BRICK TWP. - The Toms River North boys basketball team faced a serious threat in its quest to extend its winning streak against Shore Conference Class A South competition to 38 Tuesday night in Brick, but one of the reasons the Mariners have been as successful as they have over the last three-plus seasons is because they don't sweat the big moment.

On Tuesday, against a Brick team hungry to prove its standing as an A South contender, the three-time defending A South champions once again embraced a fourth-quarter challenge and delivered their best performance with the game on the line.

Seniors Holden Petrick and Travis Holland - the two returning starters from last year's record-setting 28-win team - each scored 17 points Tuesday and helped Toms River North close out Brick, 55-45, after entering the third quarter trailing by three points.

With the win, the Mariners have now won 38 consecutive games in A South division play - streak that extends back to February of 2015. Toms River North's last loss in A South came at Southern on Jan. 30, 2015.

Toms River North senior Holden Petrick, pictured in action last season. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

"What's great is in the last six years, we've had a lot of guys come back to watch us and check in on us," seventh year Toms River North coach Rory Caswell said. "Guys like Evan Martin and Pat Marinaccio, and they tell these kids now what they should be doing.

"They know if they blow one of these games, those kids who came before them are going to get on them, and that's a fun thing over the last six or seven years - we have guys coming back to see the current team and it reminds the guys we have now what's expected out of them."

Since its last divisional loss, Toms River North has played in three Shore Conference Tournament semifinal games and last year played a triple-overtime thriller in its home gym against Shawnee in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group final. Petrick had one of the seminal moments of last year's loss vs. Shawnee, hitting a short jumper in the final seconds of the first overtime to extend the game to double overtime.

"I think us seniors - me, Mark (Mogarte), Travis and Eliot (Daks) - learned a lot from last year," Petrick said. "We learned from the seniors last year and in a situation like this, we know how to come out and play in the fourth quarter."

Brick rode an energetic performance from a group of players who typically make up its offensive supporting cast and took a 41-38 lead into the fourth quarter despite quiet offensive games from the top two Green Dragons scorers coming into the game.

"Playing in their home gym is definitely tough, but we just had to battle it out in the fourth quarter," Holland said.

Leading scorer and junior wing Shane Williams (18 points per game heading into Tuesday) scored only three points on 1-for-9 shooting while junior Jalen Jackson (16 points per game) scored nine on 3-for-19 shooting against Toms River North's 2-3 zone.

"Coming in, we knew they were the two scorers," Petrick said. "Their offense revolves around those guys, so we knew if we shut them down, other guys were going to have to step up and make plays.

"I think using my length was definitely a key to stopping (Williams)," the 6-5 Holland said. "If we just use our length - because we're very big this year - we can stop pretty much anyone."

Despite the shooting woes of its top two scorers, Brick took the three-point lead into the fourth behind the hot shooting of senior Kyle Sullivan, who scored eight of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter, and the defensive efforts of senior Dan Venezia - who finished with six points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals - and Williams (11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks).

In the fourth quarter, however, the Mariners immediately seized control of the game, sparked by a pair of three-pointers by junior Nick Duncsak. The 6-7 junior came off the bench to score eight points, including a three to tie the game at 41-41 and another to make it 44-43 early in the fourth.

From there, Petrick took the game over, scoring a basket off a steal and  later drilling a corner three-pointer to stretch the lead to 49-43 with under four minutes to go. Holland also scored four points down the stretch to put the game on ice, including a two-handed slam that capped the scoring.

Petrick's performance Tuesday, which also included 10 rebounds and four assists, was his best of the season, which has been impacted by an ankle injury he suffered on opening night against Toms River South, bothered him throughout the WOBM Christmas Classic and sidelined him for exactly two weeks following the WOBM Classic.

"Obviously it makes a big difference that he's healthy now," Caswell said of Holden. "I give him credit - he played hurt. The whole WOBM (Tournament), he was hurt, but he knew we needed him. He did what he needed to do, he took his two weeks off and now, hopefully, he's healthy the rest of the way. He just played with a ton of heart tonight."

Tuesday marked Petrick's second game back from his two-week absence and the 17 points was the most he scored all season, which he did by shooting 7-for-16 (43.7 percent) from the field.

"It was definitely bothering me a lot throughout the WOBM," Petrick said. "It feels good to be back and healthy and helping the team win again."

Holland, meanwhile sparked Toms River North in the early going, scoring 11 points during a 19-12 start over the first 10-plus minutes. After going quiet during the middle part of the game shooting the ball, he scored off a third-quarter inbound play and put away a pair of scores later. Holland also pulled in eight rebounds.

With Petrick back and playing to his full strength, senior Mark Mogarte settled into a role of true point guard, knocking down a three-pointer for his only three points while handing out eight assists and playing disruptive defense at the top of the zone. Senior Eliot Daks was also a force on the glass with 12 rebounds to go with his four points.

"They've been in these games before," Caswell said. "They played Shawnee in an arena of three thousand people. They have been in tough atmospheres, they have hit big shots, so as long as we kept it close, I knew we had a run in us and we hit some shots at the end."

 

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