MCT Quarterfinal Round Preview

By Mark Kitchin


The Morris County Tournament quarterfinals has been moved to Sunday with games at Noon, 1:30, 3:30 and 5 p.m. All the games will be played at Randolph High School. Last week, seven of the top eight seeds advanced. The only upset was pulled by 12th-seeded Randolph which overwhelmed fifth-seeded Hanover Park. Last year the Rams made it to the semifinals. The top seeds are favored but anything can happen in basketball when it comes to the Morris County Tournament.

No. 6 West Morris vs No. 3 Morristown

These two teams played each other twice this season with the Colonials capturing the season series. On January 7 Morristown prevailed 70-53 in Morristown. On February 4, the Colonials won 71-55 at West Morris. Morristown is on a roll, winning its last nine games. Sean Hoehn is on almost everyone’s Player of the Year list. The dynamic guard averages nearly 27 points per game and directs the Morristown offense. He’s a tremendous ball handler and a dead-eye shooter. He’s adept at thwarting double and triple-teams by feeding his teammates for open shots. The Mongey brothers (Jack and James), Nick Duff, Zach Certner and A. J. Tracey more often then not knock them down. Although not brilliant on defense, the Colonials do just enough to stay on top. On Tuesday, they had a strong performance in a win against Randolph that also gave them an opportunity to shoot at the neutral sited court. Morristown pounded 19th-seeded Morris Hills 81-42 in opening round competition.

West Morris reached the quarterfinals on the strength of a 55-36 win over No. 11 Pequannock. The Wolfpack gets on stretches where they win three or four games and then lose three or four games. The season has been a success overall and first year head coach Mark Schartner has done a good job of mixing in some new wrinkles to the Wolfpack playbook. They have gotten good seasons from senior center Sam McClellan, who can be a force on the inside and Conor Barron and Pat Gialanella who both exhibit good range. Sean McElwaine plays the point and Pat Anderson and Dan Moylan are fine in support. Is the third time a charm for the Wolfpack? West Morris will need to neutralize Hoehn and clamp down on defense in order to have any chance of advancing.

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Morristown’s Sean Hoehn (22) will be active again on the Randolph court on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

No. 7 Chatham vs.No. 2 Jefferson

It’s tough to count Chatham out of any game. Todd Ervin teaches solid fundamental defense that frustrates opponents. There are no gimmicks. The Cougars just try to out work their adversaries. They often pick up full court, not as much to create turnovers but just to try and wear opponents down. They can be tenacious and are not afraid of close contests. They edged 10th-seeded Montville in the opening round of the MCT in a 34-32 game that went to the final seconds. The Cougars have had trouble generating offense. Senior guard Luke Conrad’s season is finished due to a concussion. He is the only player Chatham has that can consistently create his own shot. Graham Delaney and Robert Raiola can knock down shots but they are not playmakers. The Cougars have gotten good play up front from sophomores Colin McKenna and Stefan Goles. Greg Mah, Logan Loeloff and Dan Winschuh also make contributions and provide added depth.

Jefferson has already made school history with its best start ever at 18-0. It’s also the longest winning streak for a very good program that often dominated when it played in the Sussex County Interscholastic League. The Falcons are fast-paced and athletic team. The trio of Tyler Jones, Bryan Langan and J. R. Reese provide plenty of offense. Chris Telman is a pesky guard on defense and has emerged as another solid scoring option. Vin Ginefra grabs boards and takes up space down low. They have also had great play off the bench with Dakota Nobile and Joe Rossi. Jefferson topped 18th-seeded Roxbury 73-42 last week in opening round competition.

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Jefferson’s Tyler Jones is one of the reasons the Falcons are off to an 18-0 start. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

No. 12 Randolph vs. No. 4 Mendham

Sometimes it seems like the Rams are just playing possum. They get off to slow starts on purpose because when tournament times around they know they have you right where they want you. Randolph started the season with a 3-8 record then rallied to win nine of its last 10 games. They are aiming to reach the MCT semifinals for the third year in a row. They advanced to the quarterfinals this year by beating fifth-seeded Hanover Park, 77-66.

These teams both play in the NJAC-National and have split the season series. On January 7, Mendham won 65-52 in Mendham. Alex Jacobs scored 29 points and Jack Horan had 21 for the Minutemen. On February 4, Randolph won 43-34. Barry Lynch had 15 points to pace the Rams.

Lynch and Mike Talbert are both skilled offensive players. The senior guards have good range and aren’t afraid to drive to the basket. Randolph also has two experienced forward/centers. Patrick Archer is a smart inside player who can grab rebounds and battle defensively. Greg Moserowitz can also bang under the glass and has gotten more aggressive on offense in recent weeks. Ben Kapinos, Ryan Mahoney, Andre Sciancalepore and Chris Woodbury also make contributions on both offense and defense. Because Randolph volunteers its gym for the quarterfinal round, the Rams have the advantage of a home game as a neutral site and should have a good crowd on hand for its battle against a neighboring rival.

Mendham advanced to the quarterfinals with a 57-32 triumph over 13th-seeded Dover.  Mendham’s Alex Jacobs broke his wrist against West Morris on February 6 and is done for the season. One of the area’s top scorers, his 18 points a game accounted for nearly a third of the Minutemen’s total offense. When he was lost to injury last year, the Minutemen slowed down the tempo on offense. They also ratcheted up the defensive intensity. Other players will have to step up. Jack Horan will continue his double-digit scoring and rebounding efforts. Dan Shea, Joe Lamberto and Brian Kenez will also have take advantage of their opportunities. The lower the score, the better the chances will be for Mendham.

11 bb morrandCan Michael Talbert (center) and the other Randolph Rams make more MCT magic? (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

No. 8 Morris Catholic vs. No. 1 Mount Olive

It’s fun to watch a basketball program emerge after several years of struggle. The Crusaders are enjoying that resurgence. The play of sophomore center Amir Allen and guard Wayne Patterson has energized the program. Allen is a terrific rebounder with scoring ability and inside presence. Patterson handles the ball well and knocks down shots from the perimeter. He is also fearless on his drives to the basket. They both get to the foul line quite a bit. Amir Hamilton is another newcomer that excels off the bench. Mix in the experience of Andre Spruell, Ryan Feeney and Jay Flaherty and you have a team that has won 15 games already. Morris Catholic advanced with a decisive 48-34 win over Morristown-Beard. Are they athletic and deep enough to respond to their biggest challenge of the season? They will know by Sunday night.

The Marauders are the defending champions and worthy of the tournament’s top seed. They are firmly entrenched in its uptempo Grinnell System philosophies and its emphasis on 3-point shooting and pressure defense. Last year’s trio of offensive standouts is back. Zach Heeman and Ryan Traub have distinct size advantages. Rashaan Spencer’s range and consistency have improved. Add the jump-out-of-the-gym abilities of Donte Wise and the perimeter prowess of Jason Drury, Chris Gallo and many others and you get a team that can go on hot streaks and tire out opponents. Mount Olive pounded Whippany Park 97-59 in opening round competition.

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Zach Heeman, left, and his Mount Olive Marauders teammates are eager to defend their crown. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)


About mcvbb

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

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