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Highlanders shooting for county title

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Highlanders shooting for county title

Josiah Basket shooting against Cresskill in the teams first win of the season

Josiah Basket shooting against Cresskill in the teams first win of the season

www.highschoolsports.nj.com

Josiah Basket shooting against Cresskill in the teams first win of the season

www.highschoolsports.nj.com

www.highschoolsports.nj.com

Josiah Basket shooting against Cresskill in the teams first win of the season

Mike Wis, Bucky's Backyard Editor

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Ranked 13th in the state, the West Milford will look to chase down a county title under John Finke.
Entering this year, the team is coming off of a 10-13 season which included a .500 record within conference play. Though showing flashes of huge talent, injury issues forced the team to dig deeper for minutes down the bench. The record doesn’t reveal the talent this team possesed, and continues to possess, with the returning players.

The team is clearly relying on experienced players, returning six seniors who were major pieces last year. Rim protectors Brandon Licursi and Zack Milko look to stay healthy and carry the team with their strong front, while the point is held down by Chris Gomez.
Other seniors returning to play a key role include a defensive rebounder in Billy Vogt, and three-point threat wing Jack Vreeland. These two provide steady veteran experience, providing plays that can quickly change the tempo of games.

The topic of tempo is massive this year, with a large change in how West Milford’s offense is seeking to run: fast, fast, and faster.
With this high pace comes huge necessity to spread the floor and find shots behind the three-point line. Being able to shoot threes at a high percentage allows this offense, that will find open shots in transition often, to be successful.

Running this offense requires not only great shooting but strong ball movement and depth in the lineup. This team has all of it.
Gomez is coming off a junior season where he finished first in the state for assists per game according to NJ.com. Licursi and Milko as “big men” are also strong movers, which can swing the ball from a defensive rebound to shot in just a few seconds, keeping other teams on their heels.
With the return of two other seniors back to the program in Dan Diminno and Ramy Abelkader, the team grows greatly from last year with a much stronger bench as well. These two are extremely aggressive and tenacious defenders, and as a much needed attitude of defense and for loose balls. Their energy will provide a spark that will help push the new offensive scheme the Highlanders look to utilize this season.

The most depended on factor is leading scorer and captain Josiah Basket. Basket’s ability to score at a high and efficient rate has been obvious throughout his career. This year has a huge milestone in sight for Basket: the possibility to join West Milford’s “1,000 point club”, which is exclusive to only 13 total players.

Basket is a year removed from averaging 22 points a game. In addition, the loss of graduated starter Andrew Finke has opened up a lot of shot attempts in the offense that a skilled scorer like Basket could capitalize off of to even surpass impressive averages in his junior year.

West Milford started the year off with a tough home open loss to Mahwah 82-75. Gomez led the team with 20 points while Josiah added 19. Both Milko and junior Kevin DeRaffele had double doubles.
The team played a strong first quarter but really struggled to find easy looks during the end of the second and third quarter. They fell behind by 5 at halftime and were down 15 heading into the third. Though the team suffered a loss, the way they closed the game out, closing the gap to 7, showed the resilience the team possess this season.

The bounce back game came quickly with the team returning to action at Ramapo College on Sunday against Cresskill High School. After a tightly contested 14-13 first quarter, West Milford went on a 53-17 run through the next two quarters to open up a massive lead on their way to a 75-49 win.
Basket scored 22 points and Gomez 15, while Milko and DeRaffele would both put up double doubles again. A much stronger and consistent defensive performance allowed West Milford to gain their first win.

The team now opens up conference play with a road game against Wayne Hills, Tuesday at 7p.m.

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Highlanders shooting for county title