TINTON FALLS - Ranney freshman Alex Klatsky has been playing with classmates Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine for nearly four years now, and the early success of his two teammates can overshadow the fact that for most basketball players, playing varsity basketball as a freshman is difficult.

While the adjustment for Klatsky has naturally not been as seamless as it has been for Lewis or Antoine, the 6-foot-2 guard made it look easy on Tuesday in the Panthers' first ever NJSIAA Tournament victory.

Klatsky buried his first seven three-point attempts and scored a career-high 23 points - all in the first half - to help lead Ranney to a 74-45 win over St. Rose in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B opening round.

After tearing the ACL in his right knee in January of 2015, Klatsky has played the entire season with a brace and had hit double-figure scoring in a game twice prior to Tuesday. His two other double-figure scoring games were also in a tournament setting - he scored 12 points in the Buc Classic championship game in December and 12 more in a Shore Conference Tournament win over Brick.

"It's been a process with the knee and also making the adjustment, but I've just been doing whatever I can to help us win," Klatsky said. "It's been a learning experience but I'm just glad we could get this first state tournament win."

"There's more to come from him," Lewis said. "I've seen Bryan Antoine have a bad game or a bad week, and then score 40. Everybody has their struggles, but you keep fighting. But it was definitely good to see him have a game like that."

The three-point barrage by Klatsky helped Ranney storm out to a 31-9 lead. St. Rose had trimmed the host's lead to 16-8, but Klatsky answered with four threes during a 15-1 run, which junior Joe Mahoney capped with a three of his own.

Scottie Lewis chipped in 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Ranney's win over St. Rose Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The Panthers took a 42-19 lead to halftime and then scored the first 11 points of the second half to open up a 53-19 lead. Freshman Chris Autino scored all seven of his points during the run after missing most of the first half due to foul trouble, while Lewis and Antoine each threw down a dunk during the 11-point burst.

Lewis finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals, while Antoine pitched in 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the win. The two leading scorers combined to attempt a modest 19 shots, with Lewis shooting 5-for-11 and Antoine going 5-for-8.

"They were in a triangle-and-two guarding Bryan and Scottie, so they were worried about those too," Klatsky said. "That left me with some great opportunities to shoot. During the second half, they were guarding me a little more and that opened the lane up for everybody else."

The Panthers will need to carry that hot shooting over to Thursday night, when they host No. 5 seed Roselle Catholic - the defending Tournament of Champions winner and a team ranked in the top five in the state all-year long by NJ.com.

"Half those guys on the team, I'm really good friends with," Lewis said of Roselle Catholic's roster. "We talk all the time - they're like big brothers to me. It's going to be a fun game, a competitive game and we're going to do our best and see how we do.

"Knowing most of those guys, they'll do as much as they need to, so we're going to try to attack them if they are slacking. If they are going to go 10 deep, then let them go 10 deep. We're going to play the same way we played every other team."