Highlanders Boys Basketball Team wins with epic comeback

Make text smaller Make text larger


  • Garrett Hemmerlich photos

By Garrett Hemmerich

WEST MILFORD – The Highlanders, led by another outstanding performance from senior Josiah Basket, completed an epic comeback victory over Indian Hills on Tuesday night, beating the Braves 67-66.

“We played extremely hard and never gave up,” said head coach John Finke. “The effort we gave in the fourth quarter needs to be repeated consistently throughout the game. If we can do that, the rest of the season will be a success.”

It came right down to the wire and the crowd at West Milford High School was going wild after a Highlanders turnover gave the ball back to Indian Hills with under a minute to play and the score tied at 65.

The Braves were able to get to the free throw line on their ensuing possession, hitting one of two before Highlanders point guard Chris Gomez made a beautiful full-court pass to junior Kevin DeRaffele, who hit the winning basket with under 30 seconds to go.

The Braves last shot attempt was blocked.

West Milford had been down for much of the game, having just retaken the lead with under two minutes left for the first time since the second quarter.

Both teams played extremely physical from the start, going hard to the basket and diving for loose balls.

It was a tight game for much of the first half until the Braves went on a 9-0 run to close out the second period, making the score 39-26 at the break.

The momentum began to shift in the third when DeRaffele fought through a foul to score a basket. He’d miss the free throw, but the Highlanders were able to get the ball back to Basket, who hit a quick jumper to make it a 10-point game.

A few plays later, DeRaffele came up big again, hitting a circus-like shot while getting fouled.

This time, he hit the free throw, making the score 55-47.

It seemed like everything was going West Milford’s way after a tip-in toward the end of the quarter and they’d continue to chip away at the Braves’ lead in the fourth.

After crowd noise forced two missed free throws by Indian Hills with just over three minutes to play, Basket made a nice assist to Dan Diminno on the other end, who hit a 3-pointer to tie the game.

A few plays later, Basket would get to the line himself, hitting both free throws to give the Highlanders the lead for the first time since the second quarter.

The Braves would tie it up once again before the epic conclusion.

“Amazing game, amazing crowd, including all of the youth travel and Rec players (in attendance), and what an incredible atmosphere for the team to play in,” said coach Finke.

Gomez’s clutch pass that led to the game-winning basket also made him West Milford’s all-time assist leader with 431.

The Highlanders (6-4) are scheduled to travel to Passaic next to play the Indians on Jan. 17.

Make text smaller Make text larger


Pool Rules


Town handles yet another winter storm
WEST MILFORD – Anyone who has been living here for any amount of time is aware that winter storms can bring unparalleled beauty – or misery.
The storm that began...

Read more »

Farrell Field rehabilitation to begin
WEST MILFORD – Local soccer players and their supporters will have their wishes come true this year.
The long-awaited Farrell Soccer Field...

Read more »

Highlanders lose 'nail-biter' to Fair Lawn
By Garrett Hemmerich
WEST MILFORD – The Highlanders couldn’t capitalize on a strong start Monday night, losing to the Fair Lawn Cutters in dramatic fashion. The...

Read more »

Library hosting ‘FEMA Until Help Arrives’ program
WEST MILFORD - The West Milford Township Library is pleased to host the free training workshop FEMA Until Help Arrives on Thursday, March 7 from 7-10 p.m.
Presented by...

Read more »


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers


Local News
Town handles yet another winter storm
  • Feb 21, 2019
Local News
Farrell Field rehabilitation to begin
  • Feb 20, 2019


West Milford, NJ