BY BRETT FRIEDENSOHN
The men’s basketball team at County College of Morris started its season 2-1 in region play and 3-5 overall with a 92-78 loss to Raritan Valley Community College Tuesday, Nov. 29.
CCM hosted this season’s men’s Turkey Hoop Shoot Tournament, an annual four-team single-elimination tournament featuring teams from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and taking place during the NJCAA’s regular season. CCM was eliminated in the first round of the tournament with a 94-77 loss to Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) Friday, Nov. 18.
Assistant coach Clinton Barnhill, who acted as head coach at the game in the absence of head coach Anthony Obery, said that the team worked well in the first half but not the second.
“We lost our principles in the second half,” Barnhill said. “We teach this stuff all year long: defense starts offense. We did it the other way around, and when you give a team like that confidence, this is the end result.”
Roger Stevens, assistant athletic director at CCM, said that he has noticed the team making vast improvements from last season when it finished 1-14 in the region and 3-19 overall and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
“From what I’ve seen, they look 100 percent better than what they were last year,” Stevens said. “So if they continue that way, game by game, they certainly have a chance to be in the playoffs.”
After the loss to RCGC, which gave the team a record of 2-1 in the region and 2-3 overall, Barnhill expressed disappointment in the record, citing struggles on defense as hinderance.
“Just to be frank, it sucks,” Barnhill said. “We expect a lot out of these kids; we expect for them to be winners, and at this point, it’s early in the season, yeah, but there’s no moral victories … We have to be better on defense. I think if you see it where we’re giving up 85 points in a game, on this level, that equates to a lot of losses. We know what the issue is. It’s just about the kids buying in.”
Lamont Williams, men’s basketball player and liberal arts major, said that he expects his team’s record to improve as the players learn to have more cohesion with each other.
“Early on, it’s not where we want it to be,” Williams said. “We’re a very young team, and most of them are freshmen, so once we start getting a knack for each other and trusting each other, we’ll have a better record.”
After the loss to RCGC, Williams agreed with Barnhill regarding the team’s need to improve on defense.
“Like our coach said, we lost our principles late in the game,” Williams said. “We started giving up silly points … Scoring is our strength. Hustling is our strength. We’ve just got to get better on defense.”
Barnhill said that he has confidence in his team improving in necessary areas.
“We’ve got a young group, and they’re learning,” Barnhill said. “But at the same time, it has to click, and when it does, we’ll be that special team that myself and the other coaches see, but until then, we’ll have the roadblocks.”