BRICK TWP. - For the first eight minutes of its Shore Conference Tournament opening-round road game, the Brick Memorial boys basketball team appeared to have no answer for rival Brick Township's high-scoring tandem of Shane Williams and Jalen Jackson.

By the middle of the second half, it was clear the Mustangs were actually the team with the unstoppable duo on Tuesday night.

Seniors Matt Bernstein and Kyle McMahon scored 35 of their 49 combined points in the second half and the 20th-seeded Mustangs overpowered No. 13 Brick in the second half to win the rivalry rubber match, 66-59.

"We tried to approach it like any other game and not get caught up in it being a Brick-vs.-Brick game," Bernstein said. "Everyone can be dangerous on the court and that's the mentality we had tonight. Happy to get a win in the last Brick-Brick game the seniors are going to play. It's a great place to play and it's a great experience for all my teammates."

Bernstein led Brick Memorial with 25 points and 13 rebounds while McMahon put up 24 points and eight boards while playing a critical role in his team's second-half defensive effort as well. Bernstein scored 18 in the second half while McMahon poured in 17 after halftime.

"Our gameplan tonight was really all about finding the right matchups," Brick Memorial second-year coach Mike Pelkey said. "We knew there were going to be some mismatches we thought we could go after and we told Bernstein that if Shane (Williams) was guarding him, try to get Kyle involved and if he wasn't, attack. Shane started on him and sure enough, he switched off of him and that's when Matt really did his damage."

McMahon also shadowed Shane Williams - Brick's leading scorer at 19.2 points per game - throughout the second half. Williams hit four three-pointers in the first quarter and entered the fourth quarter with 23 points but did not score in the final quarter until he hit a three-pointer as the final buzzer sounded to cap a 26-point performance.

Brick Memorial played a triangle-and-two defense against Brick in the second of two regular-season meetings between the Shore Conference Class A South rivals and it blew up in the Mustangs' face. With the defense keying on Williams and fellow senior Jalen Jackson, junior Anthony Manascalco burned the Green Dragons for 16 points in a 50-45 Brick win on Feb. 5.

"The last time we played them, we really put the focus on (Williams and Jackson) and we wound up getting burned," Pelkey said. "Manascalco went off for like four or five threes and that really made the difference, so we made sure to put somebody on him from the start and he didn't do much but obviously, Shane and Jalen really hurt us early on - particularly Shane. That's the best I have seen him shoot the ball. He is going to be in good shape at the next level if that's the kind of shooter he's going to be."

The Mustangs matched up with Manascalco on Tuesday night and Williams and Jackson made them pay in the early going. The two seniors combined to shoot 6-for-8 from beyond the three-point line in the first quarter and 7-for-12 in the first half, with Williams going 4-for-6 and Jackson hitting on 3-of-6 attempts. The duo combined for 24 first-half points and led Brick to a 29-23 halftime lead.

"I didn't expect him to pull up from half court four times in the first quarter," McMahon said, joking about Williams's hot start. "We got out of our 2-3 (zone) in the second half and I just said, 'Let me guard him.'"

In the second half, Brick Memorial went back to the triangle-and-two and threw frequent double-teams at Williams and Jackson. Williams caught fire for a stretch of the third quarter, when he scored eight straight Brick points, but the move otherwise paid off.

Jackson finished the game with 16 points and five assists while Williams added seven rebounds and three assists to his game-high 26 points.

Brick Memorial also dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, scoring easy layups on offense, contesting shots on defense and owning the glass on both ends. The Mustangs owned a 15-5 advantage in offensive rebounds and outscored Brick, 30-12, on points in the paint.

The deciding run came at the end of the third quarter, which Brick Memorial closed on an 9-2 run to take a 47-41 lead to the fourth. After Jackson scored the first basket of the fourth quarter on a putback to pull Brick within 47-43, Brick Memorial punched back with seven straight points to push the lead to 54-43 - its largest advantage of the game.

With Brick trying to hang around in the final two minutes, the Mustangs went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line down the stretch to put the game away.

Brick Memorial entered Tuesday having lost six of its last eight games and beat three-win Toms River South on Wednesday to snap a five-game losing streak, which included the loss at Brick. The Mustangs still, however, qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament and with a fresh start, they opened the second season by beating their rivals in front of a lively, sold-out crowd.

"We are definitely more fired-up now," McMahon said. "We got together last week and just talked about trying to clear our heads and reset for the postseason. We beat Toms River South and we had some good practices getting ready for this one."

Next up for Brick Memorial will be a trip to play No. 4 Freehold Township in the round-of-16 on Thursday. Freehold Township hammered the Mustangs, 81-46, in the first round of the WOBM Christmas Classic back in December.

"We're not satisfied," McMahon said. "That first game (against Freehold Township) was a long time ago. They were in a lot better shape than we were at that point - their coach really got them ready and they were a great team. Tomorrow we're going to go to practice and start getting ready to play them again."

 

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