RUMSON - The Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball team was on the losing end of two tournament games to Manasquan last season and with under 12 minutes left in regulation of Friday's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II game and again with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bulldogs would again end their season at the hands of their fellow Group II rival from Monmouth County.

Led by junior Jack Solano and senior Tyler Pierson, however, Rumson would not let another season end with a loss to the Warriors.

Pierson hit a game-tying three-pointer with 23 seconds left in regulation and Solano scored 12 of his career-high 34 points in overtime to lead Rumson - the top seed in Central Jersey Group II - past the No. 4 Warriors in another classic game between the two teams.

"We weren't going to let us lose again," Solano said. "After last year, what happened in the semifinals of states, we weren't going to let us lose to Manasquan again. I wasn't going to go through that for another year and wait until next year to do it."

Friday's game was the latest chapter in what has evolved into one of the Shore's best rivalries. The two teams no longer share the same division as they had over the past four seasons of competitive games, but Rumson and Manasquan nevertheless met twice this season. The Bulldogs held on to beat Manasquan in Rumson on Feb. 4, 65-64, despite Manasquan closing the game on a 12-0 run.

Last year, the two teams played a triple-overtime thriller at Brookdale College in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, which Manasquan won. The Warriors then hosted Rumson in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals and hammered the Bulldogs, 65-46.

"I think it's the best high school basketball rivalry in the state," Rumson coach Chris Champeau said. "If you really think about it, with St. Anthony and teams up there who play each other, it's always a mixed bag. Down here, the kids know each other, it's sold out and it's a war every game.

"For us, this is a great revenge game, because last year, they took it to us down there (in Manasquan). Just manhandled us. So we had 'revenge' on the board the entire year and sure enough, here we are and we got it."

Manasquan led Rumson, 44-34 midway through the third quarter and after Rumson stormed in front in the fourth, the Warriors regained a 54-50 lead with a little more than two minutes to play.

Senior Brian Paturzo converted one of two free throws with 50 seconds left to put the Warriors ahead, 55-52, and Rumson took a timeout with 41 seconds left. The Bulldogs drew up a play to try to get Solano or junior Teddy Sourlis a potential game-tying look, but Manasquan denied both, leaving Pierson open on the left wing. The senior took his time and buried the game-tying three.

"We ran 'Horns', which was a play for Teddy (Sourlis)," Solano said. "It was a screen-and-roll at the top of the key, but they came out and hedged and double-teamed me, so I just dished it over to Tyler. He hit the biggest three of the night."

"It was supposed to be for Teddy (Sourlis), but we also thought Jack might be open. They covered both very well and I just popped back. No one was on me and I said, 'Here I go. I'm making this. No way I'm missing.'"

Manasquan senior Devin Jensen got off a 12-foot fadeaway from the right elbow, but the shot came up just short to end the fourth quarter.

After Paturzo and Solano traded baskets to open the overtime scoring, Paturzo canned a pair of free throws to give Manasquan a 59-57 lead in overtime, with Sourlis fouling out on the play with 11 points. Solano, however, answered with three-pointers on consecutive possessions and hit two free throws to cap a personal 8-0 run that put Rumson ahead, 65-59. The Bulldogs shot 7-for-8 from the foul line in overtime.

"If feel like in any game, if I square up, I can hit any shot I want," Solano said. "I was missing some shots and I wasn't squaring up, so I just tried to stick to the basics and the mechanics. Overtime came, and you're not thinking. That's why I hit all those shots: because I wasn't thinking. Just square up and go through the muscle memory."

Manasquan came out hot from the outside Friday, hitting five of its first seven three-point attempts. Rumson eventually caught up and by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, both teams were 7-for-12 from three-point range.

Manasquan also hit its first two attempts of the third quarter - one by senior Tyler Hobbie and another by junior Ryan Flanagan - to improve to 9-for-14 but the Warriors missed their final eight attempts and finished a more conventional 9-for-22 from beyond the arc.

Rumson's shooting took the opposite trajectory. The Bulldogs shot 1-for-7 from three-point range during the third quarter before knocking down five of their last seven in the fourth quarter and overtime to finish 13-for-26 for the game. Solano finished 6-for-11 on three-point attempts, Sourlis was 3-for-4 and Pierson was 3-for-7.

Pierson finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks for Rumson. Sophomore Ian O'Connor, meanwhile, scored all seven of his points in the third quarter - including a three-pointer to tie the game at 46.

Pierson is one of two seniors, along with Tommy Oakes, in the starting lineup for the Bulldogs and he has been the team's leader in rebounding, assists and blocks. His three-point shooting was slow to come around this season, according to Champeau, but his ability to hit the outside shot as his team's tallest player on the floor allows Rumson to spread teams out.

"There was a time during the season when he was 3-for-31 from three," Champeau said. "I can remember a time when he hesitated on a three - it was against Raritan earlier in the season - and I said, 'Tyler, you're 3-for-31 from three. You're wide open, what should you do?' He said, 'Pass it.' I said, 'No, no. You're shooting. That's what we do. You're out there, you're shooting.'"

Paturzo led Manasquan with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Brad McCabe added 15 points off the bench and senior Tyler Hobbie poured in 10 points.

Jensen finished with 14 points, but did not score in the third or fourth quarter and scored one point in overtime. The senior finishes his stellar three-year varsity career with 1,051 points after entering the season with little more than 400.

"He got shots," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said of Jensen. "That's how you judge it - whether or not he got shots. Credit their defense. We got him the ball. I don't know his attempt numbers off the top of my head, but he got shots."

Rumson will host Tuesday's Central Jersey Group II championship game against No. 3 A.L. Johnson and will look to win the program's first ever sectional title. The Bulldogs last appeared in a sectional final in 2014, when they lost at Matawan.

"The whole season, we were trying to wrap up the first seed," Solano said. "Every time before a game, (Champeau) would remind us that we need home court in states."

"I feel like if we play the way we did today, we should be fine, but I want to be even better," Pierson said. "I don't want it to be close. (Johnson) is a very good team, but hopefully we'll play well and we'll get the first state championship in Rumson history."

 

Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 70, Manasquan 62 (OT)

1 2 3 4 OT F
Manasquan (18-11) 21 17 8 9 7 62
Rumson-FH (23-2) 16 18 5 16 15 70

Manasquan (62): Ryan Flanagan 1 0-0 3, Tyler Hobbie 3 1-3 10, Seamus Hogan 1 0-0 2, Devin Jensen 5 1-2 14, Brian Paturzo 5 7-8 18, Brad McCabe 5 4-4 15, Justin Gladden 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 13-17 62

Three-pointers: Flanagan, Hobbie 3, Jensen 3, Paturzo, McCabe

Rumson-FH (70): Tommy Oakes 2 0-0 4, Jack Solano 12 4-5 34, Tyler Pierson 3 2-2 11, Ian O'Connor 3 0-0 7, Teddy Sourlis 4 0-0 11, Jack Higgins 0 0-0 0, Connor Dupree 0 0-0 0, Jackson McCarthy 0 3-6 3. Totals: 24 9-13 70

Three-pointers: Solano 6, Pierson 3, O'Connor, Sourlis 3

Fouled Out: Sourlis