By Tyler Calvaruso
SSN Correspondent

COLTS NECK - On a night where the shots weren’t falling for Freehold Township, they fell back on their defense to lead them to a big Class A North division win on the road.

Led by a double-double from senior Ryan Zyskowski, the Patriots (8-0, 4-0) defeated Colts Neck (4-4, 2-2) in a 40-32 defensive battle. Zyskowski finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

After allowing only 39 points against a potent Toms River North offense in the WOBM finals, the Freehold Township defense was back at it again on Tuesday night, holding Colts Neck to 13 points in the second half.

Most notably, the Patriots did an excellent job on Colts Neck junior Dan Gaines, who has emerged as one of the Cougars’ top scoring options. The Freehold Township defense held Gaines, who came into the night averaging 18.7 points per game, to only three points.

“We work real hard on team defense,” Freehold Township head coach Brian Golub. “His [Gaines] name was prominent in the scouting report along with [Brendan] Clarke and we just wanted to make sure we know where they are and have a hand up.”

Contributing to that defensive effort was sophomore Greg Billups, who was on Gaines all night.

“The one thing that’s helping us defensively is we have some length.” Golub said. “We were able to switch on a lot of the picks and get out when the guards like Gaines are having a hard time with a 6’4” kid [Billups] with long arms who is athletic enough to stay in front.”

After a slow start which resulted in Colts Neck taking a 19-16 lead into halftime led by Ben Bosland, who had six of his nine points on the night in the first half, it was Billups who provided the spark on both ends of the floor. He scored all of his seven points in the third quarter as the Patriots ripped off a 14-4 run to jump out to a 30-23 lead at the end of the quarter.

“There was stuff said to the entire team at halftime about how our offense was playing terrible.” Golub said. “We need to have more confidence in ourselves and each other, we need to open the floor and share the ball.”

Along with Billups, senior Steve Staklinski contributed 10 points and senior Bobby Weise pitched in nine points to give Freehold Township just enough to come out with the win.

It would wind up coming down to the wire, as Golub was called for a technical foul with 47.3 seconds remaining in the game with Colts Neck down 36-29. Bosland was able to hit three free throws to bring the Cougars within four, but they did not score again and Freehold Township was able to ice the game at the free throw line.

This game marked Freehold Township’s first trip to Colts Neck since Clarke, who finished with nine points on Thursday night, hit a buzzer beater to beat Freehold Township in the Central Jersey Group IV finals a year ago.

“Was there talk? I’m not going to lie; there was talk of going back to a gym where we haven’t been very successful in.” Golub said. “I’ll trade this game for that game 100 times over again.”

With the win, the Patriots have jumped out to an 8-0 start, including a WOBM Christmas Classic title and have established themselves as one of, if not the main team to beat in A North.

“I’m not sure what kind of message we’ve sent so far,” Golub said. “It’s been a very good start to hopefully what will be a very long and successful season. These kids have worked really hard and deserve that.”