WEST ORANGE, NJ – After their loss against Paterson Kennedy by a score of 61-51 on Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 tournament, the Mountaineers concluded their boys basketball season after a year of growth under a new coach.
First-year head coach Greg Tynes manned the bench for West Orange and coached his team to an 11-12 record in the regular season, which was good enough to qualify for the state tournament as the number 10 seed. The Mountaineers won their first-round game against seventh-seeded Memorial, but had a bigger challenge in playing second-seeded Paterson Kennedy.
The Mountaineers embraced the challenge and played a closely contested game with the Knights. Paterson Kennedy ended the first quarter leading by a score of 15-8, but West Orange was able to trim the deficit by halftime and went into the locker room down by five. The third quarter was high-scoring, with the Mountaineers outscoring the Knights by a score of 17-15. At the start of the third quarter West Orange trailed by three points. However, momentum shifted back to Paterson Kennedy as the Knights outscored the Mountaineers by a score of 21-14 in the final eight minutes. The Knights were led to the victory by strong efforts from Alphonso Gee who had a game high 27 points, 14 of which on free throws.
“They attacked the basket well and made a lot of their free throws,” said West Orange senior guard Isaiah Scott in his assessment of the game.
Isaiah Scott felt that coming into the game that the Mountaineers could exploit Paterson Kennedy inside and it came to fruition as center Jeremiah Boone-Alexander had 14 points for West Orange. However, Boone-Alexander’s efforts were not enough to help his team get a victory.
“I don’t feel like as a group collectively we played well enough,” said Scott.
As a result of the loss, the Mountaineers finished with a 12-13 record and will clean out their lockers while Paterson Kennedy advanced to the semifinals.
Paterson Kennedy held on to win by ten points and advanced to play Passaic Tech. Passaic Tech, eighth seed in the tournament, upset third seed Bloomfield on their home court on March 8. They then went on to defeat Paterson Kennedy by a score of 68-61. The other semifinal game was won by Paterson Eastside over Wayne Valley by a score of 47-38. The state championship will be played March 11 between Passaic Tech and Paterson Eastside.
Despite the end of the season, the Mountaineers have a lot to look forward to individually and as a team.
The team has seven seniors that will graduate and move on to bigger things. Point guard Isaiah Scott is going to play college football at California University of Pennsylvania and Justin Osuji will also be playing football at the collegiate level. Isaiah McNeil, Tacai Dryden, and Darron Hodges will look to play basketball collegiately with the help of Coach Tynes.
The departure of the large number of seniors means that Coach Tynes will have to plug different players into different roles. He acknowledges the challenges that they will face next year but is confident in his players.
“There will be a few challenges but not many. The seniors will be missed but from the mid-way point of the season we started one sophomore, three juniors and only one senior. Everyone returning should have a bigger role next year but we will just have to wait and see how things shape up.”
Tynes also is proud of the way the team progressed continuously throughout the season.
“I thought we improved as the season on. There were a few teams that we lost to the first time we met and we beat them the in the rematch.”
While this year may have ended in the disappointment of a playoff loss, the Mountaineers are optimistic for next year. Sophomore Andrew Scholz gained a lot of playing time and experience this year and is looking forwards to next year.
“As a team we needed to focus on playing as a unit and forget about individual stats. We also need to match the intensity of the other team late in ball games and get every 50/50 ball. If we do this we will definitely improve on our record from the past year.”
After a good season this year, things are looking up for the Mountaineers for 2014-2015.