PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Piscataway High School girls varsity basketball team’s season came to end Thursday evening as the third-seeded Chiefs fell to sixth-seeded Franklin, No. 4 in the NJ.com Top 20, 74-31, in the quarterfinals of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament in Piscataway.
It was a battle between county champions as Piscataway (22-5) won the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament while the Warriors (19-7) were crowned champions of Somerset County.
Franklin took some tough losses earlier this season to out of state foes and to select top New Jersey programs, but have re-captured its mojo of late and are primed to win the section, Group 4, and the Tournament of Champions all over again.
From start to finish, Franklin utilized a hounding full court press which created chaos for the Chiefs offensively. The press caused a slew of turnovers (Franklin tallied 19 steals) and easy points in transition.
The game was tied at 2-2 early on, but the Warriors went on a 9-0 run. The smiles continued throughout the game as Franklin led 32-13 at the half and 53-20 after three quarters.
“I thought we came in focused defensively,” Franklin coach Aubrey Taylor said. “Making stops gave us energy and gave us easy buckets.
“...(It) Always does. As long as you apply that pressure it allows you to run and that’s our game and that’s our gameplan. ...I thought we played well overall.”
Taylor’s team was led by Diamond Miller, who scored a game-high 29 points with eight rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and four steals. Miller plays center for Franklin, but has all the makings of a Division-I player at guard/forward. Miller has handles, size, can shoot, facilitates, and makes her teammates better.
“I thought she played well all around,” Taylor said. “You know, defensively, rebounding, passing the ball and creating things on offense, and scoring. She had a great game.”
Added Puder: “She’s outstanding. I know she’s going to make one Division-I coach very, very happy.”
Miller is the sister of Piscataway senior forward LaNiya Miller, who scored 12 points fighting through foul trouble in her last scholastic game.
According to NJ.com, Miller, the 2018 GMCT MVP, ended her career with 1,279 points.
The two faced each other a total of three times -- once in a regular season game two years ago and twice in the postseason the last two seasons. Diamond and LaNiya are daughters of former Villanova men’s basketball star Lance Miller. Lance Miller was inducted into the Villanova University Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2011. He was a second team All-Big East selection in 1992 and a third-team honoree 1991 after previously being named to the conference’s All-Rookie team in 1990. During his time, the Wildcats won 57 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament two times with one NIT appearance.
Camille Gray added 16 points to join Diamond Miller in double figures for Franklin with six steals. On the 28 made field goals in the game for the Warriors, they had 14 assists.
“That was the best team we played against by far. The intensity they brought was great,” Chiefs head coach Chris Puder said. “The kids don’t give up and use all 94 feet. It’s something we aspire to, and now that we’ve seen it, maybe the girls will understand better what we’re looking for in a program.”
“They won the T of C last year. They’re one heck of a ball club. We know we have work to do and next season starts tomorrow.”
On a positive note for Piscataway, Amari Nolan came off the bench and provided a spark and some energy in the second quarter, making back-to-back jumpers. Nolan recorded six points and seven rebounds.
“Amari played great today getting rebounds and such and she’s a sophomore which helps,” Puder said.
Doing some quick reflection, Puder, who is in his first year as the head coach at the varsity level for the Chiefs, called the season a success. While they were stopped short in the state tournament against a very good Franklin team, the Chiefs won the GMCT for the first time since 2015 and finished with a 22-5 record including 12-2 in the Red Division.
“Looking back, it was a positive first step. Not a lot of people picked us to win our conference and rightfully so,” Puder said. “I’ll take 22-5 with GMCT championships at both the varsity and junior varsity level. Not bad for year one, but there’s still room to improve.”
*Note, the fifth-seeded PHS varsity boys team defeated fourth-seeded Millburn, 57-45, in its quarterfinals game of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament on Thursday night. Mattias Arrindell and Antonio Chandler scored 17 and 15 points apiece fo the Chiefs, which will face top-seeded and No. 7 Newark East Side in the semifinals.
The Red Raiders topped Piscataway last year in the quarterfinals of the tournament, 86-30. The rematch will take place on Saturday in Newark.
Find more about that game versus Millburn at TAPinto Piscataway as well.
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