RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph boys basketball team opened the state playoffs by beating Kearny at their own game, running away from the Kardinals to take a 75-56 win in the NJSIAA first round matchup.
“I loved the speed and tempo we played with,” said Rams coach Matt Tighe. “As coaches we can move on from some turnovers if we are playing fast and attacking and I thought we did that tonight.”
It was Kearny who came out of the gate fast at the start however, quickly taking a 7-2 lead in the opening moments, pressuring the Rams with a full court press and playing up tempo offense.
Randolph was prepared however, and went on a 15-2 run from there buy dissecting the press with precision passing and deep backdoor cuts down the court for easy buckets.
“We haven't been playing our best basketball for a while and I believe this game can be a turning point for u,” said center and team captain Luke Nathan. “We worked on breaking the press in practice all week to prepare for this game and it really paid off with getting easy buckets all game.”
While Nathan was blocking shots ( 6 in the first half ) and cleaning rebounds off the boards, Ryan Maughan and Justin Polesuk were dropping in 13 and 12 points respectively to lead the Rams to a commanding 44-27 lead at half.
“Ryan and Chris ( Cheng ) did a great job getting us started, and when our backcourt plays like that we are going to be a tough out,” said Tighe. “Justin was excellent scoring…he rebounds like he is 6'5. Luke had close to a triple double last night, and defensively he anchored us on drives to the rim and was very active. I thought the bench, fans and kids had a great showing last night.”
While the game had at first looked to be an easy win, things got tighter in the third as Kearny made a run out of the halftime locker room, cutting the lead to nine late in the third. The Rams quickly answered with an 8-0 run to restore the commanding lead.
“I told the team if we can play this way for another week we will be sectional champs,” said Tighe. “This team had big expectations coming into the year and we came up a little short in regards to the county, now from a state standpoint no one is talking about us and I think that helps fuel the guys.”
Maughan finished the game with 21 points, while Nathan had 18, Polesuk had 17, and Chris Cheng added nine.
It felt great to start states with a win, coach Tighe was very happy with us after the game,” said Nathan. “He knew this was the kind of basketball that we are all capable of playing and now we have to make sure to continue this level of play as we make our state run.”