by Andrew Garda
UNION CITY—The No. 6-seeded Montclair High School boys basketball team may have lost their NJSIAA North Jersey, Section I, Group IV loss to No. 3-seeded Union City Wednesday afternoon, by a score of 82-58 but it was more a function of Union City’s excellent shooting than their own play.
MHS had no answer for a Soaring Eagles team which just didn’t miss the basket. UC was unconscious from the floor, hitting over 70 percent of their shots, led by freshman Maurice Odum’s seven 3-point shots and 23 points. Union City would score 39 points on 3-point shots alone.
“Sometimes it’s just not your night and tonight definitely wasn’t our night,” head coach Gary Wallace said after the loss, which ends the Mounties season. “It’s tough when you lose a game like this, where we go in and feel like we can win, and we start out close and then [Odum]—I’ve never seen a shooting exhibition like that ever. He just did not miss and no matter how much we press, how much we try to keep guys in front of us, somebody got loose and kicked and it was another 3 and it was just blow after blow after blow.”
It was all the Mounties could do to keep up. Charles Murphy Jr’s 16 points and DeShawn Davis’ 11 helped, but the way UC was playing, MHS had no margin for error at all.
What should have been a much closer game became a rout in the second quarter when Union City’s shooters got hot. By the time Odum started raining down 3-point shots in the third quarter, it was all the Mounties could do to slow UC down.
They kept fighting, though, which Wallace was proud of.
“I’ve pushed them very hard,” he said. “But my guys kept fighting and I knew it was hard and we needed to gather ourselves at halftime and say look we’ve just got to keep on fighting.”
Montclair, to their credit, continued to play hard until the final buzzer, never giving up no matter how impossibly steep the hill to climb seemed to be. In the end, though, Union City was just too much to handle on Wednesday.
The Mounties season may have ended with this loss, but as Wallace pointed out, there is plenty for this team to crow about after accumulating an 18-7 record, including 11-1 in the Liberty Division, which won them the division title.
“To see where they’ve come from day one, and through all the things we’ve had to deal with during the year, for them to make it this far where a lot of people didn’t think [we would], I’d say it’s been one heck of a year.”
The Mounties will now enter a rebuilding mode as eleven seniors will be leaving the varsity team. It’s going to be a tough task to replace them according to Wallace.
“I had Gabe [Schreiber] and Murph, two of the guys I had my first year here and those are three, four year varsity guys and then adding Deshawn [Davis] and Shawn Summers and Izaiah [McPherson] these last two years, it’s going to be a lot to lose these guys,” he said. “It’s going to be a big chunk we have to contend with but that’s basketball.”
The departing seniors have given a lot to the program on and off the court, Wallace said, and now he expects the underclassmen—three juniors and a sophomore who got time on varsity this season—to step up.
“The whole team is excavated and we have to start fresh,” he said. “These young guys have to get in gear and get the other young guys [in the program] to get working. Because we have a lot of work to do.”