Highlanders boys basketball team fall in quarterfinals to end season

| 06 Mar 2019 | 12:16

    By Garrett Hemmerich
    WEST MILFORD – The Highlanders boys basketball team lost to the Ramapo Raiders in the quarterfinals of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament last Thursday night, 73-53.
    The loss brings West Milford’s 2018-19 season to an end with a record of 19-8.
    “This has been a tremendous season with a group of players that grew constantly both as individuals and as a team,” said head coach John Finke. “We started the season 4-4, but found the way we wanted to play and finished the (regular) season 15-4.”
    Senior Josiah Basket capped off his impressive year with a team-leading 18 points, while fellow seniors Brandon Licursi (15 points, four blocks) and Chris Gomez (13 points, five assists, three steals) also put in strong performances.
    In the end, however, it wasn’t enough to beat the third-seeded Ramapo.
    The Highlanders entered the playoffs as the sixth seed.
    It was an eventful season for West Milford, though, as members of the team hit some major milestones along the way.
    Basket became just the seventh boys basketball player in West Milford High School history to reach 1,000 career points during a Jan. 10 win over Lakeland Regional.
    “Josiah Basket had one of the best seasons in the history of the school, setting the all-time scoring record for a single season with 675 points,” said coach Finke. “He finished his career third all-time with 1,491 points.”
    The guard and team captain averaged 25 points and just under five rebounds per game this season.
    Less than a week after Basket reached 1,000 points, fellow guard and team captain Gomez became the school’s all-time assist leader during an epic comeback victory over Indian Hills. He finished his high school career with 548 assists.
    “Chris Gomez was our leader,” added coach Finke. “Making sure we took care of the ball while still pushing the pace and getting guys the ball in the right spot at the right time.”
    Gomez averaged just under seven assists per game this season, along with 10.6 points, three rebounds, and 1.9 steals.
    “We lost our biggest inside presence in Zack Milko right before we had to play a very good Clifton team,” coach Finke said. “But following that game, our true identity came out and we played tough and fast the rest of the way.”
    According to the coach, senior Dan DiMinno’s intensity and athleticism added another level defensively that was key to the team’s turnaround.
    Coach Finke also cited the consistent play of Licursi and junior Kevin DeRaffele, specifically their rebounding and inside scoring.
    Now, the team looks ahead to the 2019-20 season and with 11 seniors moving on, the Highlanders will have to rely on new and returning players, like DeRaffele, to contribute.