Montclair Kimberley boys hoops: Put it all together in win over Eagle Academy
The Montclair Kimberley boys basketball team possibly played its best game last weekend.
The Cougars defeated Eagle Academy, 51-40, in a Super Essex Conference Freedom Division tilt.
"Today was probably the most complete game that we have played where we played a full 32 minutes," Montclair Kimberley head coach Tony Jones said. "I think we've improved every game."
With the Jan. 7 victory MKA raised its record to 4-3 on the season.
In the win the Cougars got scoring from one usual suspect, Isaac Wise, with 17 points, but it was junior Viraj Bansal who came off the bench and was hot from behind the three-point arc with 18 points, all via the three-point shot.
Jones said that, in the contest against Eagle Academy, the team displayed some of the elements it needs in order to win. "I think the key to win is to have smart shot selection and making open shots," the coach said.
Jones has only three players who saw extensive minutes last season and only one starter, senior guard Marley Stewart, who has been the team's leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game. He has also led the team in rebounds with 7.5 while adding 4.3 assists and 3.2 steals per game.
"I think he's a multidimensional player, and offensively he can hit behind the arc, mid-range jumper and at the rim," Jones said. "He does it all for us."
What was another positive in the win over Eagle Academy is that Stewart had only four points, yet the Cougars picked up the victory.
After Stewart, the next top scorer is Wise, who has averaged 12.8 points per game while adding 5.2 rebounds. "He's a real good perimeter shooter," said Jones, who added that Wise is the team's top three-point scorer.
Along with Stewart, the other top Cougars rebounder is junior Manny Udofia, who averages 6.3 rebounds per game to go along with 5.2 points.
In addition to Wise, Stewart and Udofia, the other starters this season have been junior guards Ben Otner and Danny Hua.
Bansal gets plenty of play off the bench, while junior Ryan Graff, sophomore Kalvin Thomas and senior Rafi Aronson also see playing time. The other senior on the team is Trevor Lee.
In the SEC Freedom Division, the Cougars are 3-1, with the lone loss coming at the hands of West Caldwell Tech, 50-40, on Jan. 3 at home. Montclair Kimberley has another shot at West Caldwell Tech on the road on Jan. 31 at 4 p.m.
In the early part of the season, MKA took a trip to Florida for three games and went 1-2.
For Jones, the main purpose of the trip was not necessarily wins or losses. "It was a great team bonding experience," he said.
While winning the Essex County Tournament, which starts next week, seems pretty much out of reach, Montclair Kimberley will be looking to make a run in the Prep B Tournament, which starts in February.
And then there are the state playoffs, for which the Cougars have moved up to Non-Public A North, where there are six of the top programs in the state this season, Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco, Hudson Catholic, St. Joseph (Montvale), St. Peter's and Seton Hall Prep.
Jones knows that it will be tough going up against those top-flight programs in the state tournament.
"We want to get a home game in the states, win that game and move on," the coach said.
Montclair Kimberley Boys Basketball Schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
Jan. 12 Technology
Jan. 14 Livingston, 11:30 a.m.
Jan. 17 at Golda Och Academy
Jan. 19 Weequahic
Jan. 21 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Jan. 24 at Eagle Academy
Jan. 26 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Jan. 31 at West Caldwell Tech
Feb. 2 Newark Lab
Feb. 3 at Pingry, 6 p.m.
Feb. 5 Prep B Tournament, TBD
Feb. 7 at Cedar Grove
Feb. 12 Prep B Tournament, TBD
Feb. 13 Golda Och