The Montclair boys basketball team ended 2022 on a positive note and appears headed to surpassing and possibly doubling the victory output of last season.

The Mounties defeated West Orange, 51-39, in the Jingle Bells Jubilee consolation game at Paterson STEAM High School on Dec. 28. It was a nice rebound after losing a tight game to Payne Tech, 63-53, the night before in the Jubilee. 

"When you play back-to-back days and you're coming off a loss, you have to have a short memory and move on fast," head coach Cecil Stinson said. "The loss to Payne Tech was all the incentive we needed to get back into the win column against West Orange."

With that victory the Mounties raised their record to 4-2. Last year Montclair won only six games the entire season.

Against West Orange, it was the senior duo of Jaden Reid and Shindon Thompson who led Montclair. Reid had 16 points, while Thompson chipped in 15 along with two rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

The Mounties pulled away in the fourth quarter after being up by six, 31-25, after the third quarter.

"One of the keys to our win over West Orange was our ability to control the pace, especially in the fourth quarter," Stinson said. "We didn't settle for jump shots and were able to get to the foul line in the fourth quarter."

Shindon Thompson (center) muscles his way past Payne Tech's Shane Cedres in the Jingle Bells Jubilee. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Shindon Thompson (center) muscles his way past Payne Tech's Shane Cedres in the Jingle Bells Jubilee. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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The coach added that it was the team’s play on the other side of the court that was the reason for the victory. "We also did a decent job of getting some big stops in the fourth quarter," he said.

Stinson said that defense is first, and the offense comes from the defense. "For us making the shots is a plus," he said. "We go into a game and preach three stops in a row."

In terms of Reid's scoring, Stinson wanted the senior to be more offense-minded on the floor while not being sloppy with the ball. "I asked Jaden to attack the basket a bit more and embrace contact rather than shy away from it," he said, adding that Reid hit 4 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter. "He also kept turnovers to one for the game."

While Reid led the scoring, Montclair benefited from a balanced scoring attack. Including the win over West Orange, the Mounties have had four different leading scorers.

"This team doesn't care who's scoring," Stinson said. "I really give them credit for working for the best available shot. When you play the right way, the ball will find the right people at the right time."

The loss to Payne Tech was a tighter contest than the 10-point difference showed. The Mounties were down by five with 90 seconds remaining in the game. But Stinson said afterward, "There are no moral victories."

Payne Tech would go on to defeat Kennedy, 75-70, to win that Jubilee quadrant.

For Montclair, one of the pluses is depth: The Mounties can go up to 10 players in their rotation. Against Payne Tech the Mounties had nine players score, led by Thompson with 13 points, nine in the second half. Noah Hutchinson chipped in 9 points, while Jahi Whitney added 7, all in the second half.

Shindon Thompson muscles his way past Payne Tech's Shane Cedres in the Jingle Bells Jubilee. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Shindon Thompson muscles his way past Payne Tech's Shane Cedres in the Jingle Bells Jubilee. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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For half the game against Payne Tech, the Mounties had the upper hand, especially in the second quarter and for most of the third. 

Coming into the game Stinson knew about the size and height advantage Payne Tech had, but he did not plan to throw a different defense at them. "We knew about their size advantage, and while I was coach at Christ the King we had played against them," said the coach, who returned to his alma mater after coaching at Cristo Rey (formerly Christ the King).

In the end, the Montclair defense could not hold off one of the Payne Tech bigs, Gerald Edwell, who had a game-high 21 points. Edwell is a freshman and is 6-foot-4. He scored 14 of his 21 points in the third quarter.

Despite Edwell’s numbers, Montclair took an 8-point lead two minutes into the second half when Thompson drained his second three-point bucket within a 60-second period to hand the Mounties a 32-24 lead.

But after that Payne Tech chipped away, and the Mounties found themselves tied at 43 heading into the fourth quarter after an Edwell basket with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter Montclair's press defense left holes that Payne Tech took advantage of, as they outscored the Mounties, 20-10. In addition, the Mounties’ shooting went cold when they needed it in the last two minutes. Montclair could not get any closer than 54-50 after Thompson hit one of two free throws.

With the holidays behind them, Montclair moves back into Super Essex Conference Colonial Division action. The Mounties were 3-1 in the first weeks of the season in the division and host Belleville on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 4 p.m. 

The division championship could come down to the game at Newark Tech, which is undefeated so far this season, on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. Montclair’s lone division loss so far has been to Newark Tech, 58-55, in the season opener on Dec. 15.

Montclair boys basketball schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)

Jan. 5 Belleville
Jan. 7 at Newark Collegiate, noon
Jan. 10 at West Essex
Jan. 12 at Newark Tech, 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 Columbia, 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 Orange
Jan. 19 at Millburn
Jan. 21 at Weequahic, noon
Jan. 23 Essex County Tournament, TBA
Jan. 24 Verona
Jan. 28 Essex County Tournament, TBA
Jan. 31 Glen Ridge
Feb. 2 at Belleville, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 Essex County Tournament, TBA
Feb. 7 West Essex
Feb. 11 Essex County Tournament, TBA
Feb. 14 at East Orange, 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 Central