In each of the last three years, the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team has spoken of its annual showdown with St. Anthony as more of a measuring stick than a game. The Friars – currently the No. 1 team in N.J. according to NJ.com – are the standard for high school basketball in the state and while CBA would have loved to send shockwaves through the state, the expectations were always more realistic.

This year, however, the mood has changed.

With a senior-laden roster and 6-foot-8 forward Pat Andree on a scoring tear heading into the game, the Colts won’t be satisfied to leave the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase at Long Branch High School Saturday with just a learning experience. They are going to Long Branch to get the better of the Friars for the first time since 2009.

“We’re just as driven as they are and we want to win just as badly as they do,” Andree said. “It’s going to come down to us making some shots when it matters and whether or not we can cover their highlight guys. If we do that, I think we have a decent shot to win the game.”

CBA junior Pat Andree scored 17 points in last year's Boardwalk Showcase loss to St. Anthony. (Photo by Mark Brown)

While St. Anthony enters the game 6-0, CBA comes into Friday on a five-game winning streak with only a six-point loss to Don Bosco serving as a blemish on its record. The Colts will have to play the Friars as the tail end of a back-to-back, with Shore Conference Class A North rival Marlboro visiting CBA on Friday night.

“We had to play Bosco the day after we opened with Freehold Township and now we’re going to have to play St. Anthony after playing Marlboro the night before,” CBA coach Geoff Billet said. “It always seems to work out that way and it certainly makes it tougher to have to play a team the caliber of St. Anthony’s the day after a tough division game. You get heavy legs playing them with a couple days of rest in between, so playing them with no rest is a pretty big challenge, but I think our kids are going to be very motivated and focused going into these two days.”

The equalizer for CBA to survive the two games in two days and give No. 1 team in the state a scare is Andree, who is averaging better than 28 points and 10 rebounds over CBA’s first seven games. Entering Friday, he has scored more than 30 points in each of his team’s last three games, including a career-high 43 points in a win over Moses Brown of R.I. on Saturday.

St. Anthony has made life difficult on Andree and CBA during Andree’s three prior years as a Colt. St. Anthony has won all three games by an average of 24 points and no fewer than an 18-point margin. Andree scored a game-high 17 points in last year’s 60-35 CBA loss, but St. Anthony has held him to 11 points per game in the three games.

“We can run their offense against them, but with the defense they play and the way the guard, they make you run it about five feet farther away from the basket than you want,” Billet said.

Andree, who committed to Lehigh University in the fall, will be one of five committed Division I players in the game and one of seven potential Division I recruits. Morganville native and St. Anthony senior guard Jagan Mosely is heading to Georgetown next year, while Friars seniors Shyquan Biggs and Kaleb Bishop are heading to the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Fairleigh Dickinson University, respectively.

St. Anthony brought in a pair of impact transfers to offset the loss of Taurean Thompson, who left the state for his senior year. Six-foot-10 junior Daniel Mading is a native of Australia via the Sudan and recently committed to play for Bobby Hurley at Arizona State. Mading is a junior, but because he will be 19 before 2017, he is ineligible to play high school basketball beyond this season.

Senior guard Asante Gist is playing for his third team in three years and, according to NJ.com’s Jeremy Schneider, has offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida, Central Florida, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Rhode Island and Penn. He played his first two high school seasons at Roselle Catholic before transferring to Marist last year and St. Anthony this season.

CBA has another prospective Division I player of its own in 6-foot-7 wing Jack McGuire, who is off to a strong start to his senior year. McGuire is averaging 18.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game over CBA’s first seven games.

“We’ve obviously played them the last few years and we played them twice over the summer, so we know what they have,” Andree said. “They are a very good team and they know what we’re bringing to the table as well.”

For CBA to pull off the upset, Billet believes it will be someone outside those seven players who holds the key for the Colts. Senior guard John Salcedo is averaging a shade under nine assists per game in his second year as a starter and while Billet does not necessarily need his senior floor general to scored 10 or more points to help out Andree and McGuire, his ability to protect the ball this year will have to carry into Saturday’s game for CBA to have a chance.

“He’s done a great job running the offense and not turning the ball over,” Billet said. “He had back-to-back 12 assists games against Iona Prep and Trenton where I don’t think he turned the ball over, maybe once or twice in the two games. That’s the kind of game we need from him because St. Anthony just puts incredible pressure on your guards and you just need to make sure everyone is engaged in the offense and your guards are making the right passes.”

Andree has been a four-year standout for CBA and is now only 139 points away from becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer, but there is at least one more accolade he would like to check off before he graduates. Ultimately, even a competitive game would be an improvement, but Andree would like a little more in his last matchup against St. Anthony.

“There won’t be any surprises,” Andree said. “We have a very, very good opportunity.”