by Andrew Garda
Another sports season is in the books for Montclair schools, as Montclair High School, Montclair Kimberley Academy and Immaculate Conception High School have finished their basketball, fencing and hockey seasons.
There were a few COVID-19-related stoppages, with MKA hockey shutting down midseason and MHS boys basketball foregoing the last two games because of a positive test.
Overall the three schools managed to get through Seasons 2 and 2a with few speed bumps, and hope for the same with Season 3, which contains wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball.
While Season 3 is already underway, it’s worth taking a moment to look back at the successes each school had in the seasons just finished.
Montclair High School
The big story of the season was the roaring success the MHS girls basketball team found after a rough 2019-20 season where it finished with a 4-17 (0-11 SEC-Colonial) record.
This year saw the Mounties go 13-2 (11-0 SEC-Independence), including wins in all four of their last games to close out the season. Montclair provided plenty of big wins, such as a 55-48 victory at Elmwood Park on Feb. 4 and a 52-39 win over MKA at home on Feb. 16, while clinching the Independence Division title with a 53-46 win on the road against Newark Collegiate on Feb. 23.
Ayanna Brantley, Karen Hankerson and Phoebe Sullivan were team captains this season, with Brantley finishing the season with 151 points and 110 rebounds, Hankerson ending her senior year with 56 steals, and Sullivan leading the team with 135 rebounds.
Meanwhile, freshman Morgan Marshall blew the Super Essex Conference away, leading not just the Mounties, but the entire SEC with 337 points. She also landed in the top 15 for steals in the conference, sitting at third at 5.5 a game.
Across the street in the George Innes Annex, the Montclair fencing team was also having a lot of success, as the senior class worked hard to make sure everyone did their jobs and stayed healthy.
Led by team captains George Buccino, Georgia Chen, Amira Mutakabbir and Daniel Moroze as well as seniors Jude Eaves, Kirsty Hand, Ellary Jenkins, Maria Linietsky, Assata Mutakabbir and Nzingha Mutakabbir, the Mounties notched some big wins, including the first victory over Columbia by the boys in five years, a tight 14-13 win on Feb. 23.
For the girls, some of the top fencers were foil fencers Chen (30-3) and Assata Mutakabbir (18-9) and epee fencer Amira Mutakabbir (26-6).
Chen didn’t lose a bout after dropping one against McNair on Feb. 11, winning her next 21 to close the year out.
For the boys, foil fencer Alexander Brown had an equally exceptional season, notching a 30-3 record and winning 15 bouts in a row in the middle of the season. Fellow foil Daniel Moroze (21-12) and saber fencers Buccino (20-13) and Eaves (18-14) all had good seasons as well.
After heading to the NJSIAA finals last season, Mountie hockey struggled this year, finishing with a 5-7 record.
MHS notched some nice wins over Verona (5-2), Millburn (7-3) and crosstown rival MKA (3-1), and did so with emergency goaltender Ben Ceccio, who was tapped when injuries struck the position.
Ceccio, a soccer player with the MHS team, had never played hockey before but still managed to save 76 percent of the shots taken against him.
Offensively, Brett Janifer led the team with 12 goals, while George Osterberg led with 10 assists. Benji Peffer had the second-most assists with 8, and Mark Rechan had the second-most goals with 7.
The boys basketball team ended its season a couple games early, as it had to close down because of a positive COVID-19 test, finishing the year with a 4-7 record.
Scoring was led by William Monroe’s 81 points, and he dropped the most three-point shots with 14, while Shahaad Sutton’s 78 points were the next-most on the team; he scored 17 times from the free-throw line.
The ICHS boys basketball team had a great season, finishing with a 10-5 record and undefeated in the SEC-American, including wins over Seton Hall Prep, Don Bosco Prep and Columbia.
Zakai Zeigler led the team with 304 points, with 45 three-point baskets, with Jayden Brown second with 292 points, 72 of which came on free throws. DiAndre South led the team with 150 rebounds to go with his 219 points.
The three seniors were the focal point for ICHS this year, and had there been a county or state tournament, this was a team that could have gone on a deep run.
The girls team also did well in the SEC-American, going 4-2 and finishing with a 7-8 overall record. As has always been their habit, both ICHS teams played the toughest out-of-division schedule they could manage, even during the pandemic.
The girls took on tough teams like Paul VI, Saddle River Day and Trenton Catholic, which had a combined six losses on the year. They also had to battle teams like University within the division, a team that went 12-2 (11-1 SEC-American).
The battle-hardened Lions were led by two seniors and a freshman, as Bukky Akinsola (164 points) and Tahirah Kelley (126) were joined by newcomer Tayla Thomas (151), who also led the team in rebounds with 68.
Montclair Kimberley Academy
The MKA boys basketball team had an up-and-down season, finishing with a 6-9 (6-5 SEC-Freedom) record, including key wins against West Caldwell Tech, Science Park and Newark Academy.
The team was led by the scoring of Brennan Columbia-Walsh, who had 255 points and 172 rebounds, a massive number nobody else on the team came close to. Isiah Udofia had the second-most points with 128, while Noah Wolk provided 121 points.
The Cougars hockey team had a two-week COVID-19 break, but came back and won two out of its last four games, including a first-round victory over Millburn in the 2021 Kelly Cup tournament, before dropping to eventual champion Governor Livingston in the semifinals.
Freshman Sam Rotella led the team with 10 goals, while Adam Zidlicky had 8 assists.
MKA girls basketball took a step back this season, finishing with a 1-9 (1-7 SEC-Colonial) record after going 16-6 last year. The team’s one win came against Millburn on the road, during the second half of a home-and-home. The Millers beat MKA 46-43 on the Cougars’ own court on Feb. 20, but the Cougars returned the favor on March 1, winning 44-41.
Vanessa Amsinger led the Cougars in most categories, with 114 points, 77 rebounds and 12 blocks. Patricia Columbia-Walsh led in assists with 21 and in steals with 16.