The Hopatcong Chiefs Boys’ basketball team has been one of the biggest surprises among local basketball this season. After a season where the Chiefs did not reach ten wins last year, they are now division champions inside the Freedom League. The Chiefs won by a single point as they went to Newton and beat the Braves on a last-second layup. This season has been a great success for the Chiefs.
The season started off with a victory at Sussex Tech. A 7-3 start was not how many pictured the season beginning, but the team played good basketball. The Chiefs then lost four games out of five to sit at 8-7, worrying about their seeding in the state playoffs. A strong push has, however, brought them back into the forefront of Sussex County basketball.
A five game win streak and a division championship is now fresh in the minds of all the players. The Chiefs have a state playoff game on March 3rd against the Boonton Bombers.
Some of the most notable games the Chiefs played included a thrilling contest against Lenape Valley, a victory against those same Patriots inside their gym, a final-second, one- point victory against the Wallkill Valley Rangers, and an unforgettable championship performance as the Chiefs escaped the Newton Braves. Most would agree that the Chiefs’ victories came from accomplished teamwork.
More recently, the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, as well as the cheerleaders had their senior night. A ceremony was held that honored all senior athletes and stat keepers for their contributions over four years. Seniors JonYanko, Chris Marcinek, Tobi Olugbenga, Jake Mayer, James Cranmer, and Carl Tate were all recognized as the crowd warmly applauded.
Senior Tobi Olugbenga had a night to remember as he scored thirty points in one of his last hurrahs. However, the team could not come out with a victory as they fell to the Boonton Bombers by nearly fifteen points.
It did not seem likely that this team would become division champions, but the Chiefs have defied the odds all year. A reason for the initial doubt arose before the season even started. Junior guard and expected starter, Andrew Nee suffered a major knee injury during a football game. The team continued forward in spite of the temporary loss.
The team has been led by seniors Jonathan Yanko, Chris Marcinek, Tobi Olugbenga, Jake Mayer, and James Cranmer. Juniors John McCloskey and Anton Pezzano have also made major contributions to the team. Marcinek ran the floor for the team; while Yanko was in charge of grabbing rebounds and doing anything else he could for the team. All of the team’s players have proven themselves time and time again to leave little doubt about their capabilities.
This season has also been a huge success for varsity coach Jim Tobin. While leading the team to their championship this season, it is the first time he has accomplished this since he coached his nephew Matt Tobin. Coach Tobin has once again proven himself as one of the best and most respected coaches in the area.
The Chiefs season is coming to an end soon. State playoffs begin in the beginning of March and they will run for about two weeks. The first challenge is a home game against the Boonton Bombers. This will be the second meeting between these two teams in nearly a week. Chiefnation is expected to show up very loud and supportive for the team.
If the Chiefs can manage to come out with a win, a possible matchup with the higher-seeded Woodridge looks eminent. For now there are still the last, yet most important pages to story of the 2015 Chiefs.