Can Mendham learn from tournament setback?

By Mark Kitchin


 MORRIS TWP. – Even teams with winning records going into holiday tournament time can get a severe dose of reality. The Mendham boys had a 5-0 mark going into the J.P. Flynn Tournament final against DePaul. However, in contrast to past years, the title game wasn’t much of a contest.

Juwann Carter scored 15 points to pace DePaul to a 54-38 triumph over Mendham in the tournament’s championship game at the Delbarton School on Thursday. Tournament MVP Josh Marquez added 12 points and Davin Jacobs and Kiy Hester also scored in double figures for the unbeaten Spartans (6-0).

Senior guard Drew Jacobs had 17 points for the Minutemen (5-1). Mendham fell behind 10-2 at the early moments of the game. The Minutemen rallied but still trailed 24-19 at halftime. DePaul took advantage of their athleticism and experience and pulled away in the second half.

Mendham’s Drew Jacobs dishes off a pass before DePaul’s Mac Aronson is able to make a play for it during first half action.

It was the kind of the loss that can bring an overconfident team down to earth. Mendham has been blessed with some outstanding varsity squads in the past and they have won four consecutive Morris County Tournament titles. If they have desires of contending for a fifth, they are going to have to work for it.

“I think it did (get their attention),’’ said Mendham coach Jim Baglin of the loss. “I’m looking forward to practice tomorrow. We have to get better.

“They don’t understand that when we play against somebody, they are playing against 32 years of teams and teams want to beat us.’’

Drew Jacobs is the only returning starter from last year’s standout team. The rest of the squad has limited varsity experience going into the season. Mendham was missing two starters (Jesse Oringer, Alex Jacobs) with injuries against DePaul but even with their absences the Minutemen are usually capable of finding players comfortable with running their offense which usually creates backdoor layups and open 3-point shots.

Mendham coach Jim Baglin has the attention of his players during a first half time out.

Against DePaul, Mendham suffered breakdowns that don’t often occur to them. The Minutemen seemed to have trouble connecting passes and hitting their teammates running off screens. On several occasions they were picked off by the Spartans while reversing the ball to try and get a better shot.

“They jump the passing lanes,’’ Baglin said of DePaul. “I just think they are really good athletes. They are bigger, faster, stronger than we are. We just have to get better at pressure releases and things like that.

“We’re inexperienced. We really only have one varsity player from last year so it is going to take some time.’’

Baglin likes his big guys. Nick Maguire and Will Gibbs are active inside players that can score down low and work hard for rebounds. However, it takes time for the Mendham guards to know how to get in the best position to release the ball and Maguire and Gibbs have to know when it’s coming and be ready for it. At times against DePaul, Mendham’s execution just wasn’t there.

“I think we rebounded the ball okay,’’ Baglin said. “We have to do a better job of getting the ball into Maguire. He’s a load in there and I like his game and Gibbs is a good player inside. We have to do a better job of it.’’

The injuries did get players like T.K. Hayes and Mike Marczi extra playing time and perhaps it gave Baglin and his coaching staff some things to think about, too.

“It (this game) shows you those things that you have to get better at,’’ Baglin said. “Some players did some really good things that I like and maybe we have to give them more of a look. There are some guys where you wonder if they are going to be able to play for us.’’

Mendham’s Nick Maguire (44) and Mike Marczi (11) battle for a rebound during Thursday’s J.P.Flynn tournament final.

An 11-6 third quarter run gave DePaul a 35-25 advantage going into the final period. The Spartans went on a 7-0 spree to start the third quarter with all seven points coming from Juwann Carter. Mendham was never able to get the game back to single digits.

In the past, a setback against a talented opponent has always strengthened the Minutemen. Their players got better and learned from their mistakes and their confidence and determination grew. If they wish to continue their legacy, that will be the case, now.

“I hope it gets their attention,’’ Baglin said. “We’ve just got to get them better. That’s my job.”

The Flynn family was in attendance and handed out plaques to the All-Tournament team. They wereSparta’s Chris McIlvaine, Mendham’s Nick Maguire and Drew Jacobs, DePaul’s Juwann Carter, Davon Jacobs and MVP Josh Marquez.




About mcvbb

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

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