Vernon wins first H/W/S championship

VERNON. The fifth-seeded Vikings beat third-seeded Hunterdon Central, 47-42, in the finals.

Vernon /
| 20 Feb 2024 | 06:25

Alex Fessel powered the Vernon Township High School boys basketball team to a history-making victory.

Fessel, a junior guard, scored a career-high 29 points, including 18 in the second half, to pace the fifth-seeded Vikings to a 47-42 victory over third-seeded Hunterdon Central in the championship game of the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament on Friday night, Feb. 16 at Centenary University in Hackettstown.

The tri-county title is the first for Vernon in the 14-year history of the event. The Vikings last won a county title when they won the Sussex County Tournament in 2007.

Vernon trailed, 21-16, at the half, but three-pointers by Fessel on three straight possessions in the final 1:23 of the third quarter gave the Vikings a 37-33 lead heading into the final stanza.

In the final period, Vernon outscored Hunterdon Central, 10-9, to seal the decision, with Fessel scoring his team’s first five points.

After Hunterdon Central cut its deficit to 42-38 with 3:15 remaining, Dhamir Morfe-Chess scored on a layup to push Vernon’s lead back to six, 44-38.

Fessel added two free throws and Dylan Heykoop added one in the final 40 seconds to seal the victory.

Ben Jurewicz added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists; Michael Pecoraro had six rebounds and two blocks; Morfe-Chess had four points, three assists, three assists and three blocks; Heykoop added four rebounds; and Aden Karwoski made one three-pointer to fill out the offense.

Fessel, who averaged 21.5 points in four tournament games, was named the H/W/S Most Valuable Player.

Vernon (17-6), winner of seven straight games, is seeded third for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey, Section 1, Group 2 tournament and is scheduled to play host to 14th-seeded Pequannock on Wednesday, Feb. 21 in a first-round game.

Here’s how other Vernon teams fared last week:


True DiGuiseppe placed second at 175 pounds, Dominic Cimaglia finished third at 132 pounds, and Daniel Rendon was fourth at 165 to lead Vernon at the NJSIAA District 4 championships Saturday afternoon, Feb. 17 at High Point.

DiGuiseppe, a sophomore, bowed to Bryce Coesfeld of Kittatinny, 6-3, in the 175-pound final, while Cimaglia pinned Eugene Donnelly of Sparta in 1:24 in the 132-pound third-place match.

DiGuiseppe and Cimaglia each qualified for the Region 1 tournament on Friday-Saturday, Feb. 23-24 at West Milford High School.

Indoor track

Sophia Haw placed 19th in the girls 400-meter dash in a time of 1:03.15 as Vernon’s only competitor at the NJSIAA Group 2 championships Feb. 17 at the Bennett Center in Toms River.

Girls basketball

Grace Dobrzynski totaled 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals and Jonnah Castillo added 12 points, five steals, four rebounds and two steals to power Vernon to its fourth straight victory - a 42-36 decision over Veritas Christian - on Thursday, Feb. 15 at home.

The Vikings (15-7) are seeded 13th for the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 1, Group 2 tournament and are slated to play at fourth-seeded Westwood on Feb. 21 in a first-round game.

Ice hockey

Luke Zabriskie (35 goals, 19 assists), Christopher Gay (16 goals, 26 assists) and Jake Chromcik (17 goals, 20 assists) fueled the offense for Vernon, which finished its season at 6-12.