by Andrew Garda

The end of a season is always a good time for reflection.

For Montclair High School boys basketball coach Gary Wallace, it not only means re-assessing the performance of his team and coaching staff, but taking a moment to appreciate the efforts of his team, especially the seniors.

While Wallace is naturally thankful for the efforts of starting seniors like Tarrin Earle, Marcus Crowell and Zion Wyatt, it’s his bench players who really impressed him this season.

Guys like Ben Boehlert, Peter Weber-Solotaroff and Tyree Berger didn’t play a ton, but Wallace said without their efforts in practice and their attitude every day, the team wouldn’t have made the strides it did this year.

“Berger has so much potential,” Wallace said. “We had some things off the court to work on, but I was proud of him because he never gave up. As the season went on he asked more questions and opened up a little more. Stepped up and practiced hard.”

What impressed Wallace about Boehlert was his commitment to the program.

“He’s not too outspoken, but there were times this season where he stepped outside his box,” Wallace said. “I told him I appreciated his willingness to stay with the process even though he wasn’t playing much — really not much at all — he still came to practice every day, he did what I asked. You just don’t find guys like that all the time.”

Boehlert was the kind of player Wallace could always count on to do what he was told and as time went on, he and the coaching staff decided they needed to throw him into the fire more. And while his minutes never added up to a massive amount, Wallace said Boehlert made the time he got on the court count.

He said the same was true of Solotaroff.

“He and Ben were like, almost the Tarrins that didn’t play,” Wallace said. “They always came to practice and Pete was always asking questions. He always sat right next to the coaches on the bench, never at the end. He was always ready to go.”

Wallace told a story about Solotaroff, who, during the game at Immaculate Conception on Jan. 25, found himself going head to head with Syracuse commit Jalen Carey.

“He said, ‘coach, you put me against Jalen Carey and I scored so why am I not playing?’” Wallace said with a smile. “I laughed, but it was so funny because I went back that night and looked at the film and he did score. I told him that next game, he should be ready to go and he’s been ready ever since.”

After the season, Wallace pointed to Boehlert and Solotaroff as an example the younger players should be trying to emulate.

“This is the mentality you guys have to strive to have,” he said he told the team. “Because next year when things go wrong, you guys have to be the example.”

While they didn’t play, Wallace said he expects that the team will feel the loss of guys like Boehlert and Solotaroff almost as much as they will the likes of Earle, Crowell and Wyatt.