Boys Basketball: The Winter Break in Review

Ben Colao, Staff Writer

In the week leading up to and during our annual Winter Holiday Break, the Dodgers were far from frozen in place. Throughout this time, all three Madison teams continued to hit the gym for practice and participated in a number of intense match-ups; including a showdown with neighboring – and rival – Chatham Township. As such, each game will be recapped here – along with some general discussion on the season at large – all for your reading pleasure. Here is the Boys Basketball Winter Break in Review:

Madison Triumphs Over Mountain Lakes, All Levels Score Major Victories

On Wednesday, December 22nd, the Dodgers faced off against Mountain Lakes at the Varsity, JV, and freshman level. Lakes is well-known for retaining formidable strength and height across the board in its sports programs; something of particular note coming off of Madison’s defeat against Morris Catholic, where their own physical advantages proved decisive. As such, while the student section once again packed the stands – proudly sporting a Christmas Pajamas theme – one look in the eyes of the Madison players told me that their focus was entirely on sizing up and defeating their new opponent. Speaking of, while Mountain Lakes’ reputation is nothing to sneeze at, the team that entered the court that day was uniquely unrepresentative. In a later conversation with Madison’s Athletic Director, Andrea Padelsky, I learned that several of Lakes’ varsity starters from the previous year had actually chosen to quit the team, opting to focus on other sports like lacrosse and football. As such – as was clear to me immediately when they stepped on the court – they were lacking in height, strength, and experience that is the usual standard of any Lakes team. 

When the ball was finally tipped off, and the game began, these weaknesses were quickly exploited by the Dodgers. With unrelenting speed, precision, and coordination, the Dodger Offense ran like a well oiled machine; out-scoring Lakes in every quarter. Of particular note was the performance of Senior point guard Tommaso Maher, who finished the game with four 3-pointers and 17 points overall – the highest of any player on either team –  along with four rebounds and assists each. The game concluded with a well-earned victory for the Dodgers, 60 to 41. This trend was followed by JV, who similarly outmatched Lakes in athleticism and team coordination. The Dodgers won by an incredible 45 points, completely humiliating their adversary. Finally, the freshman team would follow through as well, routing Lakes with a final score of 58 to 38; rounding out Madison’s triumph as an entire program over Mountain Lakes and marking the first victory for the Varsity team this season.

“Cougar Classic” Tournament Leaves Varsity Soundly Defeated

Over the course of 4 days – from the 27th to the 30th of December – the Dodgers faced off against Cranford, New Providence, and finally Chatham in a Round-Robin style tournament called the “Cougar Classic.” ‘Round-Robin’ means that in the tournament, each team would play each other once; without any further competition in the form of playoff games or a championship. 

First up was Cranford, whom the Dodgers faced on the 27th. Throughout the game, both teams remained neck and neck on the scoreboard. However, despite impressive performances from seniors Daniel Oyederian (who put up a game-height 22 points and grabbed six rebounds) and Drew Stack (six points, seven rebounds), the team’s offense as a whole was unable to function as consistently as their opponents; with key efforts from Liam Kwiatkowski, who put up 11 points, along with Nick Amitie and Abdel Elashry, who each put up another 10. In the end, Cranford would ultimately pull away, scoring a 44-36 victory against Madison.

Following this was Madison’s game against New Providence, which took place the next day. New Providence’s Basketball program is often revered as one of the toughest to defeat in Madison’s regular season line-up. However, as with Mountain Lakes, the Dodgers were far from ready to take anything lying down. Throughout the match-up, the Dodgers fought ferociously on both sides of the court; attacking the boards on defense and making the most out of nearly every opportunity to score. In particular, senior Drew Stack came on fire: Scoring 28 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Seniors Daniel Oyederian and Tommasso Maher finished not too far behind, with 13 and 10 points respectively. The game was truly one that could have gone either way, but unfortunately, the Dodgers would come up short. New Providence ultimately prevailed, barely edging out a a victory of 59-57 over Madison.

Last, but certainly not least, was Madison’s match-up with one of its bitter rivals, Chatham. A program in the same light as New Providence, the intensity of the match-up would be an assurance. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the game, but I can only imagine the pandemonium in the gym; though I should note the managers of the official Instagram account of the MHS Student Section (@mhsstu22) did post to their story after the game expressing their frustration with student turn-out. This game would actually come to mirror New Providence in many ways. Both teams reportedly fought hard, and the score was neck and neck throughout. The Dodgers never let up, with especially strong performances from Seniors Drew Stack (27 points, five rebounds) and Daniel Oyederian (12 points, six rebounds). The game would also come down to the wire, and again, Madison would end up on the wrong side of the proverbial coin toss. The Dodgers just barely fell to Chatham, with a final score of 52-55.

Reel Looking Ahead with Hope, Unfazed by COVID Uptick

In a brief exchange with Dodger Media Online, Head Coach Reel was quick to give context to the triple defeat coming out of the Cougar Classic, describing the tournament as “a way for us to get some games in against really competitive teams in the area”; in other words, the tournament’s purpose was not for gaining victories, but rather obtaining valuable experience in competing with strong programs. “Outside of a poor effort against Cranford in our first game,” he said, “we had two really gutty performances against New Providence and Chatham, that could have gone either way. These losses against very good programs will go a long way as our season progresses.”  Furthermore, when asked about any potential concerns he had regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and keeping the program healthy, Reel responded with confidence. While it should be noted that multiple players on the JV program came down with the disease over the break, this breakout was quickly contained and ended up posing a minimal impact to the program as a whole. More generally, Reel explained that his program is wholly committed to engaging in strict adherence to the health guidelines of the high school and the CDC, and furthermore has chosen to forego traditional post-game handshakes. 

The Boys Basketball season is far from over, and there is still so much yet to be seen! Coming up this week, the Dodgers will go toe-to-toe with Pope John on Wednesday, January 5th at 4pm, as well as Dover on Friday, January 7th at 7pm, all right here in Madison. Go Dodgers!