MILLBURN NJ- The 4th seeded Millburn Millers boys basketball team bounced back from a first quarter deficit to defeat the 13th seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood basketball team in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 NJSIAA Tournament on Tuesday night.
The Millers had hot hands as they triumphed over the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders. Sophomore, Jake Bank was the star of the night. Bank is filling the point guard position left vacant by senior Aidan Favia who suffered a season ending injury. Bank had four 3-point shots to help lead the Millers to victory.
Senior-captain Ben Kizel also had an impressive showing. Kizel led the Millers with 18 points. Kizel has shown tremendous leadership throughout the year and has helped lead the Millers through tough situations. One tough situation for the Millers this year was when Favia endured an injury. Kizel has helped the Millers work past this setback. “Since Aidan has been out I've look to be more aggressive offensively. I don't think we played our best game; we have to start playing better on defense. We play Plainfield on Thursday and they are a very athletic and good team.”
Despite losing to end their season, Scotch Plains-Fanwood had a valiant effort. Leo Ramos had 17 points and was the Raiders top scorer. Chris Gibbons also had an impressive showing for Scotch Plains-Fanwood with 10 points.
The Millers ended the first quarter down, 13 to 10, but were able to gain ground and go into halftime up by two. The Millers were propelled in the first half by guards Max Jacobs and Ben Kizel, who combined for 15 of the Millers 28 points in the first half. The Millers were able to sustain this lead with the help of Jacobs who had 13 points. After the game, Jacobs said, "we feel like we played well enough to win the game but today showed that need to improve in all parts of the game, especially our on ball defense and our rebounding. We cannot get away with the way we played today come Thursday against Plainfield"
Millburn excelled on both sides of the ball Tuesday night. The Millers defense, led by center Jordan Kahn is a force to be reckoned with. Kahn who is recognized for his monstrous blocks helped keep Scotch Plains out of the paint. Kahn also scored 15 points on offense. Kahn and many other Millers were happy to get “back in the groove” with a win on Tuesday night after dropping two recent regular season games. Kahn’s mindset is on the future and finding the best defensive strategy in order to be successful against Plainfield. Kahn said, “None of us are satisfied. Lately we haven't been "winning" games. We have been simply out scoring the other teams. We won't be able to do that against Plainfield. We have to step it up on defense.”
The Miller’s home court, which has been nicknamed, “the barn” was filled with students and faculty alike on Tuesday night. The crowd did not disappoint. The student section thunderously rallied with excitement as the Millers won to advance to the second round of the state tournament.
The Millers who are 21-4 on the year hope to extend their season deep into the state tournament. With Tuesday’s win the Millers showed that they have earned their 4th seeded ranking. The Millers next test will be on Thursday night at home against the 5th seeded Plainfield Cardinals.