NEWTON, N.J. -- The Franklin High School boys basketball team made the hour trip up to Newton, N.J. in Sussex County to play in the Route 206 Challenge, a holiday hoops tournament, over the last few days.
Franklin (4-1) played three games -- against Hanover Park, host Newton, and Roxbury -- and came out of it unblemished, as it defeated Roxbury in the final round on Monday, 49-39, to take home the championship.
Franklin trailed by one at halftime, but outscored the Gaels 33-22 in the second half.
“Roxbury was a very good team,” Franklin coach Tony Mento said. “They are going to win a lot of ball games this year. They are well coached. The first half, I think because of the unfamiliarity we were feeling each other out. I think our guys played very disciplined in the second half. We’re learning how to win. We played good December basketball and hopefully we’ll be better in January.”
In the final, the Warriors came out victorious despite not having a player in double figures for scoring. Seven players in total put the ball in the bucket, led by Tracy Brown’s nine points. Franklin saw plenty of balance as Demi Alao, Isaiah Cotton, and Edward Turay all netted eight points apiece while Joshua Kuroda-Grauer had seven. Ikenna Eluwa recorded three points as well.
Trevor Napoliello led Roxbury with 11.
“We’ve been very lucky throughout this tournament that we’ve had some balanced scoring,” Mento said. “We went 11 deep today. Guys come in and they contribute. We were able to have some good balance. I don’t think we had a guy in double figures. It was a good team win.”
Friday, the Warriors defeated Hanover Park in a high-scoring affair, 101-90. Franklin tallied 50 rebounds and 28 assists in the contest and five players score in double digits - Alao, Cotton, Anthony Milligan, Kuroda-Grauer, and Brown. Milligan, who scored 22 points, and Kuroda-Grauer both had double-doubles.
Saturday, in round two, Franklin edged Newton, 64-63, The Warriors led 37-25 at the break and held on despite a rally by the hosts in the last two quarters of action. Milligan and Brown were the high-scorers with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Milligan also had three blocks and Kuroda-Grauer recorded seven assists and five steals.
The Route 206 Challenge provided just that, a challenge, as it gave Franklin the opportunity to play teams it normally wouldn’t see throughout the year.
“That was a goal of ours,” Mento said. “We wanted to play some different teams with different styles to prepare us for the conference schedule coming up in January. We played an up-tempo team, we played a very solid defensive team, and today we played a skilled team that ran discipline things. We’ll see all of those tings in the Skyland Conference, so it was good for us.”
With the trophy in tow, the Warriors are riding high with confidence heading into 2020. Franklin returns to action against Gill St. Bernard’s on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in Somerset.
The Knights are currently ranked No. 8 in the preseason NJ.com Top 20.
“Yeah, I think so. It was a great learning experience,” Mento said. “Any time you can win a trophy and bring it home the kids feel good about themselves. We’re hoping it translates into some wins in January (and beyond).”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
TAPinto Franklin/Somerset is independently owned and operated by Malik A. Lyons FHS Class of 93’ Graduate.
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