MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The Runcie brothers led the fast-paced offensive attack of Columbia High School as they handed Millburn their second loss of the season in a 57-45 victory in first round of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Junior Mike Runcie finished with a team-high 18 points, and his older brother David was right behind him with 17.
"It's the best thing ever," Mike said about playing alongside his brother. "We've been playing together for three years since I was a freshman, and this is our last year so we really want to make it special and do something great."
Mike got off to a hot start hitting an early 3-pointer and closing out the first quarter with 9 points to give his team a 14-10 lead.
Threes from Mike and Anthony Starzynski fueled a 12-2 run for Columbia to start the second quarter. The Millers were outscored 16-7 in the quarter and were trailing by 13 at the half.
"You have to want to play defense, and the last couple of games they've been wanting to play defense," head coach Eddie Turner said. "They're willing to play for one another. They want this year to be special and they have a chance to do something special."
The Cougars defense came alive in the second half, which led to multiple scoring opportunities that David would capitalize on. He scored on three straight fast breaks and put the fans on their feet with a 3-pointer to cap his 9-0 run.
"We just wanted to play really good defense and deny the win," David said. "We've been playing well for the past five or six games, so it's coming together for us."
Columbia's Robert Gordon made a layup with seconds remaining in the third quarter to give his team a 20-point advantage going into the fourth. Gordon finished with 11 points.
The Millers made a final push down the stretch but could not complete the comeback despite back-to-back 3-pointers from Max Jacobs and Aidan Favia. Jacobs had a team-high 17 points and teammate Jordan Kahn finished with 12.
Columbia will host Irvington on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. The Millers will travel to Caldwell at the same time.