Follow Matt Manley on Twitter

RUMSON – Early during its challenging 2012-13 season, the young Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball team learned how to beat one of the Shore Conference's best teams and then learned that it means little if that is the peak of the season.

In front of a packed gym at Rumson-Fair Haven High School for its 2013-14 season opener, now a year older and a year better, the Bulldogs showed they can still beat one of the Shore Conference’s top teams. Now the goal is to become one of the Shore’s best teams.

Rumson senior Jack Herrmann looks for an open man while Shore's Dan Largey defends. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Rumson took down Shore Conference Class A Central rival Shore Regional – the No. 4 team in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 – 64-58 on Friday night.

“This is the best game I’ve ever played in,” Rumson senior Jack Herrmann said. “Just in terms of the atmosphere, it was unlike any game I’ve ever played in. Both teams played hard, it was back-and-forth, and the crowd was into it from the start. Winning a game like that is huge.”

Last season, the Bulldogs beat preseason No. 1 Manasquan 41-37 after starting the year 0-2, but struggled the rest of the way en route to an 11-13 season. With most of its roster back, Rumson made the most of its first chance to knock off a top-five opponent.

“We talked about that in the locker room after the game,” Bulldogs coach Chris Champeau said. “We went down to Manasquan and got a big win, and we never put it together the rest of the year. You’d rather beat a good team than not, but seasons aren’t made in one game in December. Last year’s team was a young group that didn’t understand that, but this year, we know it can’t stop here.”

Sophomore point guard Brendan Barry led all scorers with 20 points Friday night and junior Thomas Framulary added 19 points to pick up some of the scoring while Herrmann – Rumson’s leading scorer last year – battled foul trouble and finished with 13 points.

In order to beat their rivals, the Bulldogs beat the Blue Devils at their own game by closing in the fourth quarter. Shore made a name for itself last season by rallying from second-half deficits and finishing games off with strong fourth quarters. The Blue Devils appeared poised to do the same Friday night when Kevin Bloodgood hit consecutive baskets – the second of which was a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Shore up 53-49 early in the fourth quarter.

Rumson, however, responded with eight straight points to take the lead for good. Junior Alex Geiger drove for a runner to cut the deficit to 53-51, stole the ball on the other end, and hit a go-ahead three to give the Bulldogs a 54-53 lead.

Barry put an exclamation point on the run by hitting a three as he was fouled to give Rumson a 57-53 lead with just over three minutes to play.

[onescreen item="5184638"]

“I was surprised because I thought once we took the lead, we were going to bury them,” Shore coach Dave Emery said. “All year last year, we were a fourth-quarter team and whenever we had a chance to put a game away, our record was pretty good."

Rumson stretched the run to 12-2 to make it 61-55 before Shore senior Matt Cosentino converted a three-point play to chop the lead in half with 1:47 left. Shore had three possessions while trailing 61-58, but Rumson came through with three stops and finally hit three free throws to put the game away.

[onescreen item="5184640"]

“It looked like their experience was about to take over, but I’m so proud of the way our guys kept playing,” Champeau said. “We lost seven of our games last year by a combined 21 points because we kept messing up little things down the stretch, including foul shooting. We weren’t very good tonight either (6-for-12), but we found a way.”

In addition to leading the team in scoring, Barry also shadowed Shore’s leading scorer from last season, senior Dan Pillari. Pillari capped a 14-point first half with an acrobatic put-back, but was shut out in the second half. Bloodgood led Shore with 19 points and Cosentino scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.

“I noticed (Pillari) only went right in the first half, so I just tried to take that away in the second half,” Barry said. “He likes to use the shot fake, so I just tried to have a hand up and force him left, and we did a nice job helping on him and making him give it up.”

“Our focus is always to attack the engine of the machine, and for Shore, that’s Pillari,” Champeau said. “He’s one of the best guards in the Shore Conference, and we knew we had to make him work. We also wanted to have a man on (forward Chris) Largey and that worked out well. Of course, Bloodgood burned us for 19 points. That’s what happens when you play a team that has five guys who can shoot the ball.”

Rumson’s shooting from behind the arc was also a difference on Friday night. The Bulldogs shot 10-for-22 from three-point range, with Barry knocking down five of those.

“Credit to Rumson, they hit 10 threes,” Emery said. “Some of that’s on us, but a lot of it’s on them just making big shots. We got beat by a good team tonight, but we’ll get them one more time at our place, and we’ll be ready.”

Shore now faces the prospect of going from preseason No. 4 in the Shore Conference to an 0-2 start. The Blue Devils will play defending NJSIAA Tournament of Champions runner-up St. Joseph-Metuchen on Sunday at the Hoop Group Tip-off Classic at West Orange High School.

“We have a bulls-eye hanging up in our locker room, but I guess that didn’t work tonight,” Emery said. “But we’re going to learn. Teams are going to be coming after us, just like we were trying to prove ourselves at the beginning of last year, and we’ll have to be ready for that. We weren’t tonight, but this was a good taste of what life’s going to be like this year.”

 

Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 64, Shore 58

1

2

3

4

F

Shore (0-1, 0-1)

13

19

14

12

58

Rumson-Fair Haven (1-0, 1-0)

16

14

17

17

64

Shore (58): Dan Pillari 4 5-6 14, Matt Cosentino 4 3-3 12, Dan Largey 2 0-0 4, Kevin Bloodgood 8 0-0 19, Jack Byrne 1 0-0 3, Matt McCarthy 1 0-0 2, Clayton Coffey 0 0-0 0, Billy Deerin 2 0-0 4. Totals: 22 8-9 58

Three-Pointers: Pillari, Cosentino, Bloodgood 3, Byrne

Rumson-FH (64): Brendan Barry 7 1-3 20, Alex Geiger 3 0-0 8, Morgan Maguire 1 2-3 5, Jack Herrmann 6 0-0 13, Thomas Famulary 7 3-6 18, Chris Drummond 0 0-0 0, Kenny Ferrare 0 0-0 0, Rich Del Negro 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 6-12 64

Three-pointers: Barry 5, Geiger 2, Maguire, Herrmann, Famulary