The Montclair Mounties stand together for the National Anthem before the tipoff against Bloomfield
Staff Photo by Andrew Garda.
by ANDREW GARDA
The Montclair High School boys basketball team was able to hang with Bloomfield High School for the first half of Wednesday’s game, even leading at the half by two points. However, the Bengals used a 16-2 run to end the third quarter and the Mounties were unable to recover, heading home on the wrong end of a 54-43 loss.
“That last little stretch, when they put the 1-2-2 on us, we kind of just froze a little bit,” head coach Gary Wallace said after the game. “We started settling for jumpers … had some minor mistakes here and there, we’d get back into the game and then a missed assignment on defense or a foul and one.”
Those little mistakes were when you saw the difference between top-seeded Bloomfield and a 9-seed in Montclair. A top seed executes in those moments, and the Mounties (17-11) just couldn’t.
“I’ve got to give credit to Bloomfield, they did a great executing and slowing us down,” Wallace said. “We had a problem converting and they made it difficult to come back.”
That’s not for lack of trying, as Montclair finally broke Bloomfield’s stranglehold on the scoreboard with back-to-back baskets by Tarrin Earle baskets and soon were able to pull to within six points. The clock was against the Mounties, though, and as the seconds ticked away, Bloomfield seemed to find ways to match each Montclair basket with one of their own.
Soon Montclair was reduced to fouling the Bengals to keep them from draining the clock, sending Bloomfield to the line. The strategy didn’t pay off as Bloomfield made too many free throws and Montclair missed too many layups as the game ended.
Montclair had their chances early, as Bloomfield struggled to finish their shots despite some prime opportunities to gain some distance on the Mounties. Montclair did an excellent job of rebounding in the first half as well, making sure Bloomfield didn’t get many second chances off their misses.
That also changed in the second half, as the Bengals attacked the glass with renewed fervor, out-muscling the Mounties for the ball and making baskets on second and sometimes third tries. Once Bloomfield started rolling, Montclair was on its heels and reeling.
That led to a lot of players trying to do too much on their own, not distributing the ball as well as they had in the first half and taking too many sloppy shots. A perfect example of this was in the fourth quarter when Charles Murphy got the ball at the perimeter and instead of passing it to an open player with a better look at the basket, took a long shot which rang off the rim and was hauled in by Bloomfield.
By the time Earle heated up and the team seemed to regain its footing, shots like that had dug too deep a hole to climb out of before time ran out.
While the season ended on a disappointing loss, Wallace didn’t see the game—or the Mounties season—as a failure.
“I’m so proud of my guys. They’ve really fought this year and we’ve had a lot of adversity. It’d be nice to see my seniors advance and move on to fight for a championship, but I wouldn’t do this season any other way. I love my guys and they’ve helped me grow so much as a coach. I’ll definitely never forget these guys.”
As Wallace points out, the Mounties are a very young team and while players like Ivan McDaniel and Shawn Smith may be graduating, there will certainly be a talented group of players to build on for next year.
“I’m excited for what’s to come for Montclair basketball,” Wallace said.