MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Brothers David and Michael Runcie have led the Columbia High School Cougars to a 15-8 record and a spot in the NJSIAA state basketball tournament.

David, 18, is a senior and is the team’s leading scorer with more than 400 points scored this season. Younger brother Michael, 16, is a junior and the second leading scorer with 365 points.

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The Runcies started playing basketball together at a young age, when David was 6 and Michael was 5, and they haven’t looked back. The two live in South Orange and played for South Orange Middle School as well, but couldn’t play on a team together until high school because of age differences.

The Runcies’ love for the game has grown over the last decade and although they don’t know for sure why they fell in love with the game, David said he thinks their father had something to do with it.

“Our dad played college basketball, and I don’t know if that’s the reason but I kind of just liked it ever since I started playing it,” said David with a chuckle. “Maybe he had something to do with it.”

The two complement each other on and off the court as they spend time together every day talking about school, games, practices and just about anything else you can think of.

“I think this is the best experience possible because there is nothing like playing with your brother,” Michael said. “Being able to go home and have dinner, talk about the game, talk about other stuff, it’s nice being so close to one of your teammates.”

One thing the two brothers stressed was how well they know each other and their tendencies on the court during games and practice.

“He’s more of a point guard, I’m more of a shooting guard and he knows where I like the ball on the court,” David said. “I know sometimes when he’s going to drive and pass it out.”

While Michael still has a year left at Columbia, older brother David is already looking to the future. The senior says a few colleges have looked at him for basketball, including Wesleyan, Kean, Ramapo and Montclair State, but he hasn’t yet made up his mind.

David said he’s not sure what he wants to study when he goes to college but he is leaning toward pursuing economics, while Michael is interested in computer science. Both want to play college basketball but have decided they’re going to go in different directions.

“It’s not like I don’t want to play with him, but it will be different having new teammates and it’s a new experience that it would be great having,” said Michael, and David agrees.

The two also differ in their favorite NBA teams. Michael is a Lakers fan and David is Miami Heat fan.

While they may have different plans, they have nothing but compliments for each other’s game.

“David put on a few pounds and he’s a lot more muscular than previous years, so he’s shooting the ball a lot better even though he was a great shooter before,” Michael said.

“For Michael, he’s gotten more efficient and he’s averaging a lot more than last year, we both are,” David said. “Both of our games have evolved, both of us are scoring more points, and we are having a lot more impact than last year.”

One more person the Runcies had praise for was their head coach, Eddie Turner.

“I really like our coach, Eddie, he’s an amazing coach and without him we wouldn’t be as good of players,” Michael said. “He really gave us the opportunity to be where we are today.”

David said: “Ever since Mike was a freshman, he’s played varsity because our coach believes in him and I’ve been playing since I was a sophomore. I think that’s great he let us play when we were young. It gave us a chance to develop and gain experience over the years.”

As for this season, both Michael and David said they are looking forward to their last few regular season games together and rooting for each other to reach the 1,000-point mark as both are just over 100 points away from accomplishing that feat.

The Columbia Cougars will start their run at the State Championship against North Hunterdon High School on March 4. The Runcies said they wanted to thank their fans, the audiences who have given them support this season and still do, and the Alternative Press for naming them Athletes of the Week.

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.