NEPTUNE - The Red Bank Catholic boys basketball team failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament last season and it left the returning players from that team with a chip on their collective shoulder entering this season.

While visiting Neptune in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament Tuesday in the middle of a frustrating two-game skid and down a starter, that chip came in handy.

Senior Mike Conley scored 15 points and Red Bank Catholic's defense confounded the No. 16 seed Scarlet Fliers in the second half to lead the No. 17 Caseys to a 45-37 win. The defensive effort earned RBC a shot at top-seeded Mater Dei Prep in Thursday's round of 16.

RBC senior Mike Conley led the Caseys with 15 points on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"Even in the first game of the season against Middletown North, we played with a chip on our shoulder," Conley said. "We've had that mindset from day one, so after losing two really tough games last week, we went right back to work. We were thinking top 10 (seeds) and maybe a home game or two, but we had to come on the road and beat Neptune and we wanted to make the most of it."

Two significant runs made the difference for Red Bank Catholic Tuesday night - one that began in the final minute of the first quarter and another with just under six minutes remaining in the third. The Caseys grabbed a 24-16 lead by the early part of the second quarter on the strength of a 14-0 run and closed the game with a 17-4 run over span of nearly 14 minutes.

Conley hit three three-pointers in the first quarter, the last of which started the 14-0 run that gave RBC a 24-16 lead. Neptune responded with an 8-0 run to end the half and extended it to 17-4 to go up 33-28 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter.

RBC went on to hold the Fliers to four points over the final 13-plus minutes as part of the 17-4 run to close it out. Neptune junior Scott Fields, who finished the game with a game-high 17 points, hit three of his five three-pointers early in the third quarter to push the lead to 33-28.

Neptune junior center Jared Kimbrough picked up his second foul with five seconds to go in the first quarter and was charged with his fourth within the first 30 seconds of the fourth. The foul trouble forced him to the bench for about six minutes of game time and during those six minutes that Kimbrough was stuck on the bench, RBC took full advantage by outscoring the Scarlet Fliers 12-0.

Kimbrough finished with seven points and eight rebounds - both below his season averages of 14.1 points and 11 rebounds.

"Kimbrough is obviously a huge part of what they (Neptune) do," first-year Red Bank Catholic head coach Tyler Schmelz said. "There was no special focus with him out of the game. It's just really hard to get the ball inside when he's in there, so I think we were able to get near the basket and we kept playing hard on defense."

RBC dealt with its own adversity as 6-4 freshman starter Charlie Gordinier did not travel with the team. Schmelz said Gordinier praticed on Monday and attended school Monday morning, but was sent home due to illness.

In Gordinier's place, fellow freshman Kevin Bauman added nine points and seven rebounds off the bench for Red Bank Catholic.

Both teams entered Tuesday's action in their own respective slumps. RBC lost to Long Branch on Thursday and missed out on a chance to wrap up its first outright division since 2000 and then lost to Christian Brothers Academy on Saturday. Neptune, meanwhile, is now on a five-game losing streak that includes double-digit losses to CBA and Colts Neck.

"Neptune is a really good team," Schmelz said. "We watched a lot of film on them and really tried to get our guys ready for what they were going to see. With the work theses guys have done in practice, it never surprises me to see them succeed, but you don't usually go into a tournament game expecting to hold a good team like under 40 (points)."

RBC's next challenge will be its greatest of the season. The Caseys will travel to nearby Middletown to face defending SCT champion and No. 1 seed Mater Dei Prep.

"It's not something we're running away from," Conley said. "We're not going to back down. They're a great team and we're going to go to practice (Wednesday) and start getting ready."

Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 45, Neptune 37

1 2 3 4 F
RBC (14-8) 13 11 11 10 45
Neptune (12-11) 16 8 11 2 37

Red Bank Catholic (45): Matt Ansell 1 1-2 3, Mike Conley 6 0-0 15, John Kelly 2 0-0 4, Terence Calandrillo 3 0-0 6, Tommy Lang 1 2-2 5, Kevin Bauman 4 1-2 9, John Duffy 1 0-0 3, Matt Conley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 4-6 45

Three-pointers: Mike Conley 3, Lang, Duffy

Neptune (37): Dwaine Jones 3 0-1 7, Seth Harrington 1 0-0 2, Jared Kimbrough 3 1-1 7, Jules Calhoun 2 0-0 4, Scott Fields 6 0-0 17, D.J. Jones 0 0-0 0, Kobe Blake 0 0-0 0, Fab Bambaata 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 1-2 37

Three-pointers: Dwaine Jones, Fields 5

Fouled Out: Harrington


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