Columbia Pulls Away Late to Beat Irvington, 48-38

The Cougars huddle before the start of their Essex County Tournament game against Irvington on Tuesday. Credits: Eric Hostettler

MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Columbia High came out on top of the Irvington Blue Knights, 48-38, in boys basketball Tuesday afternoon. The Cougars were paced by Michael Runcie, who led all scorers with 15 points, and Robert Gordon, who added 14.

Despite a quick start from Runcie, who scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter, the Cougars got off to a sloppy start, turning the ball over multiple times before getting their first basket.

The Blue Knights got off to an equally slow start, settling for contested shots and turning the ball over as well. The first quarter ended with the Cougars up, 13-9, after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Gordon.

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“It was a bad game for us; we had four days off and so did they,” Cougars coach Eddie Turner said. “We had a lot of turnovers, took some bad shots, it was sloppy.”

David Runcie scored four of his eight points in the second quarter to lead a still-struggling Columbia to a 24-14 halftime lead. The Cougars held the Blue Knights to just five points in the quarter.

Gordon hit another two 3-pointers midway through the third quarter to help Columbia hold their 10-point lead. Irvington’s Kevin Moise responded, leading the charge by knocking down three consecutive shots to cut the lead to five points, 36-31, to end the third.

Irvington kept chipping away at the Cougars' lead with help from Nyjai Edmond, who knocked down a contested 3-pointer to pull within four, 42-38.

With under two minutes left in the fourth, the Cougars’ Anthony Starznyski stepped back for a clutch 3-pointer to put Columbia up 45-38.

“I was screaming for the shot, he won three games for us before,” said Turner of Starznyski’s clutch shooting late in the fourth.

After a slew of fouls by Irvington, the Cougars put the Blue Knights away with David Runcie hitting three free throws from the charity stripe.

Despite a sloppy game on both sides of the ball for the Cougars, Turner had positive things to say about his players.

“Even when you don’t score, the numbers aren’t there, it’s the little things like the right shots, being in the right place, defending,” Turner said. “They put themselves in a position to win.”

The Cougars were not able to practice as scheduled due to storm.

“We didn’t get a chance to practice or do a lot of things, it’s terrible,” said Turner, adding jokingly, “Where was all this snow when I was in school?”

The Cougars will next play host to conference rivals Shabazz at 7 p.m. on Thursday, weather permitting.

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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