SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- One of the best stories in New Jersey boys basketball came to an end Wednesday night as Scotch Plains-Fanwood fell to Bridgewater-Raritan at home, 59-49.
A season removed from just three victories, this year’s Raiders were able to have the best start to a season in program history by securing their first 13 games and were able to capture a season total of 22 victories, the most since the program won the Group 3 state title in its 2007-08 campaign.
Despite defeat, the Raiders played to the best of their abilities.
“I think they played their hearts out,” SPFHS head coach Steve Siracusa said. “We were down multiple times throughout the game and we just kept fighting back and we never gave in and I’m proud of them for that. I can’t really complain, even though I wish some shots went our way, but hopefully we learn from this and move forward from this great effort.”
With the season now over, Siracusa finds one word to describe his team.
“Since day one our motto was to be uncommon,” Siracusa said. “Coming from three wins last year to 22 this year and a 13-0 start to the season, that’s pretty uncommon. We have uncommon kids, they're special, they're great, they worked their butts off and I can’t be more proud of them. This will be an uncommon season and this team will always be one I remember for the rest of my life.”
Departing the team after Wednesday’s loss will be seniors Teddy Willmott, Nigel Nelson, Peter Warren and Ravi Desai.
Willmott will leave the program along with his 48 three-pointers from this season, the most on the team. Nelson exits from the team as a three-time varsity letter winner and career points leader from the active roster at 325. Warren’s excessive hustle up and down the court to create plays for his teammates will also be missed in next year’s squad. Desai will be known for giving a boost of energy for the team in pivotal moments to help out the players on the court perform better.
Although the seniors had plenty of on-court accomplishments, what they did off it is what Siracusa will remember.
“I can’t thank the seniors enough,” Siracusa said. “After last season it didn’t go our way. But the seniors came together, they bought in and the really bought into the team first mentality which made a huge difference this year. If it wasn’t for them and their work ethic in the off-season and bringing that family atmosphere we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we were this season.”
Without this year’s 2017 graduates on next year’s team, current juniors Tommy Drubulis, Jack Brady, Cooper Heisey and Lamont Cruse will look to continue the success of the program. All four of those returning players scored more than 150 points this season, with Drubulis (239 points), Cruse (218 points) and Brady (214 points) all averaging better than eight points a game.
Even with vital contributors returning for another season, this season’s triumphs can’t be duplicated without time being put into training out of season.
“Although we have a lot of players returning, this was an uncommon season,” Siracusa said. “These games and this record don’t come around all the time. Hopefully we learn from some of our mistakes this year and hopefully this game burns inside us so we can work that much harder in the off-season and try to get back here to make a run next year.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood finished the season with a 22-6 record, placing second in the UCC-Valley Division. The Raiders reached the quarterfinals in both the Union County Tournament and the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament.