POINT PLEASANT  BEACH- Point Pleasant Beach senior guard Mohamed Traore was starting to think maybe his new team was better without him.

Since Traore became eligible on Jan. 16 and in his first three game, Point Beach went 0-3, including a stunning, 46-44, loss at Central Regional in which Traore committed the turnover that led to the winning basket.

Saturday against rival Point Pleasant Boro, Traore showed that he will fit in just fine with a Point Beach team looking to gain momentum heading into February.

Traore scored 23 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and worked in sync with four-year letter-winners Danny Frauenheim and Trevor Covey as the Garnet Gulls pulled away with a 64-49 win over Point Boro.

"We lost to Central and I started to think it was kind of my fault we were losing," Traore joked. "Then we came back and beat St. Rose and Keansburg and got a win tonight too, so right now it feels good."

Despite Point Beach's three-game skid upon his arrival to the lineup, Traore - a transfer from the Boston area - led Point Beach in scoring in two of the three losses and is averaging 17.7 points this year in six games. The first two losses Point Beach suffered upon his return came against Mater Dei Prep and Ranney, the top two teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and two of the state's top 10 teams.

"The biggest thing that happened with Mo is he sprained his ankle, so he wasn't able to practice for two weeks," Point Beach coach Nick Catania said of Traore. "He didn't have his burst, he didn't have his legs, plus he sat the 30 (days). Those things all affected him, but once he got back to practicing and we were able to watch some film together so he could better understand the way we play, I think his buy-in is a little better and he's learning to play the game of basketball a little bit better."

On Saturday, Traore poured in seven points in both the second and third quarters to help stake Point Beach to a 40-34 leading heading into the final eight minutes. He capped the first half with a three-pointer as time expired to send the Gulls into the halftime locker room with a 28-25 lead.

Point Beach put the game away in the fourth behind Frauenheim and Covey, who combined for 17 points during a 24-15 quarter in favor of the Garnet Gulls. Frauenheim scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth, while Covey two of his four three-pointers and dropped seven of his 19 points in the final eight minutes.

Covey also grabbed eight rebounds, while Frauenheim handed out eight assists.

"We moved the ball really we as a team," Covey said. "That's the kind of thing coach imparts on us at practice - look for the extra pass, all that stuff."

Traore's three-pointer at the end of the half gave the Gulls a halftime lead despite the best efforts of Point Boro senior John Duda. During the first half alone, Duda posted 13 points, four rebounds and four assists and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Duda's scoring in the paint and passing to set his teammates up for layups led to Point Boro scoring eight of its 10 first-half field goals in the paint.

"We made some switches in the second half," Catania said. "We moved (Traore) to (point guard Connor Strickland), we moved (Frauenheim) to (forward John Chipak) and (sophomore) Jake Clark did a great job on (Duda).

"(Clark) was huge all day - hustle plays, loose balls, steals. He was great."

If the motivation to bounce back from last Saturday's loss to Central was not enough, Point Beach was out to avenge a loss at Point Boro last year.

"I have nothing but respect for (Point Boro coach) Kevin (Hynes)," Catania said. "He's a great coach, we've known each other for a long time and I consider him a good friend. Obviously, he wants to beat us. He's from Boro, I went to Beach - when this game comes, we both want to win. And, more importantly, the kids want to win this game."

"Being home makes a huge difference compared to last year," "When you're at home, it makes a big difference as it is, but the energy was definitely there. The Gulls Nest was huge today."

 

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