MILLBURN, N.J. - History was made on Saturday during the final game of the first annual Joe Valentine Classic, as the Millburn girls' varsity basketball team completed the varsity-sweep over Livingston, 46-33, at Millburn High School.
With 7:12 left in the first half, mass hysteria swept through the gymnasium as Millers’ senior Jenny Smith’s shot sailed through the net. It was only Smith’s sixth points of the game, but it gave her 1,001 career points, making the four-year varsity letter winner only the eighth player in Millburn history to surpass the 1,000-point mark.
The referees working the game allowed a short two-minute intermission for Smith and her teammates to celebrate her accomplishment. While Smith’s, family and friends celebrated, the senior guard was overwhelmed with a sense of relief.
“Just relief.” Smith said when asked about her initial reaction following the record-breaking basket. “I was expecting it, after being five points short last game, and it was just good to finally get it over with and accomplish it.“
Smith’s 1000 points was the highlight of a one-sided affair in favor of Millburn (6-5). The Millers controlled every aspect of the game, including rebounds, turnovers, and field goal percentage.
Millburn jumped out to an early first quarter lead, 12-4, a lead the Millers never even come close to relinquishing to the Lancers (6-6). After a second quarter run, which featured three Millers, Smith, Megan Weissman, and Courtney Brosnan, scoring at least six points in the half, Millburn entered the third quarter up 24-10.
Livingston’s 10 points was the lowest they have ever put up in a single half. The Lancers were suffocated by a fierce Millers defense. Since taking the reigns as head coach Millburn’s Bill Drennan has preached defense, and saw his vision come true Saturday.
“We are a defensive team.” Drennan said. “Since I’ve been here, that’s what we’ve done, played defense first.”
Drennan and the Millers seemed to have an answer for every Lancer except for guards Nicole LaRusso and Katie Horiuchi. LaRusso and Horiuchi both finished with seven points each and were the lone bright spots in a game Lancer head coach Patty Kaes and her team would like to forget.
While LaRusso shot 33 percent from behind the arc and Horiuchi finished with a field goal percentage of 40 percent, the Lancers as a team shot 29 percent from the field, by far Livingston’s worst shooting performance of the season.
With a little over five minutes left, the Millers stretched their lead to 22 points, allowing for both coaches to remove their starters from the game. Smith, who finished the game with 1,003 points left with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Four years ago Smith said she would have never predicted such a feat possible, Drennan, on the other hand, saw the potential his star senior guard possessed.
“Yes, when she was a freshman we immediately put her on varsity.” Drennan said. “I always knew she had the potential to accomplish something like this.”
Livingston will look to rebound against West Essex (7-5) Thursday at 4 p.m., while the Millers will hope to keep their latest win streak alive against Columbia (4-10) Thursday at 7 p.m.