Mendham answers Mount Olive’s system

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

MENDHAM — Drew Jacobs scored 24 points and the Mendham boys basketball team refused to be worn down by Mount Olive’s uptempo offensive system with an 81-71 triumph on Saturday night in front of a packed Mendham gym.

Alex Jacobs added 15 points, David Yee had 13 and Will Gibbs chipped in with 11 to help Mendham improve to 8-1 on the season. Rashaan Spencer scored 19 points and Zach Heeman added 17 points for the Marauders (6-3). Mount Olive plays the Grinnell system which platoons players, usually in groups of five and plays full-court defense and uptempo offense to turn games into frenetic free for alls. Mount Olive averages around 83 points a game with much of the offense coming from beyond the 3-point line.

Mendham’s Nick Maguire defends Mount Olive’s Zach Heeman in the first half of Saturday night’s contest.

Mount Olive built a 41-35 lead at halftime but was never able to extend its advantage beyond an eight-point bulge during the second half. Mendham inched closer during the third period by drawing fouls and matching their opponent basket for basket. At the point where the Marauders usually start to wear down their opponents, the Minutemen drew from their conditioning and inner resolve.

“It was a unique game,’’ Drew Jacobs said. “What it all comes down to is basketball. They like to get up on us. They like to pressure us. We had to use all our guys. I think everyone stepped up tonight. We executed the game plan we had of getting the ball to the middle and attacking the basket.’’

“You have to adjust to who you are playing,’’ Maguire added. “They are like an inner city team. They are going to take the ball out of bounds and push the ball up before you know it. You have to get back, be in shape and talk to each other.’’

It was a totally different game than Mendham is used to playing. The Minutemen run plays off a set offense, finding baskets off backdoor cuts, running off screens or penetrating and then setting up their teammates for 3-pointers.Mount Olive’s constant and relentless full-court pressure forces teams to think on their feet. Opposing teams have to communicate with each other in order to create scoring opportunities and not throw the ball away.

“(Coach Baglin) wasn’t worried about us being able to run our offense,’’ Drew Jacobs said. “To us it was almost like playing in a summer league game. We’ve been playing in open gyms and on AAU teams all our lives. You just kind of apply those principals and we just had to adapt.’’

Mendham practiced neutralizing Mount Olive’s defensive intensity by playing a lot of six-on-five basketball. The Minutemen felt they had the stamina to stay with the Marauders physically and mentally matched their mindset of constantly taking the ball to the basket.

“We stressed that a couple of days before this game,’’ Maguire said. “You have to get to the basket. You have to get back at them. They are going to come at you hard. They are up there trapping, so stay out wide, cut to the basket and finish strong.’’

The Minutemen also got a spark off the bench from Yee. Generally, the smallest player on the court, Yee is a fierce competitor who refuses to back down from a challenge.

“He just goes out and plays,’’ Maguire said. “Dave gave us all his heart — all his effort. He knocked down shots. He’s my favorite. We love him.’’

Mendham’s David Yee scored 13 points and gave the Minutemen an emotional lift on Saturday.

The senior guard scored 13 points including eight in the fourth quarter. He fired up the Mendham crowd every time he touched the ball and nearly brought the house down when he knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Minutemen an early fourth-quarter lead.

“Yee is a crafty kid,’’ Jacobs said. “He is so good at faking passes and then making a great pass. We are so comfortable with him in the game. He is always going to step up and play his best in these kinds of games. The crowd reacts when he takes charges. He just gives us a real spark off the bench.’’

Mount Olive gave its 6-foot-7 center Heeman scoring opportunities down low. Mendham’s Maguire kept with him on defense despite being a few inches smaller.

Mendham’s Alex Jacobs and Mount Olive’s Rashaan Spencer had an ongoing battle for the ball.

“He’s a big kid with a strong body,’’ Maguire said. “I tried to three-quarter him most of the time. When they did get it into him, we tried to play him straight up. I took a charge on him once. He’s a strong kid. I didn’t think I did my best job on him but we just held him off enough.’’

Mount Olive led 58-57 after three quarters. In the final period there were five lead changes. A rebound and layup by Spencer with 3:58 left to make it a 68-66 game became the last time the Marauders would go ahead.

Mendham finished the game with a 15-3 run. A 3-point play by Drew Jacobs after he was fouled on a layup gave Mendham the lead for good at 69-68. Layups by Alex Jacobs, Gibbs and Maguire fueled the final run. Down the stretch Mendham was also 6 for 9 at the free throw line gaining opportunities when the Marauders were forced to foul in order to get the ball back.

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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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