Defending champion Chatham earns MCT top seed

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

DENVILLE – Defending champion Chatham captured the top seed in the Morris County Tournament boys basketball seeding meeting held at the Morris Catholic High School library on Sunday.

Mount Olive, last year’s tournament finalist, captured the second seed while Morristown and Hanover Park earned the third and fourth seeds. No. 5 Jefferson, No. 6 Delbarton and No. 7 Mendham also earned preliminary round byes. Mountain Lakes rounds out the top eight.

Contests in the 25-team tournament begin this week with preliminary round play. The title game is slated for Saturday February 23 at County College of Morris in Randolph.

Chatham coach Todd Ervin could not recall if his Cougars have ever captured the No. 1 seed. Attaining it is often a detriment to a team. Last year’s top seed Morristown-Beard was knocked out by Randolph in the quarterfinal round.

Ervin doesn’t attach any extra pressure or importance to the high seeding or to the fact that Chatham is the defending champion.

“I don’t know if we ever had the No. 1 seed,’’ Ervin said. “I know we’ve never won the tournament as a No. 1 seed. It’s nice that the coaches think that you are the best team but you still have to play the games. We’ve won not being the one seed.’’

The Cougars are a different type of team than last season. The injuries that Ervin’s squad suffered last year, have added to this year’s team depth. Chatham is led by 6-foot-4 forward Joe Timmes, but Scott Baker, Drew Ballard. Robert Raiola, Sam Carson and Luke Conrad all pull their weight and have last year’s experiences to fall back on.

“It’s good for the kids,’’ Ervin said. “It’s a good honor but you still have to play the games. The kids will be happy. It is something for them to talk about but we want to focus on the next game.’’

Chatham probably earned the nod for the top spot by beating Mount Olive 71-61 on January 5. They were given honors even though they did suffer losses to Morristown and Randolph, a dangerous team that ended up with the 12th seed. Ervin believes this year’s tournament will be very challenging for all involved.

“It looks like its going to be really good,’’ Ervin said. “It’s going to be very competitive. I know our conference is really even. You throw Jefferson and Mount Olive into it. It’s a good feeling. It’s wide open.’’

The tournament seeding reflects a new era for Morristown. The 9-3 team hasn’t had a ranking this high in nearly a decade. It was also the best showing for No. 5 Jefferson (9-2) since the dissolving of the Sussex County Interscholastic League allowed the Falcons to enter into the Morris County Tournament.

Chatham, as a fourth seed, was last year’s champion. In the thrilling title game, Chatham defeated Mount Olive 77-75, on a buzzer beating shot by tournament Most Valuable Player Jonathan Berntsen.

After this week’s preliminary round, opening round contests must be played on February 2, at the sites of the higher seeded team. The quarterfinals will be played on February 9 at Randolph High School with games scheduled for 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30.

The semifinals will be held at CCM at Saturday, February 16 with games scheduled for 5 and 6:30 p.m.

Dates and times for the nine preliminary games will be announced once they are confirmed and referees are assigned.

Morris County Tournament bracket

Winner of No. 17 Kinnelon (5-6) at No. 16 Morris Hills (5-8) plays at No. 1 Chatham (10-3).

Winner of No. 24 Parsippany Hills (2-10) at No. 9 Whippany Park (7-4) plays winner of No. 25 Butler (3-7) at No. 8 Mountain Lakes (7-4).

Winner of No. 21 Morris Catholic (3-6) at No. 12 Randolph (4-9) plays at No. 5 Jefferson (9-2).

Winner of No. 20 Dover (5-7) at No. 13 Morris Knolls (6-6) plays at No. 4 Hanover Park (9-3).

Lower bracket

Winner of No. 19 Madison (4-9) at No. 14 Roxbury (5-7) plays at No. 3 Morristown (9-3).

Winner of No. 22 Parsippany (3-7) at No. 11 West Morris (6-6) plays at No. 6 Delbarton (7-4).

Winner of No. 23 Boonton (3-9) at No. 10 Pequannock (8-6) plays at No. 7 Mendham (6-6).

Winner of No. 18 Montville (5-7) at No. 15 Morristown-Beard (5-8) plays at No. 2 Mount Olive (10-2).

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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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