Columbia Falls to Seton Hall Prep 49-43 in Essex County Tournament

Mike Runcie gets to the basket for an easy two against Seton Hall Prep. Runcie had a game-high 24 points for Columbia. Credits: Mike Romano
Robert Gordon drives to the basket for hard-fought two points for the Cougars. Credits: Mike Romano
Columbia's J.C. Beaubrun jams a dunk after a fast-break opportunity in the first half. Credits: Mike Romano
Junior Kelly Hogan denies Cougars' Mike Runcie. Hogan had seven blocks in the contest. Credits: Mike Romano

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Seton Hall Prep’s basketball team edged out Columbia, 49-43, in a physical semifinal of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday night at West Orange High School.

Seton Hall was unable to contain the Cougars' second-leading scorer in Mike Runcie, who finished with a game-high 23 points, but held his older brother David Runcie to just two points. Columbia's other guard, senior Robert Gordon, was also kept in check and finished with five points.

"Some of our shooters were off, and usually we're on," Mike Runcie said. "This was one of our biggest games. There was big crowd turnout, and a crazy atmosphere, and we're just lucky to play in it."

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Despite leading after the first quarter, Columbia suffered a 9-1 run at the hands of the Pirates going into halftime. Both teams traded opportunities in the second stanza as the momentum shifted back-and-forth.

After Mike Runcie put the Cougars up 38-37 in the fourth quarter, junior Kelly Hogan responded with a put-back that gave the Pirates the lead that they did not relinquish for the rest of the game. Seton Hall won the foul game in the final minutes and Mike Runcie tacked on a lay-up with a few ticks remaining on the clock.

Hogan led the Pirates, finishing with 10 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks in the victory over the Cougars.

"My first couple of shots didn't fall, so I went away from that for a little while," Hogan said. "Then I started getting a lot of blocks and rebounds so I just kept focusing on that."

Sophomore Stephen Ferraro also gave a strong effort for Seton Hall, contributing 13 points, six assists and four steals.

"We wanted to limit their three guards," Pirates' head coach Kevin Williams said. "Our game plan was to deny them the ball and not let them shoot. We were willing to let them attack the basket because we had help, but we didn't want them to get any chances for easy three's."

The Pirates will take on No. 1 in the state Newark East Side next weekend for the ECT Championship game.

"We beat them once when they were shorthanded," Williams said. "We'll give it a shot, but I'm proud of our guys, as young as they are, just to get here."

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

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