The Millburn Millers suffered their first loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion yesterday, losing 42-41 to the rival Verona Hillbillies.

Tuesday’s game got off to an inauspicious start for the home team, as Rodger Blind’s squad trailed by five after one quarter of play. Millburn deployed an experienced starting lineup of Ross Gang, Charlie Levison, Will Rosenberg, Sam Bernard, and Zach Ravitz, and while the quintet looked sharp on defense, the offense sputtered. On the other side of the ball, Verona, coached by Eric Mcelroy, benefited from a strong start by center Travis Jocelyn.

The second quarter, however, was much kinder to the Millers. Charlie Levison soon gave way to Adam Liu, and while the senior guard didn’t get the scoring bug immediately, his frenetic defense harried the Verona offense, allowing for fast break opportunities for the likes of Ross Gang. Going into halftime, Millburn carried a slim one point lead against the Hillbillies.

After the break, Millburn came out a team possessed, running on all cylinders from the get go. The Verona offense seemed stagnant, repelled at every turn by a stingy Millers defense anchored by Zach Ravitz’s imposing presence. On offense, Ravitz was able to use his size to bully his way to the basket, chipping in 12 points, including four from the line. Outside of the paint, Ross Gang was his usual brilliant self, scoring a game high 15 points. Going into the final quarter, Millburn held an imposing 39-25 lead.

With only eight minutes left to play, Verona’s Jack Farrell took over the game. The senior guard came out of the gate in the final quarter on a mission, as evidenced by his taking the ball coast to coast for a layup early on. Farrell, along with Zack Zaccone, knew their Hillbillies had a chance in the game, and refused to let their teammates quit. For Millburn, Zach Ravitz fouled out partway through the quarter, and with Brandon Perry out due to a broken nose, Sam Bernard became the only big man available to Blind and his staff. This, combined with an anemic offense that seemed more concerned with killing clock than scoring points, allowed Verona to slowly fight their way back over the course of the quarter. With less than a minute left, Verona managed to reduce the deficit to one point and got the ball for the final possession of the game, which culminated in a Zack Zaccone floater to shock the Millers at home.

With the loss, Millburn falls to 8-1 on the season, and has their next game on January 14, in which they’ll host Nutley.

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