COLTS NECK - The Christian Brothers Academy basketball team entered Tuesday's Shore Conference Class A North trip to Colts Neck with a rough recent track record in close games.

If CBA - the No. 6 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - entered Tuesday anxious to play another close game against the unbeaten and No. 4 Cougars, the Colts left the gym Tuesday night pumped enough to play down to the wire every night for the rest of the year.

Coming off a three-point loss to Rumson-Fair Haven on Saturday at Brookdale, CBA would not be denied on Tuesday, outlasting Colts Neck, 72-69, in a double-overtime classic that featured no fewer than three huge shots by two different players on either team over the final eight minutes and a few seconds.

Three nights after squandering a 13-point second-half lead at the Boardwalk Showcase, CBA played a nip-and-tuck game with Colts Neck in which CBA's seven-point second-quarter lead was the largest of the game and neither team led by more than three points from halftime on.

"Like a lot of teams, we've only played two games in 17 days because of the weather and we are just trying to get into a rhythm," Billet said. "Rumson game helped. Obviously, we played much better offensively tonight than we did against Rumson and while the credit obviously goes to Rumson for a lot of that, I think it helped just to get out there in that environment because today wound up being similar - tight game, loud gym, good opponent."

CBA trailed by three points with under 30 seconds to play before in regulation before a wild sequence turned the tables on Colts Neck. Colts junior center Josh Cohen scored  on a tip-in to cut the Colts Neck lead to 61-60 and on the ensuing inbounds play, CBA senior Rob Mahala stole the ball and pitched it to senior Nolan Madden in the right corner. The senior lined up and buried his fourth of four three-pointers in the game, this one giving CBA a 63-61 lead with 16 seconds left.

"I saw Robert make a play and I just spotted up in the corner," Madden said. "The home-court advantage was a big thing, the crowd was going crazy, but we just wanted to keep pushing it, keep going, try to score and crash the boards."

Colts Neck, however, responded with the first of two dramatic answers by senior Ben Bosland. The Cougars point guard powered into the lane and pulled up for a short jumper that dropped with six seconds left to tie the score at 63-63. After a timeout, CBA junior Liam Kennedy dribbled the length of the court and fired a running three-pointer off the back of the rim.

"You've got to make something happen in those situations," CBA coach Geoff Billet said. "In the Rumson game, it looked like we were dead and we wound up taking a one-point lead but just couldn't make a play after that. We talked about guys stepping up to make plays tonight and it seemed like they (Colts Neck) were making a bunch of them, especially Bosland, but we had guys step up as well."

In the first overtime, CBA again looked to be in control in the final seconds. Junior Stephen Braunstein, however, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 39.9 seconds left in overtime and a chance to extend the Colts lead to four.

After senior Dan Gaines missed a potential go-ahead three and Cohen blocked a shot out of bounds, the Cougars again got the ball to Bosland, who dribbled to his right, took a slight step back and calmly drained a game-tying 18-footer over the reach of the 6-4 Mahala with four seconds left, sending the game to double overtime.

In the second overtime, CBA again gained control after Colts Neck briefly took the lead on a layup by Gaines. Kennedy hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 68-68 and Braunstein later drove for the go-ahead score to make it 70-68.

Mahala later hit a pair of free throws to extend the CBA lead to 72-69 with 30 seconds left and Colts Neck took a timeout with 13 seconds to go on its next possession. The game ended on a bizarre sequence, beginning with a steal by Kennedy. Instead of dribbling the clock out or pushing forward for a clinching layup, the junior appeared to lose track of time and threw the ball up against the backboard from halfcourt as though there were only seconds remaining.

There were, however, seven seconds left and Colts Neck retrieved the ball to give itself one more chance. That chance, however, ended with another turnover with 0.9 seconds on the clock and CBA put the ball in play to end the game.

Braunstein led CBA with 19 points, while Bosland and senior Rob Hill each scored 19 as well to lead Colts Neck. Bosland added six rebounds and six assists, while Hill scored 12 of his points in the second half after foul trouble limited him in the second quarter.

Colts Neck senior Ben Bosland. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"Hill and Bosland were great for us tonight," Colts Neck coach Lou Piccola said. "Hill was going up against a guy who is six inches taller and he scores 19 points after he only had seven at half. And Bosland - he's just a gamer. Nothing phases him, but that's our team. We're seniors, so I don't worry about them in games like this. Tonight, it was a play here and a play there and I think fatigue might have been an issue at the end."

Madden and Kennedy both came up big for CBA as well, with each finishing the game at 16 points. Madden hit four three-pointers, including his go-ahead three late in the fourth and a game-tying three with just under four minutes to play in regulation.

"He's going to be big for us," Billet said of Madden. "He's shooting it with a lot of confidence and he's going to continue to get better."

Kennedy, meanwhile, scored 12 points after halftime and handed out six assists.

"Liam showed what he could do tonight," Billet said. "He is obviously a key for us because good guard play wins."

The 6-foot-9 Cohen added 12 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks while playing with a decided height advantage over a Colts Neck front line that did not boast any player taller than 6-3.

Mahala also came up with a handful of key plays while finishing with seven points, seven rebounds, two steals and three blocks.

Gaines added 16 points for Colts Neck, which saw its eight-game winning streak to open the season snapped.

"We felt like this was a game we definitely needed to win," Madden said. "We get over .500, we get over the hump after losing two in a row - we really wanted to get this win to solidify ourselves and stay undefeated in A North."

 

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