Mount Olive captures top seed in Morris County Tournament

By Mark Kitchin Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

DENVILLE — Defending champion Mount Olive captured the top seed at the Morris County Tournament seeding meeting held on Sunday at Morris Catholic High School.

Mount Olive is 8-2 but 5-0 against Morris County opponents. Roxbury (9-2) was seeded second, Chatham (9-4) placed third and Mendham (9-3) was seeded fourth. Montville, Jefferson, last year’s finalist Morristown and Hanover Park round out the top eight.

Tournament play commences the weekend of January 31 and first round play must be completed by February 7. The quarterfinals are being held at Randolph High School on Saturday, February 14. The semifinals will be held at County College of Morris in Randolph at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 21. The title game is scheduled for Saturday, February 28 in a 7 p.m. start.

Although it is no surprise that the defending champion Marauders captured top honors, it is a bit of vindication for the returning players on the team. Talented players like Zach Heeman and tournament MVP Rashaan Spencer, who played key roles in helping Mount Olive to defeat Morristown 75-73 in last year’s thrilling title game, have long since graduated. Despite having a new coach and many new varsity players, the Marauders have proven their abilities and the benefits of their uptempo style.

“It means a lot to the kids,” Mount Olive coach Mike DeRosa said. “It hangs over their heads that we’ve lost a lot of talent and they like the reassurance that we play hard as a team. I think it shows that our system of basketball has more merit than for just a few players.” DeRosa said his team is used to and seems to relish garnering the top spot. Gaining No. 1 status may be a burden, but its also a reward and a challenge. 52 bb momend First year varsity coach Mike DeRosa and his Mount Olive players have earned the top spot in the Morris County Tournament. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Mount Olive has been a target for the last few years now,” DeRosa said. “I think the kids that have been in the program are used to it. We seem to bring out some of the best in a team no matter who we are playing because teams get amped up to play us. We are the No. 1 seed. That’s what you get.”

Despite being No. 1, DeRosa said the tournament looks wide open and some unexpected results would not be a surprise.

“I tell our players that the county is wide open,” DeRosa said. “As successful as we’ve been, we haven’t played everybody so we have to keep egos under control because anything can happen. These are all good teams. It doesn’t take much for players to step up and shock somebody. Anybody can beat anybody.”

Seeding the tournament took a longer amount of time than usual. There were 10 teams that had records within the range of two games above to two games below the .500 mark. Some seeds had to have multiple ballots cast before deciding a winner.

“The top six teams are extremely competitive,” DeRosa said. “And it goes deeper that that. Of the top six teams, anybody can beat anybody It’s a round robin.”

Morris County Tournament Bracket

Winner of No. 17 Whippany Park (7-5) at  No. 16 Mountain Lakes (5-6) at No. 1 Mount Olive (8-2).

Winner of No. 24 Kinnelon (2-10) at No. 9 Delbarton (7-5) plays winner of No. 25 Butler (1-11) at No. 8 Hanover Park (9-5).

Winner of No. 21 Randolph (2-10) at No. 12 West Morris (5-8) plays at No. 5 Montville (9-2).

Winner of No. 20 Dover (7-7) at No. 13 Morris Knolls (7-4) plays at No. 4 Mendham (9-3).

Lower bracket

Winner of No. 19 Parsippany (7-6) at No. 14 Morris Hills (6-5) plays at No. 3 Chatham (9-4).

Winner of No. 22 Madison (3-10) at No. 11 Pequannock (9-4) plays at No. 6 Jefferson (9-2).

Winner of No. 23 Parsippany Hills (2-10) at No. 10 Morristown-Beard (6-5) plays at No. 7 Morristown (6-6).

Winner of No. 18 Boonton (7-6) at No. 15 Morris Catholic (6-6) plays at No. 2 Roxbury (9-2).

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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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