Conklin’s heroics gave Mendham an MCT boost

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

In every quarterfinal round of the Morris County Tournament there always seems to be one player that comes out of nowhere to help his team advance. So Mendham, who is this Jamie Conklin?

Conklin scored all eight of his points to create a 10-0 run to help give the Minutemen some breathing room and eventually earn a 47-41 triumph over Montville on Saturday.

Brian Kenez led the Minutemen with 14 points. Mendham advances to play former Iron Hills Conference rival Hanover Park in next Saturday’s semifinal round. Jacob Kaplan scored 17 points for Montville. The Mustangs were hoping to reach the MCT semifinal for the first time in school history.

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Conklin and Anthony Signorelli, right, both played important roles for Mendham on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Mendham was trailing 27-26 in the early moments of the fourth quarter when Conklin caught fire. He knocked down a 3-point shot from the right side at the seven-minute mark. Then hit another from the same side and range a minute later which forced Montville to call a time out and pull out its scouting reports for clues.

“He’s a junior,” Mendham coach Kevin Schmid said. “He played jayvee last year. He plays a lot for us but he doesn’t really score. We talked about shooting yesterday and in the morning in walk through. Just shoot it with confidence. You have nothing to lose. You miss one and it is the next shot. He hit a big one against them on Thursday night. It was the same thing. We were down three and he hit a three to tie it.”

Mendham has good size with Robert Annen and Kenez capable of connecting in the paint. However, the Minutemen haven’t had much perimeter presence. When long time Mendham coach turned assistant Jim Baglin asked for someone to step up from the perimeter at halftime and knock down a few shots, Conklin decided to answer the call.

“We really needed some spark,” Conklin said. “I just needed to get something going. I knew that if I hit a shot, we would start playing better.”

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Mendham defenders like Robert Annen (31) kept Montville’s Jacob Coleman from hitting open shots. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).

After the timeout, a Kaplan miss for Montville turned into a Mendham basket when Kenez found Brad Bunschuh for a layup to make it 34-27 at 5:14. After another Montville miss, Conklin found himself with the ball in the same area only he had no intention of firing from the perimeter.

“After the first two threes it kind of set the drive up,” Conklin said. “I knew they would be overplaying the three, so I just figured I would be going by them.”

Mendham built its lead to nine points several times before Montville regrouped and started chipping away at it. Missed Mendham free throws helped the Mustangs cut their deficit down to three at 44-41 with 17.7 seconds left. They were forced to foul Annen who hit a free throw to make it a 4-point game. Jacob Coleman was heavily covered when he put up a shot that bounced off the rim. Mendham’s Anthony Signorelli rebounded it and was immediately fouled. Another unsung hero, his two free throws sealed the win. He scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds during the game.

“He hasn’t played much,” Schmid said. “We had a couple injuries the last couple of games. He hits four foul shots.”

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Robert Annen (31) provides inside scoring and hits an occasional 3-point shot for Mendham. (Photo by Mark Ktichin)

Mendham was 10 of 15 at the line during the 21-point fourth quarter. Eight of its other 11 points came from Conklin. His play was huge considering the team’s offensive woes. No one else on Mendham hit a shot from beyond the arc during the game.

“We haven’t shot it well the last few weeks,” Schmid said. “Annen will have one or Kenez will have one at times. Kenez shot an air ball actually.

No one knows if Conklin can continue helping Mendham with his shooting, but he seems determined to be more aggressive in the future. Considering the results, why not continue?

“It took a little longer than I expected (to gain confidence on Saturday),” Conklin said.  After I hit that first shot I was a little more confident. I just have to stay aggressive and my teammates trust me. … Once I hit that shot, we had the momentum going. Once we got ahead, we stayed ahead.”

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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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