Boys Basketball – CBA Rediscovers the Magic, Rallies for Upset Over Rumson
MIDDLETOWN -- While some coaches unearth the film of their teams' losses in order to teach them important lessons, Christian Brothers Academy coach Geoff Billet instead fired up the video of some of his team's best games from earlier in the season to get his players in the right frame of mind to play red-hot Rumson-Fair Haven Sunday in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
The important lesson? Despite some recent struggles, Billet's Colts are still a really good team.
The positive reinforcement paid off in spades, as CBA -- the sixth seed in the SCT -- held No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven to 11 points over the final 20 minutes, overcame an 11-point halftime deficit, and ended the Shore's longest active winning streak with a 46-41 win over the Bulldogs at Middletown South.
"We looked back at our past," junior Joe White said. "We looked back at our 10-0 run. We had our overtime win against Ranney, we had tough win over RFH at the beginning of the season. We tried to lock in on what we did in the past, our defense especially. We must have watched that game against Ranney two or three times just to show we can push through and win."
Junior Will Bradley led CBA with 15 points and senior James Durney added 12 off the bench, with each player nailing four three-pointers.
"This is us all year," Billet said. "We're probably the first team in Shore Conference history to beat the two seed, the three seed and the four seed in the conference tournament and be seeded sixth. But that's us. We're going to grind, we're going to have close games, whether we're playing the best team in the Shore or the worst team in the Shore, that's kind of how we're built.
"We had a rough patch where we just couldn't quite execute late in some games but we knew what we were capable of based on some of the games we closed out earlier in the year. We just had to keep grinding and stay committed to how we play."
Bradley hit three of his three-pointers in the first half and hit a pair of go-ahead free throws with 1:52 left to give CBA its first lead of the game, 35-34.
Durney, meanwhile, broke CBA out of slumps in both the first and fourth quarters. He hit a three for CBA's first field goal of the game after Rumson jumped out to an 8-0 lead and in the third, the senior guard buried three more three-pointers. The first of those third-quarter threes ended a scoreless drought of 4:34 for both teams and the last was a bank shot from just inside midcourt to beat the buzzer and send the game to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 33.
"After I hit that shot, I came to the bench and told the guys, 'We're not losing this game,'" Durney said. "We didn't want to go down today, so we just had to keep our heads up and keep defending."
Between offensive cold spells, CBA strung together an 11-0 run during a stretch of 2:15 in the fourth quarter that erased the 30-19 halftime deficit.
"Everybody was a little worried at halftime, but I went in there and told my boys 11 points is nothing," Lautato said. "It's a couple of shots, so let's keep our heads in the game and stick to what we do."
The offensive struggles continued for both teams in the fourth, with both sides again failing to score for the first 5:39 of the quarter. Senior Owen Sullivan finally ended the dry spell with one out of two free throws before Bradley knocked down a pair on the other end to give the Colts their first lead.
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Geoff Schroeder knocked down both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:29 remaining to put Rumson back in front, but CBA responded when senior Pat Lautato spotted White cutting back door and found him for a two-handed dunk with 1:05 left, giving CBA a 37-36 lead.
"We draw a play like that up once or twice a game," White said. "Coach saw me miss the first dunk earlier in the half and he trusted me enough to go back to me. I was fortunate enough to get an open lane and Pat made a great pass. My buddy was yelling at me after I missed the first (dunk), why I tried to dunk it with one hand. That time, I went up with two."
Lautato had a chance to add some distance between his team and Rumson, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 47.9 seconds left. Bulldogs senior Trent Sloan then earned a trip to the free-throw line after grabbing an offensive rebounds and hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 37-37. The four Rumson points in the fourth quarter all came on free throws.
CBA got one more chance to win the game in regulation and nearly turned the ball over near midcourt. The Colts recovered the ball in their own backcourt but were not able to get off a shot.
The Colts struck first in overtime when Lautato found freshman Justin Fuerbacher for a layup and Lautato followed with a pair of free throws to stake CBA to a two-score lead, 41-37. Lautato went 6-for-8 from the line in overtime to put the game on ice, with Sloan missing a potential game-tying three-pointer with his team down 44-41 and Schroeder missing one while trailing 45-41 with 12 seconds left.
Schroeder did not play for Rumson on Dec. 29, when CBA beat the Bulldogs, 52-48, in the semifinals of the Buc Holiday Classic and his presence was felt immediately on Sunday. The senior hit four three-pointers in the first half and three free throws after he was fouled on an attempt, giving him 15 of his game-high 17 points before halftime.
"We lost Schroeder twice on the same play we walked through about 150 times in the last three days," Billet said. "To his credit, he got open and he drew a foul on one of them and hit the three on the other. He hit four threes in the first half and they were up 11, so I think that was the difference. The tempo of the game was perfect and if I could have written it up, we would be within about 22-19 at halftime and if not for those couple lapses, we're right there."
For the second time in as many games this season, White led an effort that held Rumson-Fair Haven leading scorer Scott Gyimesi below his season average, with Gyimesi finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday. Gyimesi converted a three-point play with 0.8 seconds left in the first half to give him nine points and did not score again until an overtime layup cut CBA's lead to 41-39.
"My offensive game wasn't really too hot tonight, so I knew the only way I could participate and help us win was to play good defense," White said. "I almost shut myself out on offense and just passed the ball just so I could focus on defense. I love the way Gyimesi plays, he's a great player, but I think I match up really well against him."
If Billet and his team want to cue up another inspiring January win to mentally prepare for Thursday's SCT semifinal at RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River, a logical choice would be a 66-60 overtime win over Marlboro on Jan. 4. That was one of only two losses suffered this season by Marlboro, the No. 2 seed in the tournament and CBA's opponent on Thursday following an 85-44 Mustangs rout of Jackson Memorial Sunday.
CBA defeated Marlboro while the Mustangs were without senior guard Zach Molod, who scored a game-high 19 points on Sunday. When the two Shore Conference Class A North teams met again on Jan. 25, Marlboro won in resounding fashion at home, 71-36. Like Rumson, Marlboro also entered Sunday on a 13-game winning streak and successfully extended it to 14 games with its win.
That loss to Marlboro kicked off a stretch in which CBA lost four out of five games, part of a 4-5 stretch following a 10-0 start to the season. The Colts lost to Howell on a last-second shot on Feb. 8, closed out the regular season with a 31-point win over one-win Long Branch and routed a shorthanded Point Pleasant Beach in the first round of the SCT.
The Colts started to get their mojo back by coming up with key plays down the stretch in a 50-45 round-of-16 win over Raritan and had it in full force again on Sunday.
"I said at the beginning of the year, all we want to do is get to the playoffs," Lautato said. "If we get there and do our thing, especially with our defense, we can be dangerous. We didn't get as high of a seed as we wanted because of the way we were playing at the end of the regular season, but we knew we were still in a great spot to succeed. We just had to take advantage of it."