MCT semifinal preview

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsity boys basketball

Colin McKenna has been a difference maker for the Chatham Cougars this season. Keeping him on the floor is one of the keys if Chatham is expected to make a return to the Morris County Tournament title game.

Chatham, Morristown, Hanover Park and Mendham are competing for a berth in the MCT final. The semifinal games will be played on Saturday at County College of Morris in Randolph with Chatham and returning finalist Morristown scheduled for the noon game and old rivals Hanover Park and Mendham to follow at 1:30 p.m.. The times of the games were recently moved up because of expected inclement weather. The championship game will the held next Saturday also at CCM.

Chatham wants to be there and a big game out of McKenna may make a difference. The 6-foot-3 athlete moves well for his size and seems to be a perfect match for Morristown’s talented sophomore Kevin Hoehn. However, the trick may be to keep McKenna on the court.

“Almost every game I have three or four fouls,” McKenna said. “I really need to work on that. I just try to keep my hands up and move my feet and don’t play with my hands or push with my hands. It’s a work in progress. I think I’m getting better at it.”

McKenna is a prime time performer and arguably made the biggest play in the quarterfinals against a difficult Pequannock side before winning 43-38.

Chatham had a 10-point lead early in the final period, but Pequannock chipped away at it. The Golden Panthers got it to within four points at 38-34. However, McKenna’s driving layup turned into a traditional 3-point play when he was fouled. He sank his free throw. It was the last field goal the Cougars made or would need in order to advance.

“I know Graham was coming down hard on the right side,” McKenna said. “He just dished it off to me. I did a jump stop. We had been working on it in practice every day. They just hit me and I finished. That was a huge momentum play.”

It will be the second time the two teams have met this year. On January 16, Chatham defeated Morristown 68-56 in Chatham. Graham Delaney scored 20 points and McKenna had 17. Rohan Walker paced the Colonials with 19 points. In that game a 19-10 run in the second quarter gave the Cougars 33-22 halftime lead which they added to in the third quarter.

The third-seeded Cougars have a good mix of players with Delaney and 6-foot-7 Stefan Goles among the more experienced Cougars. Chatham will also rely on newcomers like freshmen Jack Rooney and Johnny Maurer, athletes that seem to get better with every game.

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A good performance by Colin McKenna (34) will boost Chatham’s chances. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“The younger kids are doing so well,” McKenna said. “Johnny and Jack are making so many strides. They are getting so much better as the season goes on. I’m getting so excited to see what they can do in the future.

“They are cool kids. They know how to handle themselves. They don’t get big heads. They don’t lose their composure. They are just good players.”

Chatham has the size advantage on Morristown. However, the Colonials are dead-eye shooters and although they don’t like to admit it, they really savor their role as underdogs. Rohan Walker and Kevin Hoehn are talented scorers in transition and Jack Mongey and Colin Brunnock can fire up threes and score in bunches for Morristown.

Seventh-seeded Morristown is used to playing teams with size. Against Roxbury the Colonials used their quickness and tenacity to stun second-seeded Roxbury, 54-53.

Rebounding will be key which means Chatham would like to keep McKenna on the court and working on both ends of the floor.

Mendham vs. Hanover Park

You can call it a battle between the irresistible force and the immovable object. The eighth-seeded Hornets like to scrap, and scramble and play up tempo. The fourth-seeded Minutemen are a half-court team and are at their best when running their deliberate offense for points in the paint.

The teams have also played each other already this season. On January 16, Mendham defeated Hanover Park, 70-65 in a close contest in Mendham. Robert Annen scored 17 points and junior center Jake Stagman had 14 in the contest. Brad Daugherty scored 21 points and John Crown had 18 for the Hornets.

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Hanover Park’s Brad Daugherty (23) is skilled at scoring and rebounding against taller opponents. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Controlling tempo will be key. If Mendham can gain possessions, avoid turnovers, run its offense and avoid careless mistakes it can slow the tempo down. The Minutemen would like to keep the scores in the 40s and 50s. This year’s team has capable inside scoring with 6-foot-4 Annen and 6-foot-2 Brian Kenez. They have not scored much on the perimeter, although Jamie Conklin has recently given Mendham a lift in that department. He hit a pair of threes to put the Minutemen ahead to stay in their 47-41 quarterfinal win against Montville.

Hanover Park would like to see the tempo at a much faster pace. They have adapted some of Mount Olive’s high-octane style of play to their own playbook. They will substitute three or four players at a time for short stretches and look to speed up the pace of the game with full-court and half-court pressure. The Hornets do not encourage 3-point shooting as much as Mount Olive but instead run an offense that eventually gives them open looks. They will also be aggressive in crashing the boards. Brad Daugherty scores a surprising amount on the inside against bigger opponents despite his 6-foot frame. He has a strong complement in Donny Dattolo who loves to take the ball aggressively to the basket and has the strength to box out bigger opponents. Crown and Matt Winschuh often knock down shots on the perimeter. Crown isn’t afraid to hoist threes from NBA range and occasionally hits them. Matt Pitts is considered a top defender but even he showed some offensive knack in scoring 14 points in the 67-61 quarterfinal round win over 16th-seeded surprise Mountain Lakes. Hanover Park has been known to use as many as 14 of its players by halftime. Depth is usually not an issue for the Hornets.

Despite the regular season result,  if the score of the contest ranges in the 60s or better it is a good sign for Hanover Park.


About mcvbb

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

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