NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex boys basketball team is still going through growing pains at the varsity level after a 53-29 defeat at the hands of Millburn—handing the Millers their sixth-consecutive victory and suffering its seventh-consecutive loss.
“We need to play with a lot more intensity than we played with and they have got to learn how to do that,” said West Essex head coach Bill Humes. “We probably have a few guys out there playing a year ahead of where they should be, but that’s what we have and we go with what we have. We’re learning to play at this level, but we’ve got to play with more intensity.”
Millburn took it to West Essex in the first, as the Knights came out flat against the Millers.
Millburn’s Ross Gang led the squad on an 8-0 run to end the first quarter, giving the Millers an 18-6 lead. Gang finished the contest with a game-high 20 points as he closes in on 1,000 for his career.
“They kind of took it to us,” said Humes.
The Knights battled back in the second to try and close the gap with their best quarter of the game. Ian McLaughlin and David Germain sent the Knights on a 9-6 scoring run for that timeframe to close the gap to 24-15 at the half.
“I was happy with how our team responded in the second quarter, but it still wasn’t the things we do every day in practice,” said Humes.
McLaughlin, who recently returned from an injury, was particularly impressive in the first half for West Essex, netting all six of his points in that timeframe. McLaughlin added a few assists for good measure as he continues to try and find his conditioning.
“He’s starting to get his wind back,” said Humes. “Hopefully we get him rolling more and more and we can get more out of him as it goes on [because] he plays hard all the time.”
Ultimately, deficiencies in the Knights’ offensive operations led to a strong start on the second half for the Millers. Gang joined Matt Bernstein and Sam Herbst to help the Millers out to a 40-22 lead to end the third quarter. A young Knights squad just couldn’t answer the call.
“I would think that as young players, this is what you love to do,” said Humes. “You’re here everyday and you should bring that passion, but there’s a little doubt in their minds as to what they’re doing, so we try and keep it simple to ease them into it. I see a lot of positive signs, but we have to play with a lot more intensity consistently throughout the game.”
West Essex continued to fight hard in the final quarter to make it a respectable game. Pat Sansone came off the bench to lead the team in the fourth quarter with five of his team-high nine points for the game, showing some positive signs for the Knights squad.
“[Sansone] looked a lot more comfortable today,” said Humes. “We have got a bunch of guys stepping up on varsity for the first time and they’re learning as they go.”
The Knights fall to 1-7 on the year as they look to find their winning stride. The group will look to rebound with its next contest on Jan. 16 against Christ The King High School.