Mendham Captures Fourth Consecutive MCT Title

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

 Saturday’s Morris County Tournament final will not be considered a classic but it was historic. It solidified the Mendham Minutemen’s claim as a boys basketball dynasty.

Senior forward Tore Vicarisi scored 17 points to help Mendham become the first school in the tournament’s 42-year history to win four consecutive titles following a 34-27 victory in the lowest scoring final game in tournament history.

Senior guard Colin O’Donnell chipped in with eight to help the third-seeded Minutemen (17-7) win their ninth MCT basketball title overall.

Mike Giordano scored nine points for the eighth-seeded Gaels (16-8) which couldn’t seem to get on track offensively. It was Roxbury’s first appearance in the county final and a win would have given the Gaels basketball program their first title of any kind in 76 years.

Senior center Angelo Mangiro scored six points. He is five points shy of the all time Roxbury individual scoring record. A victory also would have given Jon Deeb his 100th varsity victory as Roxbury’s coach.

Mendham’s Tore Vicarisi drives on Roxbury’s Angelo Mangiro during Saturday’s MCT final.

“This is my fourth county championship,’’ said Tore Vicarisi, who won Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive year. “I still can’t believe it. Words can’t describe it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for any kid. I’m very blessed.’’

“It feels incredible,’’ Mendham’s Kyle Dennis said. “We’re on top of the world. It’s the greatest feeling. For it to happen every year I’ve been in high school is something very special.’’

No other basketball program  in MCT history has won the tournament more than two consecutive seasons. It is an honor Mendham Coach Jim Baglin is pleased to have accomplished.

“It’s a really, really hard tournament,’’ Baglin said. “When you put it in perspective, we’ve won 16 consecutive games in the tournament. That’s really hard to do. Every one being a one-and-done tournament game, it makes it really, really hard.’’

Defensively, Mendham worked on fronting Mangiro, Roxbury’s inside scorer, with Dennis and getting good help near the basket. As Roxbury struggled with its outside shooting, it only helped the Minutemen swamp Mangiro forcing him to rush shots and be physical with him in the paint.

“It was sort of the same way I played him last year,’’ Dennis said. “Guarding a big body like that you just want to jump at the ball, beat him to the ball every time, stay off of him and limit the contact. You just have to make him work really hard to get the ball. My goal tonight and the coach’s goal for me was to not let him get any touches – limit the touches and he can’t score.

“I had a lot of help from Alex Vicarisi (behind him) because he was helping off (Roxbury’s) Ike Eloh and also Colin O’Donnell because (Roxbury’s) Shaun O’Donnell was in the area a lot also.’’

Mendham coach Jim Baglin congratulates Tore Vicarisi after being given MVP honors on Saturday.

Mendham led 7-5 at the end of the first quarter and 16-12 at halftime. One key offensive play in the third quarter seemed to give the Minutemen a spark. Vicarisi rebounded a missed long-range shot by a teammate, made a spin move in the lane and was fouled on a layup. He knocked down the free throw and the 3-point play helped Mendham to a 21-14 lead after three quarters.

“ I think we just made timely baskets,’’ Vicarisi said. “It took the air out of their sails. They were never able to break that five- or six-point gap and that was huge.

“The game was a total grind from the very beginning. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of guts and we came out on top.’’

Although Roxbury would cut the lead down to five at one point in the fourth quarter it never mounted a serious threat. Mendham didn’t help its cause hitting 9 of 21 free throws in the final period. The Gaels never capitalized because they couldn’t make shots. Overall Roxbury was 6 for 27 in the second half including 3 of 14 from three-point range.

“Certain guys on their team are good shooters,’’ Baglin said. “Other guys we just thought that we had to take our chances.’’

Mendham players pose for a team picture after earning the school’s fourth consecutive MCT boys basketball title.

Mendham didn’t fare that much better offensively, their advantage was having Vicarisi who scored nine second-half points and was the most consistent offensive player on the court on Saturday while others struggled.

“If anyone ever writes a basketball history of Morris County, his legacy is unbelievable,’’ Baglin said of Vicarisi. “He contributed in three consecutive county championships and he was on the fourth as a freshman. You have to give the guy his due. Sometimes he doesn’t look as pretty as other players but he has the heart of the lion and he’s the guy you want with you in that landing craft with you. He can will you to some wins.’’

Vicarisi is the third player to win back to back MVPs as well as the second Mendham player (Kyle Helbig) to perform that feat. Along with Vicarisi, other members of the tournament team included Mendham’s Andrew Jacobs and Colin O’Donnell, Roxbury’s Mangiro, Delbarton’s Dean Brierley and Mendham’s James D’Angelo.

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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