Surprising Madison had plenty of highlights

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

2012 Madison season review

It’s unusual to call a 20-win season a mixed bag. In some way these Dodgers far exceeded expectations especially after losing Aaron Fant, Matt McHale and other talented and experienced players from the previous season. After getting off to an 8-0 start, early exits in the Morris County Tournament and state tournament play made the season a little unsatisfying. Madison coach Billy Librera coaxed as much as he could out of a team that was filled seniors that were novices at the varsity level.

Season highlights

“We had to learn how to win,’’ Librera said. “Those guys weren’t varsity players for long. They were fun kids to come to work with every day so we’re going to miss them tremendously. There were a lot of highlights.’’

The Dodgers started the season off strong. Some of their early victories were close contests pulled out in dramatic fashion, like a triumph against Whippany Park (64-63) that helped Madison win its holiday tournament. Neighboring Chathamwas its nemesis. The Cougars gave the Dodgers their first loss on January 11. They would also knock them off in the quarterfinals of the Morris County Tournament. Madison (the fifth seed) defeated Morristown High in the first round but then fell to Chatham 44-33 in a defensive-minded quarterfinal. The Dodgers would get their revenge against the Cougars with a win near the end of the regular-season schedule. Their state run was stopped at the start when a surprising West Essex team upset them on their home court (55-43). Morristown-Beard and Hanover Park provided the only other losses during the 20-5 season.

 

Scott Jouan (21) contributed on both offense and defense for this year’s Dodgers.

Senior leadership

Matt Gilbert was the unquestioned leader on the offensive end. The third-team All-Morris Countyselection averaged 12 points a game. His numerous double-digit scoring efforts included 19-point effort in a win against Pequannock. He also got his share of rebounds and was the team’s leading shot blocker, swatting away two shots a contest.

“He was a three year starter,’’ Librera said. “He was somebody that he had such versatility for us. He played out of position. Even though he has true point guard skills, he is not a true point guard. I think he’s a great college three (small forward) but he’s going to college to play soccer

“He just did everything for us. I wanted us to keep on going for him because he meant so much to this program. As a three-year starterMadisonwas 58-16 with him on the floor and that’s a pretty good record for a program not known for its basketball prominence.’’

Madison had a number of seniors that made an impact. Two more athletes that were vital to the Dodgers were Cameron Dias and Scott Jouan. Dias was a terrific perimeter shooter who excelled in the Dodgers motion offense. Jouan was a tough player that rarely got bumped off the ball. By the end of the year, he was consideredMadison’s second best defender and drew some of the toughest opponents with positive results.

Madison’s Matt Gilbert (1) did everything the Dodgers asked of him and more.

Reasons for hope

It’s difficult to consider Justin Goodwin an underclassman. The Dodgers standout football star has played major minutes for Madison over the past two seasons. Although basketball is not his primary sport and he has some offensive limitations, Goodwin plays good defense, is an active rebounder and a tough competitor. Sean Haughey has also played major minutes. He contributes points from the post to the perimeter and he can rebound and block shots, too.

One player that could see much more time on the floor next year is reserve Davin Koep.

“He’s a lefty, a strong kid,’’ Librera said. “He got a lot of time as a defensive player. Next year is going to be his spot. This year we had pretty much a seven-man rotation and he was the eighth man. Next year he’s going to be one of our main guys. As he goes, we will go.’’

Gaven Wallace and Darnell St.Germain, the younger brothers of some of this year’s graduating seniors, are expected to make the big jump to varsity next year. Wallace, who is about 6-foot-2, continues to grow and will have an impact up front.St.Germain is a point guard, who will figure prominently in the Dodgers’ offensive plans.   

“The best thing about Darnell is that he’s a true point guard and they don’t come around a lot,’’ Librera said. “We can go back to a lot of dribble-drive sets and working with our motion offense.’’

Sean Haughey (33) should play an even bigger role and take on more responsibilities for the Dodgers next season.

Off-season plans

Last year,Madison began sharing its open gym time with opposing teams for scrimmages. That practice will expand this year.

“Last year we did it with Mountain. Lakes, Morristown-Beard, Hackettstown and Hanover Park,’’ Librera said. “We will try to get more competitive games this summer. Sometimes we’ll have refs; sometimes the coaches will just let them play. Fifteen years ago people just got to the park and played, but that kind of thing doesn’t happen as much anymore. Now were just trying to instill that atmosphere in our gyms.’’

The measure of success during the summer season varies from team to team. Librera believed last year’s off-season really helped because it got his players used to the motion offense it ran this past season.

“As the years have changed my outlook on summer has changed,’’ Librera said. “We just try to make sure our guys play together and have opportunities. With the motion, it’s read and react. We have certain basic sets that we put in from there. We could always call our kids and say let’s work on some down screens and up screens. As long as you are playing, that’s good.’’

Librera and his Madison players have to be flexible. Many of the Dodgers play other sports and Librera understands the importance in giving his players a variety of options and making the summer fun but also challenging.

“We have a lot of football kids,’’ Librera said. “We have a lot of soccer kids. We share our kids. Any given night it might be a different lineup. It’s not that you don’t want to win, you just want everybody to get better when they are there.’’

 

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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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