By Mark Kitchin
Some teams know the ropes while others are in unfamiliar territory but the teams playing in the state tournament sectional semifinals on Friday certainly deserve to be where they are right now.
Roxbury, Madison and Pequannock will all be in action with hopes of another victory and advancement to a sectional final. Pequannock was a surprise team last year and won their section and played in the Group II final. Madison and Roxbury were early exits. In fact the Gaels have not won a state tournament game in 50 years until they toppled North Bergen on Monday. Here’s a quick look at three teams still alive in state play.
North 2, Group II
Ridgefield Park at Madison, 7 – The Dodgers have a veteran senior group that doesn’t want their season to end. They proved it with a miraculous 37-35 victory over Newark Tech on Wednesday. The Dodgers fell behind 23-9 at half but rallied and eventually won on Matt Gilbert’s 3-pointer in the final seconds. Madison has versatility working for them. Jake Meister, Adam Fant and Matt Gilbert are all scorers. They also know about performing well in crunch time since some of them were members of a state champion football team. Their opponent Ridgefield Park downed Hanover Park 53-34 on Wednesday. Nelson Mendez is one of their key scorers and Jason Pello is a tenacious 3-point shooter.
North 1, Group II
Manchester Regional at Pequannock, 7 — The Golden Panthers hit a rough patch after their ouster in the Morris County Tournament but a strong state tournament run will make a lot of people forget their early exit. Unlike last year’s run, Pequannock has been home for this year’s games, toppling River Dell and Lenape Valley. They have an inside game with 6-foot-6 Joe Vedovino and an outside game with Stephen Boyd and Kenny Brunda’s ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. Many of this year’s players experienced last season’s success, so that’s definitely a positive. It should be a battle. Manchester Regional toppled Mountain Lakes 54-47 to advance to this level. They have some height and Tacques French and senior guard Franklin Zhimir are important players for the 21-6 Falcons.
North 1, Group IV
Paterson Eastside at Roxbury, 6 — Roxbury will receive its stiffest test against Paterson Eastside. The Gaels are the feel good story of the year in Morris County boys basketball. The Roxbury program has basically experienced five decades of futility until the last few years. Jon Deeb is a talented coach who has been able to keep talented seniors like Angelo Mangiro and Shaun O’Donnell together for the last four years to give the Gaels a tremendous amount of experience. This year the Gaels reached the Morris County Tournament final and battled for a division title for the first time ever. The loyalty of Mangiro, who will be playing football at Penn State next year, is truly rare. Athletes of his caliber are often forced to pick one sport and stay with it. He’s been loyal to hoops all four seasons even though his future lies on the gridiron. Mike Giordano, Ryan Roumes, Ike Iloh, Ryan Kelley and others both have well defined roles in their 2-3 defense. Offensively, the more they can get the ball to Mangiro and Iloh down low, the better things well be for them on the offensive level. Paterson Eastside should be a challenging squad. They were finalists in the Passaic County Tournament. David Burgos provides much of their offense and DeAndre Noble, Ky’re Jackson and Carl Barrett all make serious contributions to the 16-8 team.