Mount Olive wins first-ever MCT title

Mount Olive wins first-ever MCT title

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Mount Olive wins first-ever MCT title

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RANDOLPH

The second-seeded Mount Olive boys basketball team won its first Morris County Tournament title in school history Saturday night, defeating top-seeded Chatham 67-54 at the County College of Morris.

The final was a rematch of last year’s championship bout, when Chatham defeated Mount Olive 77-75 on last second basket by senior Jonathan Berntsen.

“It feels good, that was our goal from the beginning of the year and it feels better against Chatham, revenge,” Mount Olive junior center Zach Heeman said.

Along with being crowned champions, with the win the Marauders are now 21-5, which is the most wins in school history.

After a rough year for Mount Olive, in which two township boys drowned in Budd Lake last month and two teenagers died in a car accident before graduation in June, being crowned county champions was a welcome moment of joy to the players, students and residents.

“The last couple of months we’ve had a lot of loss and I think it definitely sets a good tone,” Heeman said. “I think it’s a good mind-set and it’s positive, it’s something positive that we can look for in this town after we’ve had a lot of tragedies and we’ve finally come out on top.”

The fourth quarter opened with the Cougars (20-5) up 52-50, but the Marauders went on a 13-0 run to take a 63-52 lead with 2 minutes 18 seconds left to play.

“We made them play faster than they wanted to, which made them turn the ball over and throw the ball away,” Mount Olive junior guard Rashaan Spencer said. “They got tired and they started short-rimming more shots, and that’s when we got out and pushed and hit 3s and made our layups and our free throws.”

Senior guard Scott Baker scored 14 seconds later for a 63-54 score, but senior forward Zach Mears scored four-straight points and the Mount Olive defense held tough in the waning minutes for the 67-54 final.

“We played them how we wanted to play, we just didn’t make shots,” Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. “When you score one basket in the fourth quarter, it’s hard to do anything. We missed wide-open 3s and layups, that was the difference.”

There were 11 lead changes in the game, two in the first quarter as Mount Olive took a 15-14 advantage. The Marauders stretched its lead to 27-23 with 4:05 left in the second quarter, but Chatham outscored Mount Olive 10-2 the rest of the way to take a 36-29 lead at the half.

The Cougars stretched their lead to 38-29 to open the third quarter, but from there the Marauders went on a 10-0 run to regain control, 39-38, with 6:07 left. The lead changed four more times in the quarter, and Chatham headed into the fourth with the two-point lead.

Spencer scored a team-high 12 points for the Marauders. Junior forward Ryan Traub had 11 points and freshman guard Jason Drury had 10 points. Junior center Zach Heeman, the tournament MVP, was held to only six points but had 18 rebounds.

For the Cougars, senior foward Brian Oliver and junior guard Robert Raiola each had 11 points. Senior center Joe Timmes was held to nine points and had 10 rebounds.

Spencer, Heeman, Timmes and Chatham senior guard Sam Carson were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Morristown junior guard Sean Hoehn.

Up next for both teams is the state tournament. Mount Olive is the three-seed in North 1 Group III and opens at home against No. 14 River Dell on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Chatham is the top-seed in North 2 Group III and will play at home against No. 16 Governor Livingston also on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“In these last three years with coach (Kevin) Moore, we have yet to get a state win,” Heeman said. “The county championship was on our big checklist but we’re not done.”

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