HOWELL - When Aaron Trimble splashed in a deep 3-pointer amid the roar of the first home crowd at a Howell state playoff game in history to cut Hillsborough's lead to four points on Wednesday night, the stage seemed set for for a memorable Rebels' comeback.

Unfortunately, the 13th-seeded Raiders had other ideas, as they kept up the Cinderella run of their own by scoring the final five points of the game for a 47-38 win to end the season for the 12th-seeded Rebels in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. Hillsborough (13-12) will now travel to eighth-seeded Marlboro on Friday for the semifinals.

"I knew when I hit that shot that we had a chance, but that's a great team, and they played that zone like Syracuse even though they don't have the same length,'' Trimble said. "We just didn't execute well enough."

It dampened a great night in front of a capacity crowd at the first home playoff game in Howell history, as Trimble finished with 16 points and scored his 1,000th career point in the first quarter on a 3-pointer. He had entered the game with 999 points after pouring in 33 in a first-round upset of fifth-seeded East Brunswick.

Trimble became Howell's first 1,000-point scorer since the school's all-time leading scorer, guard Ryan Keegan, who graduated in 2011. Trimble was also joined at halftime by the school's first 1,000-point scorer, current Asbury Park head football coach Bill Hill.

Howell senior Aaron Trimble was honored at halftime after scoring his 1,000th career point in the first quarter of the Rebels' state playoff loss. He was joined by (from left) Howell athletic director Pete Meehan, former Howell great Bill Hill and principal Jeremy Braverman. (Photo by Scott Stump)

"It was great to get my 1,000th point, but I wanted to win,'' Trimble said. "We played hard, but it's just bittersweet."

Senior center Will Kocsis also had 16 points in his final game for the Rebels (12-13), who were tied at 11 after the first quarter thanks to back-to-back threes by Trimble before Hillsborough took the lead and never trailed again. Hillsborough opened the second quarter with a 15-3 run on baskets by six different players as its balanced lineup was either knocking down open mid-range looks or scoring on backdoor cuts. The Raiders shot 12-for-19 from the field in the first half in building a 28-18 lead at the break.

"We were just really rolling coming into this game,'' said Hillsborough guard Mike DeCicco, who had a team-high 11 points. "We're feeling confident and just playing our best basketball right now. The atmosphere was amazing, but as soon as we hit a couple shots and found our groove, we stepped it up and took the game. We have a lot of shooters on this team, so if we can get open shots, we can knock them down."

"Any time they had a chance to score, they got a backdoor (lay-up) or an easy shot,'' said Howell coach Pat Ramsay. "We just didn't get stops like we should have. It seemed like to me in the first half, they didn't miss a shot, and any time they got an open shot in the second half, they made us pay for it."

Howell struggled against Hillsborough's 2-3 zone, shooting 14-for-40 (35 percent) in the game and often taking 30 or more seconds to get a shot off while trying to find an open gap.

"Playing against a zone hasn't been our strong point all year,'' Ramsay said. "We've struggled and at times have settled for shooting too many threes. We tried to get it into the high post area and work it down to the baseline area, but they did a good job of packing the zone in a little bit and not letting us get those open looks down low. Our guys had open shots, and we just didn't knock them down."

Howell stayed in striking distance after a sluggish third quarter for both teams, trailing 36-25 before mounting one final push with a roaring student section pushing them to close the gap. The Rebels went on a 9-0 run with five of the points by Trimble, including his deep 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 42-38 with 2:34 left in the game. Howell then had multiple opportunities to close the gap further after a steal by senior guard Gino Palummo and then another forced turnover, but a turnover of its own and an offensive foul by Kocsis allowed Hillsborough to get to the foul line and extend the lead.

DeCicco missed the front end of a one-and-one, but a back tap by forward Joe Suseck turned into more free throws for the Raiders. Guard Dylan Finer made the front end of a one-and-one to push the lead to five, and then forward Rob Askes muscled his way for an offensive rebound on a miss on the second attempt and put it back in to all but seal the game by giving Hillsborough a 45-38 lead with 40 seconds remaining.

"We let it go for a while, but we composed ourselves and got the win,'' DeCicco said.

While the night ended in disappointment for Howell, the great atmosphere was still evidence of the leap forward the Rebels made this season and the enthusiasm they generated in the school after a five-win season a year ago. The Rebels also made a Shore Conference Tournament appearance this winter.

"My whole goal when I met with these guys two years ago was to build a program,'' Ramsay said. "These seniors and the guys who graduated last year have just done a great job of building a foundation. They thought I was nuts when the first time I was talking to them I was saying that we're going to make Shore Conference, we're going to make states, and they were looking at me like I had three heads. I'm grateful for these seniors for getting this back to where we want to be, and now we just want to be consistent."

"I've never seen it like that,'' Trimble said. "It was crazy. It's great that we can get these guys in the gym and get it going for the younger guys. People that want to come here from eighth grade see the atmosphere, so that was great."

Box score

Central Jersey Group IV


(13) Hillsborough 47, (12) Howell 38

Hillsborough (47): Finer 2 0-1 4, Reilly 4 0-0 9, DeCicco 4 1-2 11, Askes 2 0-0 4, Joe Suseck 3 2-2 8, Jimmy Suseck 1 1-2 3, Clifford 1 0-0 2, Jeney 2 1-2 6. Totals: 19 4-7 47.

Howell (38): Palummo 0 1-2 1, Rovner 0 0-0 0, Kocsis 7 1-2 16, Trimble 6 0-0 16, M. Morton 1 0-0 3, A. Morton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 2-4 38.

Hillsborough (13-12)  11 17 8 11 - 47

Howell (12-13)           11  7  7  13 - 38

Three-pointers: (Hill) DeCicco 2, Reilly, Jeney; (How) Trimble 4, Kocsis, M. Morton. Fouled out: None.