By Bobby Klatt
Shore Sports Network Correspondent

HAZLET- St. John Vianney jumped out to a double-digit second half lead but had to scratch and claw their way late to score a 52-49 vicotry over Raritan Tuesday afternoon to avoid their third loss in five days.

Raritan came into the game with just one loss, which was to perennial state powerhouse Roselle Catholic, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the state according to NJ.com.

St. John’s Vianney was coming off two tough battles, after taking No.3 Manasquan to the brink, losing 61-58, they had to take on Long Branch in the Boardwalk Showcase finale in a true road game, falling to the Green Wave 54-47.

Photo by Bobby Klatt

After an even first half, which saw both teams deadlocked at 26 as they headed to the locker room, SJV ramped up the pressure on the defensive end and outscored the Rockets 18-7 in the third quarter to take a 44-35 lead into the fourth.

“The message in the locker room at half was to just keep playing with heart and keep attacking the hole,” said Grant Goode, who had a game-high 21 for the Lancers. “We got a lot of the hustle plays.”

“We changed some things up defensively to start the second half,” said Lancers head coach Matt Conklin, “We switch (Marcque) Ellington on to (Eddie) Tynion who was their leading scorer in the first half and his length was a big difference.”

The Lancers retained their nine-point advantage for over five minutes in the fourth quarter before three missed free throws and three turnovers gave Raritan opportunities to go on a 8-0 run to cut the lead down to 50-49 with 11 seconds. Jordan Smith scored all eight points during the run and finished with 16 points.

In the ensuing inbounds, SJV was able to kill six seconds off before Howarth went to the line for a one-and-one and sunk both to make it a 52-49 game.

The Lancers used the tactic of fouling Raritan before they had an opportunity to take three-pointer, sending the Rockets to the line for a one-and-one with just 1.8 seconds left. After a missed front end, SJV killed the clock to seal the 52-49 win.

“We knew it was going to be a battle because Raritan brings their best at you every time,” said coach Conklin. “This win on the road against a team that just comes after you is huge.”

The Rockets had three players finish in double-digits led by Joe Strand with 17 points and Smith with 16. The Lancers hit eight threes, four of which came from Matt DeBrizzi.

The first half was very similar to the second half, with the Lancers jumping out to a 7-0 lead, five of which came from Zach Howarth. The Rockets battled their way back with a 7-3 run of  own to only trail 13-12 at the end of the first.

The second was just the opposite. The Rockets were able to grab the lead before the Lancers ended the half on a 9-2 run.