Sparta trap dooms Morris Hills in J. P. Flynn consolation

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

MORRIS TWP. – It wasn’t exactly the way Morris Hills coach Andrew Maclay wanted to end 2011, but if a losing result means the promise of a new day and better Scarlet Knights basketball in the future, he would probably take it grudgingly.

Zach Frick scored 19 points and Jake Melville added 14 to lift Sparta to a 62-44 triumph over Morris Hills in the third place consolation game of Thursday night’s J.P. Flynn Tournament which was held at the Delbarton School.

Matt Szkola scored 12 points and Evan Staikos chipped in with 10 for Morris Hills (2-4). The Scarlet Knights fell behind early, looked out of synch all game and will probably be pleased to take the break in the season to regroup and prepare for 2012.

“Against (tournament opponents) West Milford and DePaul we played really, really hard,’’ Maclay said. “We’re just not valuing the basketball right now. We need to get some guys out on the floor who know how to take care of it. When we do that, and when we shoot free throws well — which we didn’t do again tonight — we don’t run into problems.’’

Morris HIlls guard Matt Tooley dribbles past a Sparta opponent during the J.P. Flynn Tournament consolation game.

The Scarlet Knights had problems from the very beginning. They made mistakes early, their shots didn’t fall and by the end of the first quarter they were trailing 19-9.

“We’ve had a bunch of games where we’ve had to call time out in the first quarter down eight points, down 10,’’ Maclay said. “I’m looking for us to get off to faster starts at the beginning of games. We’re going to look at some different things that we can do. Our guys — the past two games and even tonight at times — worked really hard. It’s good that you don’t have to coach emotion. You just have to get better with some of the technical stuff.’’

The most important technical aspect would have been to find a way to break Sparta’s 1-2-2 trapping defense. The Spartans like to do it full-court and half court and have players with long arms and know how to play the passing lanes.

“They do a real good job of just being where they are supposed to be and waiting for you to screw it up,’’ Maclay said. “We definitely contributed to that. Once they put that in, they let you get across halfcourt and then they put that trap on you, they are looking to get you to throw the ball away and we did that a lot, unfortunately.’’

Morris Hills’ Evan Staikos (32) has his hands on a ball that Sparta’s Mitch Cohen (33) is trying to knock away.

It can also put a crimp into the half-court offense and players like Ranell Bell, never got into the flow of things. Bell, who was expected to be one of the better guards inMorris Countycoming into the year, has struggled. He only had a third-quarter bucket to show for his efforts on Thursday.

“Ranell is going to be fine,’’ Maclay said. “He’s a senior. He’s going to work his butt off in the gym. He will be fine when it is all said and done. He’s just hitting a rough patch right now.’’

Maclay identified Brian Kelly and Matt Szkola as players that did step up forMorris Hills in the consolation contest. He also had praise for freshman Matt Tooley.

“He is doing a pretty good job of running the team,’’ McClay said. “He still has his moments where you can see he is a freshman but he’s doing some good things for us too.’’

Morris Hills guard Matt Tooley puts up a shot over Sparta’s Chris McIlvaine in Thursday’s J.P. Flynn contest.

The Scarlet Knights rebounded in the second quarter and only trailed 34-26 at the half but the Spartans put in a third quarter run to cement their advantage. The 12-2 spree included a pair of threes by Chris McIlvaine, who was selected for the All-Tournament team and another three by Frick. The Spartans built the advantage to 55-35 after three periods. Both teams subbed liberally in the fourth quarter. As members of the American Division of the NJAC, they will see each other once more.

“We get them at their place again,’’ Maclay said. “Hopefully with a little more practice and guys understanding their roles — we will have a better result.’’

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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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