West Morris finds success and weekly notes

By Mark Kitchin


A little familiarity means a lot in varsity basketball. Just having athletes in leadership positions that can advise newcomers on preparing for the season can make a big difference.

That seems to be the case in West Morris where on Saturday the Highlanders defeated Parsippany in an MCT preliminary game and matched the win total of last year’s 8-13 team. The players that battled through that difficult season have a better understanding of the level of varsity play and have passed it on to their new teammates make this year more successful.

“There was a leadership issue,’’ said West Morris Scott Barron, who started on varsity most of last season but only started in two games the year before. “The fact that we can tell (sophomores) Conor Barron and Sean McElwaine and even senior starters like Kurt Stenger and Adam Melrae how to adjust to stuff — I think that really helps.’’

Junior Sam McClellan had to endure a rough sophomore season last year, but it did help the 6-foot-6 center better prepare in the off-season.

“There’s the physicality factor,’’ McClellan said. “Coming in as a sophomore you kind of get pushed around at times. This year there was a lot of adjustments but you know what’s coming.

“There was a lot of lifting and training (in the off-season) and I tried to get a little bit quicker. I’m not the strongest guy but I try to use my quickness. I also want to go up strong and finish through contact.’’

West Morris is currently at 8-7 but the players feel better about surviving a tailspin after starting the year 5-2. Saturday was a good example of their emotional growth. The Highlanders sophomore point guard McElwaine is a pivotal part of the team, but illness forced him to miss the game.

“Sean is a rock,’’ Barron said. “He’s not nervous at all. He’s so composed. There’s no one like him. His facial expression stays the same the whole game. He’s ready to go. He’s in the zone. I love it.’’

But he wasn’t available on Saturday so the Highlanders had to figure out some other way to run their offense and get the ball up court when pressured.

“Before the game coach (Wayne Shapiro) said that Conor and I were going to have to handle the ball since Sean wasn’t here,’’ Pat Barron said. “We took up more of the ballhandling responsibilities but Sam (McClellan) had to help more than he usually does because Sean is pretty good with it normally.’’

“We were ballhandling by committee and everybody kind of had to step up,’’ McClellan said. “I had to become more of an option in the middle to relieve some of the pressure.’’

Conor Barron probably enjoyed the extra work. West Morris’ other starting sophomore was a standout on last year’s 21-1 jayvee team. Moving up to the varsity involved a change in roles and less emphasis on scoring.

“Conor can fill it up,’’ said Pat Barron, who is Conor’s cousin. “He knows not to do too much sometimes but he’s used to being “the man” — the big man on campus on his (past) teams. Now that he’s a sophomore, he’s the third option.’’

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West Morris’ Pat Barron, right, has helped the younger Highlanders prepare for varsity. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

It doesn’t seem that his reduced role on varsity has affected his game. He just channels it in ways that can help West Morris.

“Conor got 14 rebounds in his first varsity game,’’ McClellan said. “It just shows that he’s a tough kid. He knows that scoring is not the only way to win.’’

West Morris had a dominant second half against Parsippany and prevailed 62-38. Nearly everyone saw court time and the starters on the bench jumped out of their seats when Pat Gialanella knocked down a shot for his first varsity points. The Highlanders expect to have greater success during the second half of their season because they know what to expect now.

“Now that we’ve seen everybody, we know what we did wrong in the big losses,’’ Pat Barron said. “We can get it clicking again and make a nice run.’’


Upset-minded Vikings

After struggling for a good part of the season, Parsippany Hills is fast becoming the upset kings. So what’s happening? It’s as simple as getting the Vikings players to making a full-game commitment.

“The kids have fully committed to playing as hard as they can for 32 minutes,’’Vikings Coach Mark Gibson commented through e-mail. “My staff and I asked them to be honest with themselves about if they were giving maximum effort each time out. The majority admitted to not doing so. So we changed a few things in how we practice, prepare and manage the game. So far it has worked. They are playing extremely hard which has helped our confidence and chemistry at the same time.’’

There were indications that the Vikings were ready to break out. They outplayed Montville in most of their game on January 15 and were ahead late in the fourth quarter before Jesse Warech sank a long-distance 3-pointer to send the game into overtime that the Mustangs eventually won. Instead of folding from the gut wrenching defeat, it seems to have ignited their turnaround. Following games against West Morris and Randolph were losses but the games were more competitive. The return of Connor Clark from injury has also helped the Vikings a bit. He lends some presence and muscle up front, making rebounding a little easier.

On Monday, the Vikings were brought back to earth a bit after losing to cross-town rival Parsippany High.

A good cause

A number of boys and girls teams have gotten involved in the Coaches vs. Cancer program in order to raise funds during the Morris County Tournament. The program was founded by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Its goal is to empower coaches, their teams and communities to make a difference in fighting cancer by participating in national and local events. Since 1993 the charity has raised more than 85 million dollars to support the ACS efforts. More than 3,000 high school and college organizations participate in Coaches vs. Cancer every year.

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West Morris Coach Wayne Shapiro shows his fashion sense with a “Shooting for a Cure” t-shirt. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Coaches and players were asked to fund raise and promote cancer awareness prior to and during the tournament. Players were seen wearing “Shooting for a Cure” t-shirts during warm-ups at some of the prelim games. The goal is to raise $8,000 according to Caitlin Udall, the Youth Initiatives Recruiter for ACS. Stephen Finkelstein, the former Madison High basketball coach, who is currently an assistant at Whippany Park High School, has helped co-ordinate the initiative on the boys side. Udall asks for all those interested in donating to take a moment to visit the MCT Fundraising page at:  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/MCTBBALL2013


Travis Warech earns honors

Former Montville standout Travis Warech was named Empire 8 Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of January 14-21. He averaged 22.0 points and 7.7 rebounds for Ithaca College in games against St. John Fisher, Alfred and Elmira.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard/forward scored a career- and game-high 28 points in the Bombers’ 90-87 victory at St. John Fisher on Jan. 18, before hitting game-highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds, also a career-high, in the Bombers’ 74-64 victory at Alfred on Jan. 19. He had 13 points against Elmira on Jan. 15. For the week, Warech totaled five assists, four blocks and four steals, while committing just four turnovers.

Overall Warech is averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for Ithaca, a 13-4 team. Warech, a transfer from Division II St. Michaels, is in his senior season.




About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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