The high school basketball and wrestling seasons began Friday, with mixed results for Montclair High School sports teams. Now, we enter the first full week of the season, which is a busy one all around. Upcoming highlights include the boys basketball team’s home opener, the ice hockey team’s battle for league supremacy and a bounce-back opportunity for the girls basketball team. Follow @SportsMontclair on Twitter for live updates throughout the season.
BOYS BASKETBALL (1-0 overall, 1-0 SEC-Liberty)
Last week: MHS 50, Newark Tech 37 (Friday)
This week: home vs. American History (Tuesday, 7 p.m.); home vs. West Orange (Thursday, 7 p.m.)
Led by senior Shawn Smith (15 points, 3 assists) and sophomore guard Charles Murphy (14 points, 4 steals), the Mounties made first-year head coach Gary Wallace a winner in his debut. Wallace, a Montclair native and former Division I basketball player at Robert Morris University, is an enthusiastic leader whose players seem to be buying in, at least based on our visit to Mountie practice last week.
The Mounties have an interesting mix of veterans and promising young players, as well as size and speed. MHS fans will have their first chance to see Wallace squad in real game action Tuesday night, when a feisty American History — which was very competitive against a solid MKA program on Friday night — visits the Midland Avenue gym. West Orange will be a good test, as well as a chance for Montclair to get off to a 2-0 start in the Liberty Division.
GIRLS BASKETBALL (0-1 overall, 0-0 SEC-American)
Last week: Bloomfield 43, MHS 36 (Friday)
This week: away at Nutley (Tuesday, 4 p.m.); away at Newark Academy (Thursday, 4 p.m.)
Montclair’s big three of sophomore Bianca Fede and seniors Alisa Wiggins and Jill Jennings didn’t have a great shooting night on Friday, but the Mounties played some outstanding defense to have a chance to beat a solid Bloomfield team in the fourth quarter. Head coach Paul Palek emphasized how important it will be for the undersized Mounties to score efficiently this year, because when the team’s big three have their jump shots falling, MHS will be tough to beat. Tuesday’s SEC-American Division lid-lifter will be a good litmus test for Montclair, as Nutley is expected to also finish somewhere in the middle of the very competitive league.
ICE HOCKEY (3-1-2 overall, 1-1-2 McInnis Division)
Last week: MHS 1, Passaic Valley 0 (Tuesday)
This week: away at Summit (Tuesday, 6:45 p.m.); away at Middletown North (Friday, 5:45 p.m.)
Unsurprisingly, head coach Pat Verney’s team won another tight, low-scoring affair. Montclair has allowed just three goals in its first six games, and goaltender Ondrej Smalec’s 21-save effort against PV marked his second shutout of the season; the senior boasts an absurd .978 save percentage in his five games played. Pat Ledgett had the only goal of the game, scoring his second of the season midway through the second period, off assists from Gus Bylin and Ben Wakefield.
This week will see possibly Montclair’s toughest stretch of back-to-back games all season: Summit is the only unbeaten and un-tied team in the McInnis Division, while Middletown North was a semifinalist in the Public B state tournament last winter.
WRESTLING (0-1 overall, 0-0 SEC-Liberty)
Last week: Clifton 50, Montclair 18 (Friday), Mustang Invitational (Saturday)
This week: at Millburn (Wednesday, 6 p.m.); at Newark Academy (Friday, 9 a.m.)
The Montclair team got off to a tough start against a strong Clifton team in a dual match Friday night, but three Mounties were able to win their weight class at the Mustang Invitational, also at Clifton, Saturday morning.
Montclair’s three returning District place-winners (Jacy Jones at 113 pounds, Kasson Quince-McGee at 195 pounds and Sam Mellow at 220 pounds) were all victorious over Clifton on Friday, as was Thomas Rosenthal at 126 pounds.
Quince-McGee and Mellow also won their respective weight classes Saturday, defeating Clifton opponents in the championship match – Quince-McGee winning in overtime over Anaes Allan, and Mellow pinning Hazem Atallah.
The Mounties will be tested in a Liberty Division dual match against Millburn Wednesday, while Friday’s event will be a quad featuring MHS, the host Newark Academy, St. Joe’s of Montvale and Metuchen.