Last hurrah for Morris County seniors in showcase

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

MOUNT OLIVE — “Hey coach, do you have room for one more ?”

That might not have been exactly the way Morristown-Beard’s Matt McFadden said it but he had to introduce himself to Morris team coach Bill Medina somehow in order to be part of the Morris-Sussex Senior All-Star Classic.

McFadden scored only one point, but Morris needed every score it could get in a 112-110 victory in the game that was played on Wednesday at Mount Olive HIgh School.

West Morris’ Conor Barron scored 18 points, Mount Olive’s Donte Wise added 14 points and Roxbury’s Doug Alexander added 13 points to help Morris avenge last year’s loss. As it turned out, McFadden’s late entrance was helpful. Often athletes that often are chosen from the All-Morris County team and an additional short list from the local coaches are not able to play. Chatham guard Graham Delaney was unavailable, Boonton’s Sammy Asani is rehabbing from season ending knee surgery and Montville’s Erik Werheim was on a college visit so the Morris team was a couple of players short.

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Morristown-Beard’s Matt McFadden shakes hands with Mount Olive’s Donte Wise during introductions of the Morris-Sussex game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

McFadden, who will be playing football at Gettysburg in the fall, got an e-mail from his coach Eddie Franz to see if he was available to play on short notice and told him about the game. McFadden found Medina on the Mount Olive High School court while his Morris teammates were warming. He had just enough time to change into his uniform and take a couple of jump shots before the festivities began.

“I got on the court and it was fun,” McFadden said. “It was fun to be out here with these guys. I played with a few of these guys back in the day in AAU and what not. It was a cool experience to be out here one more time. It was a good win for Morris County.”

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Roxbury’s Doug Alexander splits two Sussex defenders during first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Most of the players on either team did not enjoy a victory while wearing their high school uniform a final time before Wednesday’s game. McFadden’s Morristown-Beard season ended with a late score by Queen of Peace in the opening round of state tournament play. The showcase win ended McFadden’s varsity career on a more positive note. He also appreciated the chance to play with old friends one more time.  He had competed with Barron and Mendham’s Brian Kenez, Morris Hills’ Matt Toohey, Morristown’s Jack Mongey and Montville’s Jacob Kaplan at one event or another over the years. Although the contest might have been a glorified pick up game since the athletes didn’t have a chance to practice together, the overall performance of the Morris team turned out surprisingly well.

“It was good to win,” McFadden said. “We were talking about it on the bench. These Sussex guys were trying so hard. We were just happy to be playing. They wanted to win so bad, it was satisfying.”

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West Morris’ Conor Barron (24) earned MVP honors for Morris in the Morris-Sussex Senior Classic. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The unselfish and somewhat joyous nature of ending their career with a fun game in front of a loud and supportive crowd was perhaps the catalyst for the Morris team playing so well.

“Everyone just kind of looked for the open man and if they didn’t have the shot they passed it,” Alexander said. “No one was selfish and that’s why we had such great movement.”

Without Werheim, who was attending a college visit at Muhlenberg, Alexander was the closest the Morris team had to a post player. Often players with his skill set get lost in an offense-minded showcase game, but Alexander appreciated some of the chances he got down low. Overall, he was happy some of the Morris athletes were on his team.

“It was good to be playing with all of these guys instead of playing against them,” Alexander said. “I’ve been playing against them for four years. It was nice just to be on their side and just get to play and have fun.”

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Pequannock’s James Hitchcock provided some perimeter firepower during first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Alexander seemed satisfied with his senior season at Roxbury. The Gaels had a winning record and won their first conference title in 80 years, when they captured the NJAC-National Division. He set the personal goals he wanted to achieve, including becoming the fourth 1,000th point scorer in the history of the boys program.

Alexander also considered the senior showcase to be a positive ending to his career. He had played with some of his Morris teammates at different basketball function. He knew little of the Sussex athletes and enjoyed the competition.

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Randolph’s Kevin Leary puts up a shot during first-half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“It was nice to see and play a different county,” Alexander said. “I haven’t played against most of those guys. It was good to see what we can do. … Everyone was having fun but in the end we all want to win. We are all competitors. In the last few minutes we started to get more competitive and get more intense with it.”

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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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