South Orange boys hoopsters spark Montclair Kimberley Academy

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — South Orange residents Ben Otner and Van Girton-Marshall are among the top players for the Montclair Kimberley Academy basketball team, which had a fine 10-5 record, including a perfect 9-0 mark in the Super Essex Conference–Freedom Division, through Monday, Jan. 22.

Otner, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, and Girton-Marshall, a 6-1 junior forward, both had crucial baskets as the Cougars edged American History, 78-72, in double overtime in a Essex County Tournament first preliminary round contest at MKA on Saturday, Jan. 20.

The thrilling contest against American History was tied 67-all with 2:10 remaining in the second OT on a basket inside by the Soaring Eagles’ Ah’Zeah Woodard, before Van Girton-Marshall, who scored all 12 of his points after halftime, sank a critical 3-pointer for a 70-67 advantage with 1:31 left.

Then Otner connected on another key 3-pointer with 57 seconds remaining for a 73-69 lead, before Woodard converted a conventional 3-point play with 30.4 seconds left to make it a one-possession game once again at 75-72. But MKA was able to finish the job with three free throws to close things out.

“Both Ben and Van had huge ‘3’s for us there in the second overtime and both of them played very well for us in a very satisfying ECT victory,” said MKA’s veteran coach Tony Jones, who is a former Clifford Scott High School standout. “Ben is a veteran starter for us and continues to be so important in our backcourt while doing so many good things all over the court, and Van has really emerged this season in his first varsity campaign.”

Otner and Girton-Marshall are MKA’s two top leading scorers through 14 games, with each averaging 10 points per game.  

MKA fell to No. 18 seed Montclair, 66-57, in the second preliminary round of the ECT on Monday, Jan. 22. 

Photos Courtesy of Steve Tober and Doug Allen