Defending champion Mendham advances in MCT action

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

MENDHAM –Drew Jacobs doesn’t consider it a distraction but he admits that when Mendham and Delbarton get together the action in the stands is almost as interesting as what’s happening on the court.

The antics of the fans didn’t have any affect on the Minutemen other than to get them excited for another victory. Mendham took care of business with a 50-29 triumph over Delbarton on Saturday.

Drew Jacobs scored 15 points and Nick Maguire added 10 for the third seeded Mendham team in front of a packed Mendham gym. The Minutemen broke the game open with a 31-13 second half effort. Mendham advances to play the winner of Mount Olive-Hanover Park in the quarterfinal round of the tournament next Saturday at Randolph High School. Rob Thoma scored seven points to pace 19th-seeded Delbarton.

Mendham’s Nick Maguire goes up for a shot against Delbarton’s Adam Schreck during Saturday’s MCT victory against Delbarton.

Mendham is the MCT defending champion and battling for an unheard of fifth consecutive title. The 6 p.m. contest was held in front of a loud, noisy capacity crowd. Nearly every available seat was filled and madly enthusiastic student sections from both Delbarton and Mendham made themselves heard. The fans from both schools plan chants and cheers ranging from the spontaneous to the elaborate to spice up the contests regardless of how the game is going.

“We have a couple guys organize a lot of the themes,’’ Jacobs said. “Mendham – Delbarton is always a big game so the guys have been pumped for it all week. We always get a good turnout on Saturday.

“(Delbarton) has a really good fan section because they have those guys that get really crazy for the football and basketball games. It’s always fun playing and getting the back-and-forth fan banter is really fun.’’

The rivalry between the schools includes numerous Morris County Tournament classics, so it is rare for the teams to play each other so early in the season. Although Delbarton was the 19th-seed and had to scramble to upset Montville last week in order to play third-seeded Mendham in this round, the Minutemen were on their guard.

 “We’ve played Delbarton so much the last couple of years and they’ve always had a really good team,’’ Jacobs said. “We knew this year was going to be a grind. Although their record really didn’t indicate it, they have a good team this year. We expected to come out and have to battle for it. It was just up and down. They were on us until the end. It was a classic dogfight.’’

 In the first half, both teams focused on defense and applied pressure at times making it difficult for the guards to operate. Many of the possessions approached hand-to-hand combat and rarely was a player able to get the ball in the paint without getting fouled – and fouled hard

Mendham’s Alex Jacobs (22) keeps Delbarton guard Brian Hardin (25) at arms length during Saturday’s game.

Mendham was finally able to get something going when Alex Jacobs knocked down a 3-point shot just before the buzzer sounded to give the Minutemen a 19-14 edge at the half.

 “Alex is only a sophomore but we trust him to do everything on the court,’’ Drew Jacobs said. “He’s a good ballhandler and a good defender. We knew that any of the guys on the floor at the end of the half could have taken that shot. … It gave us momentum going into the second half and we kind of capitalized on that.’

Jacobs credited some hard work by teammate Nick Maguire for helping Mendham outscore Delbarton 10-4 in the third quarter and stretch their lead to double digits at 29-18.

“We banged it in a couple times on the low post,’’ Jacobs said. “When we can get it in to Nick, he’s a horse. We trust him. We know that he can make shots when he is open down there. He got in good position and we threw it into him.’’

Mendham finally broke the game open in the fourth quarter and was able to eliminate its long time nemesis. Next up for the Minutemen is sixth-seeded Mount Olive which put its high octane offense to good use in a rout of Hanover Park

Mendham’s Drew Jacobs scrambles for the ball during first half action on Saturday.

MCT Opening Round Results

Madison 50, Morristown 37 – The fifth-seeded Dodgers advance with the help of a 17-4 fourth-quarter boost. The Dodgers will play fourth-seeded Chatham in next Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Chatham 67, West Morris 42 – Joe Timmes had 27 points and 10 rebounds and Jonathan Berntsen added 12 points to lift the Cougars. Chatham started off strong with a 20-8 first-quarter run and never looked back in its efforts to eliminate the 20th-seeded Highlanders.

Mountain Lakes 66, Jefferson 56 — The seventh seeded Lakers rallied from a 28-20 halftime deficit to advance in the tournament. A 27-16 third-quarter burst put them on their way. Mountain Lakes faces Morris Knolls in the quarterfinal round.

Morris Knolls 54, Roxbury 43 — The Golden Eagles had a difficult time dismissing last year’s finalists. Morris Knolls went on a 17-10 second-quarter spree to take a 25-20 halftime advantage. Niko Kotoulas had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Kevin Miller added 11 points and blocked three shots. The Gaels were the tournament’s 18th-seed and played the second-seeded Golden Eagles tough on Tuesday before losing in double overtime. Ryan Kelley had 18 points and Tom Alliegro added 10 for Roxbury. 

Mount Olive 82, Hanover Park 56 — The Marauders high octane offense was in full display in the first half of Saturday’s contest. The sixth-seeded team followed a 26-9 first-quarter effort with a 30-14 second quarter to build a commanding 56-23 halftime lead. Zach Heeman scored 17 points, Rashaan Spencer added 14 and Tyler McEvoy scored 13 points. Mount Olive will play defending champion Mendham in next week’s quarterfinal. Jim Sivolella had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Hornets.

Randolph 67, Whippany Park 33 – The Rams romped and earned a home game next week against top-seeded Morristown-Beard in the quarterfinals. After a 19-6 first quarter, Randolph, the eighth seed, took charge and built a 37-16 halftime advantage. Julian Aiken scored 17 points and Ryan Harris added 15 for Randolph. Jake Waddon scored 12 points for ninth-seeded Whippany Park. Morristown-Beard defeated Morris Hills 65-46.

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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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