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By Michel Cohen
Unable to overcome the offensive power of Indian Hills’ senior-laden lineup, the Hackensack High School boys’ varsity basketball team fell to 5-11 on the season after a physically draining 50-55 loss in Oakland Tuesday night.
Led by senior guard Matt Jensen and senior forward Ryan Warnet, the Indian Hills Braves sped past a Comet team that had no answer for either player. The duo combined for 38 of Indian Hills’ 55 points.
In the early going, Hackensack easily played its most physical game of the season. The Comets pressed the Braves’ front court, with the pure athleticism of Phillip Hammond and Edward Emedoh proving to be too much to handle, as the Comets forced turnover after turnover.
The problem was that Hackensack couldn’t always capitalize on the offensive end. The score was tied at 7 before Indian Hills went on a run to end the quarter with buckets from Brian Connelly, Mike Korst and Jensen.
By the second quarter, Hackensack’s physical presence could be felt. After Noah Menner missed a jump shot for Indian Hills, Hackensack’s Hammond connected on a drive through the lane, plus the foul shot, to cut the deficit to two, 14-12.
Next, Hackensack’s Tommy Smith stole a pass by Jensen and brought it all the way to the hoop for the tying score.
Minutes later, a steal by Hackensack’s Ahmed Bailey led to a layup by Prince Taylor to give Hackensack its first lead since the start of the game at 20-18. The Comets stretched that lead to a high of 6 points when Raymere Grant connected on a pair of free throws, and Bailey slammed down a jump shot to push the Hackensack lead to 24-18.
In the first half, it seemed that every time an Indian Hills player touched the basketball they were under siege by Hackensack defenders trying to jar it loose.
However, that lead would be short lived, and the presence of the big man in Warnet and the shooting of Jensen started to take hold. Warnet slammed down a bucket to cut the Hackensack lead to two points with a little over two minutes remaining in the half. Finally, Jensen connected on consecutive buckets to give Indian Hills the lead at the buzzer, 26-24.
The start of the second half had a more inauspicious feel to it.
Three consecutive misses by Hackensack gave way to multiple opportunities for the Braves and Warnet. In the third quarter alone, Warnet connected on two of three shots with a four-for-four performance at the free throw line to help build the Indian Hills lead to 38-29.
Hackensack clawed back into the game on back to back three-pointers by Taylor and Brandon Mowry to make it 42-35, but it was not enough. Jensen would be responsible for nine of the Braves’ final 13 points of the game, as they pulled away from Hackensack 55-50.