Morris County Tournament Opening Round Preview

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

There were several Morris County Tournament upsets in the prelims last week. Most notably 19th-seeded Morris HIlls knocked off 14th-seeded Mountain Lakes. Are there more in store for this week’s tournament games? It certainly seems possible, especially since the weather has affected practice and preparation time for many of the teams. All games are scheduled for Saturday but check your schools or the NJAC website before heading out.

No. 17 Whippany Park at No. 1 Mount Olive.

The Wildcats picked up a good road win against Delbarton in last week’s prelims. It would be a lot to ask a sophomore-laden team with limited depth to post an upset against the attack-minded defending champions. It might be a good learning experience for Ryan Gaynor and the rest of the Whippany Park team, if it can find a way to handle the Marauders pressure and minimize turnovers. Mount Olive is a tough matchup for Whippany Park. Zach Heeman and Ryan Traub have distinct size advantages. The Marauders also run in shifts and Jason Drury, Griffin Conway and Chris Grillo among others are becoming better shooters in their team’s uptempo game

No. 18 Roxbury at No. 2 Jefferson

The unbeaten Falcons are an athletic and talented bunch but they should be a bit wary of the Gaels. Roxbury is an unorthodox team, which beat Morris Knolls in prelim action. They don’t have much size or athleticism but they play hard and are more physical than they look. Doug Alexander can be effective on the inside and their sophomore starters are improving. Roxbury already has posted upsets against Chatham and West Morris. A tough matchup for them is the Falcons’ Tyler Jones. Last week he set the school record for single game scoring with a 40-point performance. Jones has good size and great range and is tough to defend. Bryan Langan, Chris Telman and J. R. Reese are having good years. Jefferson also has quality depth on its bench.

No. 19 Morris Hills at No. 3 Morristown

The Scarlet Knights have struggled at times but they have been seeing good competition in the NJAC-American. Matt Toohey and Dillon Washington played key roles in their preliminary round game against Mountain Lakes. Toohey had 16 points and Washington pumped in 10 in the 60-54 victory over the Lakers in the prelims. They have nothing to lose and should be loose for the game. Morris Hills will have to find some way to negate Sean Hoehn’s performance for them to have a chance. The senior guard and recent 1,000-point scorer sets the tone for the team. The Colonials have done a credible job finding complementary weapons. Zach Certner can post up down low. Nick Duff and the Mongeys (Jack and James) are good perimeter shooters.

No. 13 Dover at No. 4 Mendham

The Tigers, who topped Kinnelon in the prelims, have been a pleasant surprise. Ryan Charyshyn has provided much of the offense. The presence of  seven-foot center David Bollok allows their guards to be more aggressive on the ball. However, the Tigers have not played a team the calibre of the Minutemen yet. It’s also been a few years since the teams were regular foes in the IHC-HIlls. Pulling an upset in the Mendham gym is a daunting task. The Minutemen suffered recent setback against Randolph and West Morris. Alex Jacobs is the offensive focal point here. A wrist injury he suffered against the Wolfpack on Thursday makes the Minutemen’s task tougher. Jack Horan has been a big help up front. The Minutemen are deliberate on offense and usually hold their opponents to scores in the 40s on defense.

No. 12 Randolph at No. 5 Hanover Park

Is it time for the Rams to step up again? It seems that every year Randolph starts slow, gradually picks up momentum and peaks just in time for the early round MCT to pull off an upset or two. Knowing the quarterfinals allows them a home game regardless of their record, it always gives them a boost. Mike Talbert, Barry Lynch, Patrick Archer and a number of other seniors know what it’s like to make a strong tournament run. They have reached the semifinals the last two years. An upset of Mendham on Tuesday leads one to believe they are putting it together once again. They have won seven of their last eight games. Randolph handled Boonton in prelim play last week. An upset would be disappointing to Hanover Park. The Hornets have great depth and balance but they may lack a go-to player with the confidence to hit a big shot when needed. Nick Burbella, John Crown, Donnie Dattolo, Brad Daugherty, Matt Geisser and Max Reynolds have all had their moments. Who will step up when the Hornets really need a bucket down the stretch?

No. 11 Pequannock at No. 6 West Morris

This won’t be a pretty game. The Golden Panthers, who defeated Madison in the prelims, seem focused on defense these days. Kevin Glynn and Bryan Peters are players that can get a couple of points here and there. Overall, their games are low-scoring affairs and the closer to the 40s they can keep their opponents, the better the chance for them to win. The streaky Wolfpack was in a bit of a swoon until their recent Mendham win. They count on Sam McClellan for rebounds and inside points. Conor Barron is a good perimeter player and Pat Gialanella has been stepping up lately.

No. 10 Montville at No. 7 Chatham

Montville trounced Butler in preliminary round play. The trio of Jesse Warech, Jacob Kaplan and Tyler Storch guarantee good guard play. Erik Werheim, a 6-8 sophomore forward, shows improvement with every performance. The Mustangs have been competitive with most of their NJAC-American opponents. Their chance of advancing may depend on the appearance (or absence) of Chatham’s Luke Conrad. The Cougars’ standout guard has missed the last four games. He affects their play on a number of levels. Robert Raiola has poise and experience and sophomore Graham Delaney can knock down shots, but something is missing when Conrad is not in the lineup.

No. 9 Morristown-Beard at No. 8 Morris Catholic

The two private schools might be in for quite a battle. They played each other on January 7 with the Crusaders winning 52-49. The ninth-seeded Crimson have not had much luck in tournament play over the years. This year’s squad has been successful in beating the teams they need to beat. Stephen Sangree and Mark Aboyoun are important performers for Morristown-Beard. Their efforts are critical to their success. The Crimson eliminated Parsippany Hills in the prelims. The eighth-seeded Crusaders seem to get better and better. They have a good mix of experience and talent. Andre Spruell and Ryan Feeney give Morris Catholic a base to build upon. Sophomore transfers Amir Allen and Wayne Patterson are thriving in the Crusaders system. Morris Catholic eliminated Parsippany High in the prelims.

 

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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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