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Donte Wise (right) is athletic and versatile standout for Mount Olive which is the top seed in the upcoming Morris County Boys Basketball Tournament which seeded its field on Sunday. (Photos by Todd Mundt)

Morris Catholic, under coach Rich Fachet, is No. 1 seed in girls MCT

Mount Olive & Morris Catholic Top Seeds In Wide Open MCT's
By Sean Reilly
For sidelinechatter.com

The brackets were revealed for the 2015 Morris County boys and girls basketball tournaments after the area coaches convened at separate seeding meetings on Sunday afternoon.

For the second consecutive year, the Mount Olive boys and the Morris Catholic girls were seeded first. And both teams will also be seeking to capture the championship for a third straight year.

Those facts, however, belie the general notion that this year's tournaments, are among the most wide open in recent history.

``Anything can happen,'' Mount Olive coach Mike DeRosa said. ``There are a lot of good teams capable of winning.''

Mount Olive is 8-2, with its losses coming in the past week against Union and Pope John. The Marauders are 5-0 this year against Morris County competition and have won 23 straight games over Morris opponents since a loss to Randolph in February of 2013.

Even though many of those victories came with significant contributions from players now in college, most of the current roster played a partial role in many of the wins, including the 13 that came last season. The titles in 2013 and '14 were also the first two in program history.

``Mount Olive has become a target over the last few years,' DeRosa said. ``A lot of the kids have been in the program for a while now, so they've gotten used to it.''

The list of boys contenders includes Roxbury (9-2), whose losses are to Mendham and Mount Olive are by a combined five points. The Gaels were seeded second, which matches the highest ever given the team.

A total of seven boys teams received byes into the first round in the 25-team bracket. In addition to Mount Olive and Roxbury, the other teams awarded byes are: 3-Chatham (9-4), 4-Mendham (9-3), 5-Montville (9-2), 6-Jefferson (9-2) and 7-Morristown (6-6).

The next group of boys teams, who will be the home teams in preliminary games later this week, feature some fully capable of making a deep run. That batch includes eighth-seeded Hanover Park (9-5), ninth-seeded Delbarton (7-5), 10th-seeded Morristown-Beard (6-5) and 11th-seeded Pequannock (9-4).

The boys tournament will commence with the nine preliminary games (matchups listed below) that must be contested on or before Saturday. The first round games must be played on or before Sat., Feb 7. The quarterfinal games will be staged on Feb. 14 at Randolph.

The tournament then shifts to County College of Morris in Randolph for the semifinals at 5 and 6:30 p,m on Feb. 21, with the championship slated for 7 p.m. on Feb. 28.

MORRIS CATHOLIC GIRLS SEEK ANOTHER MCT TITLE 

In addition to seeking a third straight county championship, the Morris Catholic girls will be after their 11th overall. The Crusaders have also won eight of the past 13 titles. 

Like the Mount Olive boys, the Morris Catholic girls have a long winning streak against county opposition. This year's team is 8-0 against Morris teams, having lost only tight games against state powers St. John Vianney and Roselle Catholic. The Crusaders are 48-0 against county opponents since a loss to Chatham in the 2012 MCT semifinals.

One thing that's different this year from past Morris Catholic squads is the lack of a true go-to player. The overall cast is solid, however.

The list of contending teams is deep, and it begins with second-seeded Morristown (9-1). The Colonials are the surprise of the season so far, considering they were 5-17 last year and 15-93 over the past five years overall.

Morristown was seeded 24 of 25 teams last season, and lost a 52-27 game to ninth-seeded Montville in the preliminary round.

The one-year seed progression from 24th to second ranks among the biggest seeding turnarounds in the history of Morris County Tournaments, all sports included

A total of 26 teams entered the girls MCT, meaning the top six drew byes into the first round. Aside from Morris Catholic and Morristown, that group features 3-Mendham (9-3), 4-Chatham (8-6), 5-West Morris (8-4) and 6-Mount Olive (7-4).

The girls tournament also features another large group of teams that are legitimately capable of mounting a run. Seventh-seeded Morris Knolls (8-4) and eighth-seeded Mountain Lakes (9-2) are in position to play home games in the preliminary round and the first round. And should Morris Knolls win its first two games, the Golden Eagles are also the host school for the quarterfinals on Valentine's Day. 

Ninth-seeded Morris Hills (5-6), 10th-seeded Hanover Park (9-4), 11th-seeded Jefferson (9-2), 12th-seeded Randolph (8-4), 13th-seeded Parsippany Hills (5-5) and 14th-seeded Morristown-Beard (7-6) are among the other home teams in this week's 10 preliminary games complete matchups listed below), and are also capable of springing a first-round win on the road.

The preliminary games must be played on or before Saturday, with the first round to be completed on or before Sat., Feb. 7.  After the quarterfinals on Feb. 14 at Morris Knolls, the remainder of the tournament will take place at a new venue for the girls, the County College of Morris in Randolph.

The semifinals will be played at 5 and 6:30 p.m on Fri., Feb 20 at CCM, with the final on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

MORRIS COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS

17-Whippany Park (7-5) at 16-Mountain Lakes (5-6), winner at 1-Mount Olive (8-2); 24-Kinnelon (2-10) at 9-Delbarton (7-5). 25-Butler at 8-Hanover Park (9-5). 21-Randolph ((2-10) at 12-West Morris (5-8), winner at 5-Montville (9-2). 20-Dover (7-7) at 13-Morris Knolls (7-4), winner at 4-Mendham (9-3).

18-Boonton (7-6) at 15-Morris Catholic (6-6), winner at 2-Roxbury (9-2). 23-Parsippany Hills (2-9) at 10-Morristown-Beard (6-5), winner at 7-Morristown (6-6). 22-Madison (2-10) at 11-Pequannock (9-4), winner at 6-Jefferson (9-2). 19-Parsippany (7-6) at 14-Morris Hills (5-5), winner at 3-Chatham (9-4).

MORRIS COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS

17-Boonton (8-4) at 16-Pequannock (8-4), winner at 1-Morris Catholic (10-2). 24-Saint Elizabeth (3-10) at 9-Morris Hills (5-6) 25-Parsippany (2-12) at 8-Mountain Lakes (9-2). 21-Villa Walsh (5-7) at 12-Randolph (8-4), winner at 5-West Morris (8-4). 20-Roxbury (3-9) at 13-Parsippany Hills (5-5), winner at 4-Chatham (8-6).

18-Montville (4-7) at 15-Kinnelon (8-3), winner at 2-Morristown (9-1). 23-Whippany Park (3-10) at 10-Hanover Park (9-4). 26-Dover (0-13) at 7-Morris Knolls (8-4). 22-Butler (4-8) at 11-Jefferson (8-4), winner at 6-Mount Olive (7-4). 19-Madison (7-5) at 14-Morristown-Beard (7-6), winner at 3-Mendham (9-3).

Follow Sean Reilly on Twitter @SeanReillyHS

Morris Catholic remains the girls team to beat as 2015 MCT arrives

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