MILLBURN, NJ - A new rivalry was born between the Millburn men's basketball team and the Bloomfield Bengals in 2017. The two teams split the first two contests, both of which coming down to overtime or the last second of regulation. Fittingly, the Millers and the Bengals met in the third round of the Essex County Tournament for the rubber match.
Millburn, as a #7 seed, and Bloomfield, as a #10 seed, both were awarded byes for the first two rounds.
The two previous matchups have been dictated by series of runs, and momentum; Millburn had started slowly on the offensive end in both games. However, the Millers dictated the tempo early and scored a whopping 14 points in each of the first two-quarters.
NJSIAA All-Star Zach Ravitz had a field day on the offensive end, scoring 15 points in the first half. On January 31, when the Bengals and the Millers last met, Ravitz struggled from the field, shooting 36%. In response to this, Bloomfield double teamed and was able to contain Ravitz. However, the Bengals refrained from doubling Ravitz this time around, setting him up for success.
It was also clear early on that Millburn's Ross Gang was dialed in from the field as well, unlike the last toe-to-toe with Bloomfield, when Gang shot just 38% from the field. Gang and Ravitz combined for 39 points.
The Miller's impenetrable defense stole the show and kept the Bengals at bay. Bloomfield's leading scorer, Michael Ramos, was limited to just five points. Richie Guillame, who averages 10 points per game, only managed four points. These two guards were unable to score on Ross Gang, Charlie Levison, and Will Rosenberg. Of course, Ravitz anchored the defense with his elite shot blocking.
"The defense today was not good. It was magnificent" said Millburn Head Coach Roger Blind. "After the disappointment on Tuesday, we called this the start of our second season. The players certainly responded."
Between the improved offense and the bulletproof defense, the Millers were able to win in a 53-36 rout.
Not only were the Millers able to advance to the next round of the Essex County Tournament while taking the third game of the most heated rivalry in the Super Essex Conference, but Coach Blind also captured his 200th victory. Blind, who led St. Peter's University to the NCAA Tournament in the mid-90s, credits others for his high school success.
"When you get something like this, it's about two groups of people. Number one is about your assistant coaches. Number two is about the players. You can't do it without them."