Boys Basketball: CBA’s Dominant First Half Powers a Rout of Toms River North to Return to SCT Final
MIDDLETOWN - Even at a basketball program with a storied history like Christian Brothers Academy, the first half turned in by the Colts in Wednesday night's Shore Conference Tournament semifinals had the most veteran CBA observers shaking their heads and saying they had never seen anything like that before.
The top-seeded Colts shut out fourth-seeded Toms River North in the first quarter and built their lead as high as 25-0 on their way to a 65-29 rout at Brookdale Community College in which they led 39-5 after what likely is the most dominant first half of an SCT semifinal in the tournament's 78-year history. They will now face 11th-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at Monmouth University in their second straight SCT final appearance and 23rd overall as they seek their 17th SCT title and first since 2010.
"I told the guys, I've been around this tournament and Shore Conference basketball for a long time, and that's got to be one of the more impressive semifinal performances in the history of the tournament,'' said seventh-year coach Geoff Billet, a former CBA star himself. "I was very proud of them. Defensively, we couldn't play any better. Pat (Andree), Jack McGuire, Jack Laffey, going for rebounds, it looked like they were coming from the clouds."
CBA led 19-0 after a putback at the buzzer by senior point guard Shaun Belbey ended the first quarter, as the Colts held the Class A South champion Mariners (19-5) to 0-for-13 shooting from the field and blocked five shots in the opening period. Toms River North missed its first 17 shots of the game before finally getting on the board on a basket inside by senior center Jordan Craig that made it 25-2 with 4:20 remaining in the second quarter.
"Our energy level out there was just tremendous,'' Billet said. "I think we shocked them a little bit."
"We came out of the gate fast and it snowballed after the first quarter when they had zero (points),'' McGuire said. "I don't think I've ever started a game like that in my life. If we can hold a good team in the semis to zero in the first quarter, we can do anything."
After Toms River North scored again to make it a 21-point game, CBA ended the half with a 13-1 run for a stunning 39-5 halftime lead. Between the blocks, defensive rebounds and Mariners' turnovers, CBA was able to get in transition repeatedly to fuel the offense. Laffey scored 15 of his game-high 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first half, and McGuire scored 10 of his 14 before the break while also blocking three shots and grabbing six rebounds.
"From the start, we were just getting rebounds, blocking shots, and every shot was contested,'' Laffey said. "When you're playing defense like that and the energy is so high, the offense kind of comes easy."
"Even when they got some shots, we were an inch away from blocking them,'' Billet said. "They probably haven't seen the length that our frontcourt has."
Billet has been harping on defensive improvement since the middle of the regular season, knowing how crucial it becomes in the postseason. The Colts (20-4) put together a masterpiece on Wednesday, holding Toms River North to 2-for-25 shooting in the first half and 11-for-41 (27 percent) for the game.
"In the middle of the year, I think our guys stopped believing that we had to play defense the way that we could play defense,'' Billet said. "We had some games where we were winning like 85-65. That's nice and we're winning by 20, but I knew when the tournament came that we would have to start guarding like we were capable of. So far we've had probably our three best defensive performances of the year (in the SCT)."
"We've been working on our defense all year, and we finally executed it perfectly,'' Laffey said.
CBA never let Toms River North get even a little life, keeping the lead at 44-9 midway through the third quarter as Andree scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
"We kept our foot on their throat the entire game,'' Laffey said.
The 6-foot-7 McGuire also showed off his athleticism with a variety of acrobatic drives and finishes.
"He's one of the most talented, unique players in the Shore,'' Billet said about McGuire. "When he's scoring the ball, we become a pretty good team, but even when he's not scoring, he can affect the game in so many ways with passing, (and) with his ball-handling, and then on the defensive end he can guard five positions."
"When he plays like that, it's a beautiful sight,'' Laffey said. "We're a tough team to beat."
After cruising to the win, the Colts now turn their attention to the Bulldogs, who beat Neptune in the other semifinal and are gunning for their first SCT title in program history. CBA is trying to end its longest drought of SCT titles since winning its first one in 1984.
"We've got to kind of forget this win,'' Billet said. "This is a mirage. We played great, and they unfortunately had a bad night. We've got to forget about this because Rumson isn't going to care how many we won by, so we've got to put this one behind us and get back to the drawing board."
"It's definitely going to give us a momentum to go into the championship like that,'' Laffey said. "If we defend like that, we'll come out with a win."
CBA can also savor the rare goose egg for a quarter in an SCT semifinal and a first half for the ages.
"It's pretty cool, but it's only the semifinals,'' Laffey said. "We're going to forget about it because we've still got one more to go."
CBA 65, Toms River North 29
TR North (29): Martin 2 0-0 4, Carrington 2 1-2 5, Petrick 0 0-0 0, Blum 1 0-0 2, Nyisztor 2 1-2 5, Thelemaque 0 0-0 0, Marinaccio 0 0-0 0, Craig 2 0-0 4, Storino 1 0-0 3, Husni 0 0-0 0, Fitzpatrick 1 0-0 2, Wrightson 0 0-0 0, Brannagan 1 0-0 2, Manning 0 0-0 0, 0 2-2 2. Totals: 11 4-6 29.
CBA (65): Laffey 7 2-3 19, Andree 7 2-3 16, Salcedo 1 0-0 3, Belbey 2 1-2 6, McGuire 5 4-4 14, Aldridge 1 0-0 2, Siegle 1 2-2 5, Boyan 0 0-0 0, Houston 0 0-0 0, Cleary 0 0-0 0, Gilmore 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 11-16 65.
TR North (19-5) 0 5 13 11 - 29
CBA (20-4) 19 20 16 10 - 65
Three-pointers: (T) Storino; (C) Laffey, Salcedo, Belbey, Siegle. Fouled out: None.