MILLBURN, NJ – When the 2014 Essex County Boys Basketball Tournament bracket was announced on Monday, Millburn was left shocked and disappointed by their No. 14 ranking.
Following early season wins over No. 9 Montclair-Kimberley and No. 11 Barringer, as well as Morris County power Chatham, the Millers expected a higher seed and a first round bye.
Despite the disappointment, Millburn didn’t let the bracket effect them, as the Millers opened the ECT with a 53-34 victory over Golda Och.
Millburn’s Ben Kizel led the charge with a game-high 15 points as the Millers improved to 12-0 on the year.
“We don’t really understand how we got the 14-seed,” Kizel said. “We’ve played some tough teams. We beat Chatham. We beat West Side. We’re a little frustrated about that. We’re going to try and prove a point to show that we’re better than that.”
The Millers struggled in the early part of the game, leading by only three points after the first quarter. Kizel made only one bucket, with Jordan Kahn carrying the load with six of his 10 points.
The slow start didn’t surprise head coach Roger Blind, with the snow storm cancelling games and practices the past two days.
However, instead of shutting down, Millburn rallied to an 11-point lead at halftime. Kizel and Milo Freeman each had six points in the second quarter, individually equaling the Roadrunners total for the period.
Millburn doubled up Golda Och in the third, holding the Roadrunners to just six points as five different Millers scored a basket to go up 45-26.
Josh Drill tried to pull the Roadrunners back into the game with a five point fourth quarter effort, but Millburn’s second-team was too much.
“Usually coach says we’re the underdog; today was a little bit different,” Kizel said. “I think we came out too flat. We were a little bit overconfident in the beginning and didn’t play as hard as we should have.”
Millburn now awaits the winner of Saturday’s preliminary round game between West Side and Newark Academy, both of whom the Millers beat earlier in the year.