Boys Basketball – Sophomore Billups the X-Factor in Rare Freehold Township Win at CBA
MIDDLETOWN - The Freehold Township boys basketball team marched into Christian Brothers Academy Thursday with an experienced squad ready to join a very short list of Patriots teams that won a road game against CBA.
Senior experience might have been the Patriots most important ally against a young CBA team, but it was not their x-factor. That title belonged to the youngest, least experienced Freehold Township player.
Sophomore Greg Billups jumped square into A North's foremost rivalry of the past decade and made a major impact by scoring 16 points, grabbing nine rebounds and making a handful of key plays in Freehold Township's 54-39 win over the Colts. The win was just the second Freehold Township has earned at CBA and first since the 2006-07 Shore Conference Tournament championship team swept the Colts in three games.
"Before the game, when everybody was on their way out, I pulled him aside and said, 'You're the x-factor for us tonight,'" Freehold Township coach Brian Golub said of Billups, who is a first-year varsity player. "He's 6-5 and he's a tough matchup because he handles the ball, he's not a great shooter but he's becoming a better shooter. He made a couple plays early to gain confidence and he did knock down a couple huge shots."
Billups and senior teammate Bobby Weise led all scorers with 16 points, but the timing of the sophomore's baskets was as significant as the quantity of shots he made. He knocked down a three-pointer that gave Freehold Township an 18-16 lead midway through the second quarter, which the Patriots never relinquished.
"Obviously, I was a little bit nervous playing a big game like this in front of a big crowd," Billups said. "But as the game went on, I kept my composure and just trusted my instincts to make plays."
"Greg's been doing great," Weise said. "Once we started to figure things out after the first three weeks of practice, everything has fallen into place really well and he's obviously been a big part of that."
That shot ignited a 10-0 run that would carry Freehold Township to halftime. Billups also converted an old-fashioned three-point play during the run and assisted a layup by senior Brian White after stealing the ball.
CBA scored the first six points of the third quarter to cut Freehold Township's lead to 27-22 and it was again Billups who turned the tied with a run-stopping three-pointer. Later in the quarter he converted a drive to the basket as he was fouled to put Freehold Township up 33-22 and Weise nailed a three that made it 36-23.
The Colts trimmed the deficit to 36-27 by the end of the third quarter and pulled within 38-30 on a three by sophomore Stephen Braunstein early in the fourth, the Patriots ripped off an 11-0 run to build a 49-30 lead and put the game out of reach. Weise and fellow senior Steve Staklinski each had four points during the run.
CBA started the game strong and grabbed a 12-9 lead over the Patriots through one quarter. Sophomore center Josh Cohen scored seven of his team-high nine points in the first, but Freehold Township increasingly denied him touches near the rim and Staklinski routinely challenged the 6-foot-8 sophomore when he did approach the rim. Staklinski finished the game with six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
"We didn't score in the first quarter because (CBA's) defense was excellent," Golub said. "Our defense was fair but we get a lot of our offense off of our defense and that's what started in the second quarter. They made a few mistakes, we took advantage and we made a couple of big shots that got us going a little bit."
From the midway point of the second quarter until the final two minutes of the game, CBA managed just 14 points over an 18-minute stretch after scoring 16 in the first 12. Freehold Township employed their full court pressure for most of the game and bothered CBA with a 2-3 zone that the Colts could not shoot over.
"It's all defense," Weise said. "If you look across the board, it's me at 6-2, (Ryan) Cardone at 6-2, (Billups) at 6-4, and then we have (Ryan Zyskowski) and (Staklinski) at 6-5 and 6-6. We're long, lanky and it's hard to shoot over us, plus we play good 'D.'"
CBA hit three three-pointers in the final two minutes, but the Patriots had already built a big enough lead. Weise went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and finished the game 11-for-12 from the line. Foul shooting was the difference in the scoring line as Freehold Township went 23-for-32 and CBA just 6-for-11.
Technically, Middletown North was the last team to defeat CBA in a divisional game when the Lions beat the Colts last season in the final A North meeting for both teams. That game, however, was a makeup game played two nights before the Shore Conference Tournament final and CBA rested its starters while preparing to play in the championship.
The last time a team beat CBA in A North with both teams employing all available players, Freehold Township beat the Colts in Freehold in January of 2015. During the past three seasons, Freehold Township was the only A North team to beat CBA outside of Middletown North.
"They didn't back down," Golub said of CBA. "They just kept coming. I'm not looking forward to the next three years of playing them because they are young and they play so hard. Anybody who thinks they're going to walk in here and beat them in a down year is getting ahead of themselves. They're a good team, they're just inexperienced."
"They're still CBA," Weise said. "No matter who they've lost, they're still going to restock, they have a great coach in coach (Geoff) Billet. It's still the same CBA, and coming in here and winning is still a big deal."
Freehold Twp. 54, CBA 39
|Freehold Twp. (4-0, 3-0)||9||16||11||18||54|
|CBA (2-1, 2-1)||12||4||11||12||39|
Freehold Twp. (54): Bobby Weise 2 11-12 16, Greg Billups 6 2-6 16, Steve Staklinski 1 4-6 6, Ryan Zyskowski 1 2-3 4, Ryan Cardone 3 2-3 8, Brian White 1 2-2 4, Ja'zeem Foster 0 0-0 0, Brandon Hasner 0 0-0 0, Joe Gargiulo 0 0-0 0, Mike Pirrotta 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 23-32 54
Three-pointers: Weise, Billups 2
CBA (39): Liam Kennedy 1 2-2 4, Chris Lautato 0 0-0 0, Matt Lautato 2 0-3 5, Josh Cohen 4 1-1 9, Rob Mahala 1 0-0 2, Lucas Waraksa 2 0-0 5, Ron Meehan 0 3-4 3, Stephen Braunstein 2 0-1 5, Nolan Madden 1 0-0 3, Luke Valentino 1 0-0 3. Totals: 14 6-11 39
Three-pointers: M. Lautato, Waraksa, Braunstein, Madden, Valentino
Fouled out: Kennedy