MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Columbia High School held Newark Vocational to four points in the first half in a 59-43 victory in the quarterfinals of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
David and Mike Runcie led the scoring run, accounting for 25 of the Cougars' 30 points in the first half.
"We didn't want them to come in with any confidence," Cougars' head coach Eddie Turner said. "We knew they thought they could play with us, but when you get their confidence down they're not going to execute the same and they're not going to want it the same."
After the game was tied at four, Columbia blew it open by scoring 28 unanswered points, holding the Eagles scoreless for the entire second quarter and into the third.
“This is the best defense we've played in four years,” Turner said. “We were focused and they were all where they were supposed to be, and it made it really hard for them.”
Columbia's fast-paced offense was no match for the Eagles' defense as they couldn't find the answer to the Runcies’ quickness to the basket. David was the Cougars' high scorer with 20 points while his younger brother finished with 14.
The Cougars were active on defense and stayed in front of the ball to shut down the Eagles' offense, powered by the team’s leading scorer in Alfonzo Anderson.
"They were a really good shooting team so we wanted to build up an early lead and basically contain them from there," David said. "We're really buying into our defense. We're staying in front of our man and playing better defense as a team."
After scoring only two points in the first stanza, Anderson had the hot hand in the third quarter, hitting three 3-pointers to make the score 41-17 at the end of the quarter. Anderson finished the game with a team-high 20 points.
Despite outscoring Columbia, 39-29, in the second half, Newark Vocational could not find a rhythm before the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Cougars advance to the semifinals round of the ECT and will play Seton Hall Prep next weekend for an opportunity at the finals.