Verona had a 35-23 lead over Columbia High School going into the second half of the third round of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday afternoon but couldn’t maintain it down the stretch, ending in a heartbreaking 54-51 loss.
The Hillbillies were clicking on all cylinders in the first half, suffocating Columbia with their offensive efficiency and making big stop after big stop on defense. But Columbia cut the deficit down to 2 in the third, outscoring Verona 20-8 in that quarter.
The deciding factor in Saturday’s matchup was the Cougar’s fourth-quarter defense, holding Verona to only 6 points. Then, with 11 seconds left and the score knotted at 51, Columbia brought the ball up the court and buried a game-winning three pointer at the buzzer. The refs put 0.5 seconds back on the clock put it wasn’t enough for Verona to get a shot off. Columbia will move on to play the winner of Seton Hall Prep and University in the Essex County Tournament.
Travis Jocelyn, seen in the video below, led Verona with 19 points in the loss. The Hillbillies will face Millburn at home on Tuesday, February 14, at 4 p.m. Last time they played, Verona won a thrilling comeback victory at Millburn High School.
The Lady Hillbillies also fell in the third round of the ECT, coming up on the wrong end of a 56-25 game against University. The girls, who are 13-6 on the season, face Glen Ridge on Tuesday.