POINT PLEASANT BOROUGH – Throughout this 2013-14 season, the Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball team struggled to win close games, and that recent history was on the minds of the Bulldogs players during their NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II first-round game Tuesday at Point Boro.

With a fresh slate for the postseason, the Bulldogs – the No. 10 seed in Central Jersey Group II - took a step toward rewriting their profile.

Rumson senior Jack Herrmann fires up a shot, defended by Will Bocanfuso (4). (Photo by Matt Manley)

Rumson never trailed or led by more than seven points in closing out the Panthers on the road, 58-53, to win its first single-digit decision against a team above .500 since opening night against Shore Regional. The Bulldogs will play No. 2 Lakewood on Thursday.

Point Boro never allowed Rumson to pull away and pulled to within 52-49 on a three from the left corner by senior Brian Byington with 35 seconds left. Rumson, however put the game away on the free-throw line (9-for-11 in the fourth quarter) and avoided surrendering any other Point Boro 3-pointers.

12 - Brian Byington for 3 from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

The last tournament game the Bulldogs played, they held a 10-point lead with 4:30 left on Jackson Memorial in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament, only to lose at the buzzer.

“When (Byington) hit the three, you could feel it. We were all looking around like, ‘Here it comes again,’” Rumson coach Chris Champeau said. “One thing we talked about though is looking at this as a new season and opportunity to change everything. Tonight, all the things we couldn’t do in so many of those close losses - whether it was foul shooting, turnovers, getting stops - we did those things down the stretch today.”

Senior Jack Herrmann scored a team-high 17 points despite being saddled with foul trouble for most of the first half. He scored 13 of his points in the second half after playing only five first-half minutes after picking up two quick fouls.

11 - Jack Herrmann basket and the foul from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

“You never want to go out on a loss and you definitely don’t want to lose a game while you’re sitting on the bench,” said Herrmann, who scored his 1,000th career point Saturday in a win over American History of Newark. “Things didn’t really go our way in the first half and we still had the lead, so we felt confident we could play a better half and come out with a win.”

“It was like Groundhog Day with Herrmann getting the two early fouls,” Champeau said. “We’ve had two big games this year where he’s fouled out and we’ve lost by two, so right away, we were dealing with that. But I think we’ve learned to battle through that as a team, and I think he’s learned to play under control.”

Juniors Thomas Famulary and Alex Geiger carried the Rumson scoring effort in the first half while Herrmann sat. Famulary scored all nine of his points in the first half and Geiger hit two threes for six of his 12 points before halftime.

Rumson sophomore Brendan Barry also scored nine points, all of which came in the second half.

2 - Alex Geiger for 3 to end the half from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

The Bulldogs led by as many as six in the fourth quarter and seven in the fourth, but Point Boro chipped away each time. Senior Will Boccanfuso scored six straight points to turn a 36-30 Rumson advantage into a tie game late in the third.

“Once Boccanfuso starting hitting some of those shots in the third, we decided we just had to double him,” Champeau said. “He was pretty much their whole offense during that stretch, and if they were going to beat us, we wanted it to be somebody else.”

5 - Will Boccanfuso fadeaway from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Barry responded with a 3-pointer to cap the third quarter scoring and spark a 7-0 run that put Rumson up 43-36 early in the third. Point Boro battled to within 47-46 on a drive by Boccanfuso, but could not pull even.

6 - Brendan Barry for 3 from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

“We missed some opportunities to make a run,” Boccanfuso said. “We had a chance to open up the game and attack the rim in the second quarter because they didn’t have as much size on the floor. We had a bunch of chances to take control of the game, and we basically shot ourselves out of it.”

Boccanfuso finished with a game-high 19 points, 12 in the second half, and 12 rebounds in his final game as a Panther. Sophomore Peyton Wejnert scored 10 of his 16 points in the first half and freshman John Venturi add 11 points – including five during the 10-4 run that cut the Rumson lead to one in the fourth.

“It’s a different kind of kid here in Point Pleasant,” Boccanfuso said. “It means something to play for Point Boro. We’re a tough, scrappy, hard-working team year-in-and-year out and coach (Kevin) Hynes always does a great job with the hand he’s dealt.”

During Champeau’s first three seasons at Rumson, his teams relished the underdog role, particularly when the Bulldogs reached the SCT final as a No. 10 seed in 2011. Rumson will now take on Lakewood, the defending sectional champion and the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network rankings.

“We’ve been at our best when the pressure’s off and the way we see it, there’s no pressure going into this game,” Herrmann said. “Nobody’s going to expect us to win, but we know we’re a good enough team to play with anybody, and I think we’ve proved that. Now we’re starting to believe we’re going to win games like tonight.”

 

Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 58, Point Boro 53

1

2

3

4

F

Rumson-Fair Haven (16-10)

9

17

13

19

58

Point Boro (16-8)

10

13

13

17

53

 

Rumson-Fair Haven (58): Brendan Barry 2 4-4 9, Alex Geiger 2 6-8 12, Morgan Maguire 3 1-4 7, Jack Herrmann 8 1-1 17, Thomas Famulary 3 1-1 9, Tommy Johnston 2 0-0 4, Jimmy Purcell 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 13-18 58

Three-pointers: Barry, Geiger 2, Famulary 2

Point Boro (53): John Venturi 5 0-2 11, Jack Fitzsimmons 0 0-0 0, Brian Byington 3 0-0 7, Will Boccanfuso 8 2-2 19, Peyton Wejnert 5 5-8 16, Mike Larson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 7-12 53

Three-pointers: Venturi, Byington, Boccanfuso, Wejnert