Highlanders take early lead over Hornets and never look back

| 27 Dec 2018 | 12:46

By Garrett Hemmerich
WEST MILFORD – Josiah Basket capped off his 24-point performance with a jumper late in the 4th quarter Friday night to help the Highlanders pull away from Passaic Valley for good, beating the Hornets 81-70.
While West Milford had been up since the first quarter, that didn’t mean it didn’t get dicey toward the end, with Passaic Valley getting the lead to under 10 with just over two minutes to play.
After a big 3-second call against the Highlanders, the Hornets managed to get to the free throw line on their ensuing possession, hitting 1 of 2 to make the score 76-68.
West Milford, however, answered with a couple of big plays from Zack Milko (18 points, 11 rebounds), which was the story of the night.
After both teams traded baskets to start the game, Milko was able to fight through a foul to make a shot, then hit the free throw to complete the 3-point play.
He had another big put-back after a beautiful fast break orchestrated by point guard Chris Gomez to put the Highlanders up 13-5.
The Hornets would answer with a 3-pointer, hitting two consecutive jump shots to make the score 17-8. Passaic Valley was forced to call their second timeout of the game.
It didn’t help, however, as the Highlanders finished the opening quarter strong, with another jump shot from Basket giving them a 21-10 lead.
They would carry that momentum into the 2nd quarter, going up by as much as 18 before allowing Passaic Valley to get back in the game with some easy baskets.
The score at the half was 39-31.
After trading baskets with the Highlanders to start the second half, Passaic Valley was able to get the lead all the way down to five in the third quarter.
West Milford, though, had the answer again, going on a 7-0 run that began with a huge and-1 play by Basket.
The Highlanders went hard to the basket play after play and were able to get to the free throw line to slow the Hornets’ momentum.
Passaic Valley got the lead back under 10 with just over two minutes left in the third, before the Highlanders answered once again, this time with a 3-pointer from Basket and some strong drives by Gomez, who had 10 points in the quarter.
The Hornets wouldn’t get the lead back down to single digits again until their late final quarter run that was quelled by the clutch play of Basket and Milko.
The Highlanders (2-2) play the Montville Mustangs next in a neutral tournament game Dec. 27.