Boys Basketball – Colts Neck Smothers Neptune for Fourth Straight Win
NEPTUNE - Based on Tuesday's performance against Shore Conference Class B North division rival Neptune and the talk coming the team after the game, the Colts Neck boys basketball team's collective New Year's resolution can be summed up in one word: defense.
The Cougars - the No. 9 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - began their 2016 by holding the No. 7 Scarlet Fliers to 21 points in the first three quarters to secure a 56-39 win and extend their winning streak to four since an opening-night loss to Long Branch.
"After the Long Branch game, we knew we needed to be better on defense," senior Lloyd Daniels said. "If we want to win big games like this, if we want to win this division, we've got to play defense and really lock in on their best player."
Daniels scored a game-high 17 points and dished out nine assists to lead the offensive effort while joining with seniors Tom O'Reilly, Kyle Gordon and Jordan deGroot to spark the defensive effort that held Neptune to 14-for-49 (28 percent) shooting for the game and 7-for-35 (20 percent) over the first three quarters.
"With Neptune, the key keeping them to one shot," Colts Neck coach Lou Piccola said. "You've got to rebound. If you don't they kill you on second-chance points and that's their offense. Our guys - Tom O'Reilly, Kyle Gordon especially - did a great job boxing out and grabbing the rebounds."
O'Reilly added 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, while Gordon contributed nine points and 10 rebounds. DeGroot scored five points and guarded Neptune leading scorer Barry Brown, who finished with a team-high 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
"We threw Jordan deGroot on (Rumson guard) Brendan Barry the other day and he was quiet until he started hitting stepback threes and every shot you can imagine down the stretch," Piccola said. "Today, we put him on Brown and he did a great job. He's an athlete and a tough competitor. That's why we like putting him on the other team's best guy."
After the two teams played to a 9-9 stalemate in the first quarter, Colts Neck blew the game open with a 16-2 run to start the quarter and led 29-16 by halftime. Daniels scored nine of his points in the second quarter and also set up layups by Gordon and deGroot with pretty feeds from beyond the three-point arc, including one of the no-look variety.
"I've always seen Lloyd as a point guard, but he's a basketball player," said Piccola of Daniels, the son of former Spurs forward and New York City legend Lloyd Daniels Sr. "Put the ball in his hands and he's going to make plays, whether its for him or another guy."
"I played point guard when I was younger and Coach Piccola told me before the season that he needed me to play the point this year," Daniels said. "It's something that does come pretty natural to me, so if that's what the team needs, I feel like I'm pretty comfortable in that role."
The Cougars extended the lead as high as 22 in the fourth quarter before Neptune made its final four shots of the game to close the final gap.
"We came out flat in our home opener and we decided we needed to start acting right in practice and start following through on everything coach (Piccola) says," O'Reilly said. "We needed to start coming together and playing hard from start to finish."