarily guarded Herbst in the paint) picked up his third foul, the Highlanders were at a significant size disadvantage. It turned out to be a good thing as it forced the help and weak-side rotations to come quicker. This resulted in four straight turnovers, two of which turned into layups for Dipasupil. The second quarter was all Highlanders, as they held Dumont without a field goal in the period to take a 26-13 lead at the half.

Freddy Herbst finished with a double-double, 13 points and 11 rebounds, for Dumont.

“We prepped for this matchup and (Herbst) was a really good player, so we needed to execute,” said Dipasupil. “We have scorers, but we also have young guys with a lot of energy. Everyone contributed in their own way, especially when it came to help defense. We have bonded together as a team and we always felt we could do something special. Once it started working out well, we just had to keep it going.”

Herbst got going in the third quarter with six points, including a drive to the basket that trimmed the lead down to single-digits, 30-22. Like Dumont, the Highlanders struggled through two-and-a-half quarters from the 3-point arc. In a span of 90 seconds and three possessions they made up for it. Sawyer Chapler nailed two straight 3s from the corner before Dipasupil’s 3-pointer capped a 14-3 run to put Northern Highlands firmly in control going into the fourth quarter with a 44-25 lead.

“I’m really proud of the way we defended, but they’re a great defensive team too and we couldn’t make the few good looks we had,” said Dumont head coach Kenny Martoral. “We left a lot of points out there in the second and third quarters. It’s disappointing that we didn’t put our best foot forward today. But it is a great learning experience that will help us when it comes to playing in these types of games in the state tournament.”

Chapler finished with 13 points and Boydell scored all nine of his points in the first half for Northern Highlands (13-4). Herbst finished with a double-double, 13 points and 11 rebounds, for Dumont (12-6).

In the next Saturday’s Bergen County Jamboree quarterfinals, Northern Highlands will face off against Tenafly, the lowest seed remaining in the tournament at No. 20. The Tigers pulled a second Jambo upset in three days with a convincing win over fourth-seeded Ridgewood. For this Highlander team though, the opponent is not important. What is important is that a team that was written off before the season even started is now 32 minutes away from a berth in the Jambo semifinals.

“With these kids ‘it’s not about me, it’s about us’, that’s been our mentality all season,” added Schmitt. “If we hit a free-throw and play defense and win 1-0, that’s where we want to be. When the final buzzer goes off, we want to be on the good side of the scoreboard. Every possession counts and we’ve done an excellent job with that all year. We hope to keep it going next week.”