WEST ORANGE — Bragging rights for high school boys basketball in West Orange were on the line Tuesday, and there couldn’t have been a more exciting way for two of the town’s teams to settle it.
West Orange High and Seton Hall Prep battled until the absolute last second, but in the end, it is the parochial denizens from Northfield Avenue that will claim supremacy for now. The Pirates — who play on the east side of town — escaped from host West Orange with a 52-51 victory that was not sealed until .8 seconds remained on the scoreboard.
With 16 seconds left to play, Seton Hall’s Colin Flaherty sank the go-ahead three pointer from the right corner — his only points of the game — to put the Pirates ahead, 50-48, and the lead grew to 52-49 after Mario Bollo hit a pair of foul shots 10 seconds later. West Orange did have a chance to tie after it drew a shooting foul on a last-second, desperation three-point attempt, but only made the first two of three foul shots with .8 seconds remaining. The final foul shot rimmed out, deflected off a scrum of hands, and bounced out of bounds as time expired.
Ashton Miller dropped a game-best 19 points on four assists and four steals to lead Seton Hall. Geordan Walker had 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds for the Pirates, while Mario Bollo added six points, four boards, four assists, and three steals.
For West Orange, Ishmail Taylor had 12 points — 10 of which came in the second half — and seven rebounds. Joseph Fresco added 10 points and Goddy Marc chipped in 9 points to round out a balanced Mountaineer scoresheet that had seven different players score at least three points.
West Orange went into halftime trailing, 27-21, but wasted no time mounting a rally in the second half, tying things at 27 apiece three minutes into the third quarter on a Taylor bucket to cap a 6-0 run. From there, both teams played to within mostly a possession of each other down the homestretch.
West Orange then took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter, after Fresco drew contact while going up for a putback with under a minute left, which counted plus the foul. His foul shot was off, but nonetheless gave the Mountaineers the lead and momentum entering the final eight minutes.
However, Seton Hall opened up the fourth quarter on a mini 5-0 run to reclaim the lead, 40-36, then expanded it to 43-38 after a Geordan Walker three-point and-one play. But West Orange clawed back and made it a one-possession tilt on two occasions — both on layups by Taylor 30 seconds apart with just over two minutes left — to cut the West Orange deficit to 47-46.
The Mountaineers then jumped back ahead, 48-47, when Renard Barnes Jr. converted a transition layup with 1:30 left in regulation.
That would be the Mountaineers’ final lead, however. Seton Hall was forced to foul as a means of getting the ball back, but on both such occasions, West Orange missed the first end of one-and-one situations. After the second miss, Seton Hall gathered the rebound, Miller brought the ball up in transition, and found the open Flaherty on the right wing for the go-ahead three.
The Prep would never again trail.
Miller erupted for nine points — four field goals and a foul shot — during the first quarter to help Seton Hall forge a 16-8 lead after one frame. However, West Orange outscored Seton Hall, 13-11, during the second quarter behind six baskets from five different contributors.