MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Junior Stephan Gabriel had 15 points and eight rebounds; junior Breizh Askew had 12 points and junior Brandon Askew had 10 points and six steals to lead the sixth-seeded Columbia HIgh School boys’ varsity basketball team to a 54-51 comeback win over 11th-seeded Verona in the first round of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 11, at CHS.
Junior guard Nashiem Harte had six points, five rebounds and four assists; sophomore Russell Ayala, junior Justin Bobbitt and junior Darius Plummer each had three points; and senior Malachi Smythe added two points for the Cougars, who rallied from a 35-23 halftime deficit.
The Cougars, who improved to a 13-8 record, will visit third-seeded Seton Hall Prep in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 18.
In earlier action, Harte hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Cougars to a thrilling 52-51 win over Barringer on Feb. 7 in a Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division game in Newark. Harte finished with eight points; Gabriel had 12 points; Plummer had 11 points; and Brandon Askew contributed nine points.
The Cougars received the No. 8 seed in the North Jersey Section 2, Group4 state tournament and will host No. 9 seed Dickinson in the first round on Feb. 27. The winner will face the winner between No. 16 seed Perth Amboy and top-seeded and defending champion Linden in the quarterfinals.