Battle for respect continues at Pequannock

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

ROXBURY TWP. — The only way to gain respect is to earn it. Over the last couple of years Pequannock has had enough success to be taken seriously but when all of a team’s starters graduate from the year before the ability of any new group of varsity players is always in question.

Maybe Pequannock’s 44-21 victory over Roxbury High on Saturday puts an early answer to that question.

Dave Colombo scored 12 points and Matt Jachera added 11 to pace the Pequannock attack and give the Golden Panthers an opening game win on the road. Malcolm Chavis led Roxbury with nine points. The Gaels are 0-2 following Friday’s 60-37 loss to Randolph.

Roxbury’s Ryan Kelley tries to drive past a pair of Pequannock defenders including Ryan Brogan (20) in Saturday’s boys basketball contest.

Neither team looked like the seasoned, experienced squads that roamed the court last season. Joe Vedovino, Stephen Boyd and several others on the core of the Golden Panthers team that had magnificent state tournament runs the last few years have graduated. So has Angelo Mangiro, Shaun O’Donnell and many of the guys that gave the Gaels their school’s best team in nearly a half a century, although a few of them were seen in the stands during the game.

Little success is expected of either team this year. That doesn’t seem to bother the Pequannock players who won’t hesitate to take advantage of any team foolish enough to take them lightly.

“We look to earn our respect this year,’’ forward Ryan Brogan said. “Everyone says we have a whole new team and they are not going to be as good. We know we can be just as good.’’

“We obviously don’t have a lot of varsity experience prior to this year, so we’ve really been preaching defense,’’ Pequannock coach Jeff DeBell said. “They are a great group of kids. They work really hard day in and day out. They practice and they had a great effort here today and I think that really showed.’’

Roxbury’s Ryan Kelley passes off in traffic. Pequannock’s Dave Colombo (5) and Nick LaPorta (23) defend.

Pequannock isn’t the biggest in terms of size but DeBell believes the players will be able to grow into their roles and improve as the season progresses.

“As we get more experience on the floor, than we are only going to get better as a team,’’ DeBell said. “I have 15 guys on the varsity bench this year. Some guys are going to swing and play some jayvee but I want everybody to get that experience and be part of the varsity because with some of these younger guys — next year is going to be their year.’’

This year the Pequannock focus is going to be speed and defense — especially defense.

“Our defense showed what it could live up to — the potential that it has,’’ Brogan said. “We focus on defense, we pressure all game and we don’t take plays off on defense. Defense is going to win us games.’’

They flashed some of that defense early in the first half by turning Roxbury mistakes into Pequannock baskets. The Golden Panthers built a 28-14 halftime lead and never let the Gaels back into the contest.

Roxbury is also on the small side and the Pequannock players concentrated on the Gaels perimeter shooters with special attention to point guard Ryan Kelley, the one returning Roxbury player with extensive varsity experience.

“We knew (Kelley) would shoot and everything goes through him,’’Colombo said. “We always talked and we knew where he was.

“We stayed glued to our men because we knew they were going to shoot the three when they had the opportunity. We just defended that. We did not let them go anywhere without us, we were always talking and telling everyone where they were.’’

Pequannock coach Jeff DeBell (center) discusses strategy with the Golden Panthers during a time out.

And if they continue with this kind of success on the defensive end, maybe this year’s Golden Panthers team can match up favorably to the teams of the past.

“After those seniors left, it’s up to us,’’Colombo said. “We have the same expectations that the past generations have had. We take that as a challenge and we come out every day and work hard.’’

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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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