MIDDLETOWN - Middletown North boys basketball coach Mike Iasparro directs his team to operate on offense keeping one simple principle in mind: take great shots.

That mantra has served the Lions well lately, especially since everyone who Iasparro puts in the game can make a good shot when he gets one.

Middletown North made plenty of good shots and maybe even some suboptimal ones Tuesday during a fourth-quarter scoring outburst that led the Lions - the No. 15 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament to a 77-57 win over No. 18 St. Rose.

The Lions outscored the Purple Roses 32-13 in the fourth quarter to turn a back-and-fourth game that separated the teams by a point into a full-blown route. Middletown North ended up with four players in double-figure scoring, led by sophomore Dave Campbell's 19 points.

COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERY BY ROB SAMUELS

"Our big focus is taking great shots," Iasparro said. "We want to take great shots. We have guys who can make shots, so as long as we're taking great shots, we'll eventually make them in a 32-minute basketball game."

Campbell and junior Marc Cerbo each scored nine points during the fourth quarter surge, with Cerbo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the second half. Freshman Rob Higgins also scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and junior Matt Pinckney added 10 of his 13 in the second half, with seven coming in the fourth.

"Coach always says five out of five (players touch the ball) on every possession," Campbell said. "If we make the good pass, we'll get a great shot and that's what we kept working for tonight."

"We just spread out the floor and it's hard to guard us," Higgins said. "Anyone can dribble, so we just spread it out and run drive-and-kick. It's hard to guard."

St. Rose led the home team 44-40 late in the fourth quarter before the Lions closed with five straight points to end the period. After St. Rose opened the fourth quarter scoring to grab the lead for the last time, the Lions ripped off a 14-3 run to open up a 59-49 lead midway through the quarter.

Middletown North put the game away with eight straight points to go up 71-53 before both teams cleared the benches in the final minute-plus.

"We didn't play a great first half but in the second half, we really turned it up on defense," Campbell said. "In the first half, we really weren't playing defense as hard as we could. We definitely showed in the second half how we can play defense."

After hitting two three-pointers in the first half while giving up four to St. Rose, Middletown North hit six as a team in the second half. Cerbo and Pinckney each hit two in the second half and Pinckney finished with three in the game. St. Rose, meanwhile buried four first-half threes and hit only one in the second half.

"They're hard to guard," Iasparro said of St. Rose. "They run that patient offense and they lull you to sleep and they gas. It's hard to guard that offense for extended periods of time and they did a lot of that in the first half."

"They controlled the tempo in the first half and that was big with us in this game. We wanted to control the tempo. We like to go up and down. We want the score in the seventies. They want the score in the forties, so it was a battle of tempo and I really feel like in the second half, we kind of garnered the tempo a little more."

Senior Billy Frost was the lone St. Rose player to score in double-figures, pouring in 10 of his 13 points in the first half. Senior John Krotulis and juniors Brendan Hueth and Nick Paterno all scored nine points apiece in the loss.

With Colin Frawley serving as the only senior in the regular rotation, the Lions feature a lineup with two juniors in Cerbo and Swift with another junior in Pinckney coming off the bench. Throw in the sophomore Campbell and freshman Higgins and the Lions have a young roster that is just starting to hit its stride, according to Iasparro and his players.

"We're finally figuring out things out and formulating an actual team," Higgins said. "We're together and this is how we're going to play basketball."

Middletown North has now won five of six and the lone loss was Saturday at Rumson-Fair Haven, where Bulldogs guard Brendan Barry erupted for 50 points.

"We're finally showing that we're like an actual top-ten team," Campbell said. "We're playing together. If we play to our full basketball potential, all five guys playing together, we could be a really good team. We can make it really far."

After blitzing St. Rose in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, Middletown North will now play No. 2 Christian Brothers Academy in Thursday's SCT round of 16. Given that CBA mauled Middletown North, 76-44, in the first meeting between the two teams, the Lions have a chance to show how far they've come on Thursday evening.

"I felt like the first game, we got off to a bad start and once you get down big early against those guys, it's tough to get back in the game," Iasparro said. "They made shot, we didn't make shots. It's a make-or-miss game. We got down by 15, then 20 and our energy and our urgency and our enthusiasm went down. I feel much more confident going into this game."