By Bobby Klatt - Shore Sports Network contributor

RUMSON - Manasquan picked up a hard-fought road win on opening night in Shore Conference Class A Central as the Warriors held off Rumson-Fair Haven 50-46 on Friday to get an early leg up in the division race.

“A wild opener is one way to look at it,” said Manasquan head coach Andrew Bilodeau. “First games are always wild.”

A back-and-forth game came down to the final three minutes as Rumson’s pressure began to fluster the backcourt of Manasquan. The Bulldogs (0-1, 0-1) forced four straight turnovers for a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 46-42 with 2:06 left.

With a few free throws, the Warriors (1-0, 1-0), ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network preseason Top 10, pushed their lead to 49-43 with 21 seconds remaining. Junior guard Brendan Barry, who led the Bulldogs with 17 points, kept things interesting for Rumson as he got fouled on a three and hit all three free throws with 12 seconds left to make it only a one-possession game.

After a missed free throw by junior guard Jack Sheehan, who led the Warriors with 15 points, junior forward Ryan Jensen got the last of his 18 rebounds on the second miss and got fouled in the process to go back to the stripe with 10 seconds left in the game.

Manasquan went 20-for-26 from the foul line to help seal a hard-fought road win over Rumson-Fair Haven on opening night. (Photo by Bobby Klatt)

Jensen capped off his 11-point night by hitting one out of two for a four-point lead to seal the big division road win for the Warriors, who have won the Class A Central title the past two seasons. He also had seven blocks to nearly register a triple-double. 

Free throws proved to be the difference in the game as Manasquan went 20-for-26 from the line while Rumson only shot 8-for-16.

“We were getting to the line with efficiency early on,” Bilodeau said. “We puckered up towards the end, but it’s the first game of the year. We hung in there.”

“It’s good to get a win against a tough team, especially at their gym,” Sheehan said. “We played well and they played really tough. Jensen did a great job on defense tonight with blocked shots and taking charges. Everyone played great defense tonight. It was a good win.”

“There is a lot respect between both staffs and both teams, and it always is an exciting game,” explained Bilodeau. “It’s a good test for the guys stepping up, and it’s good to break a sweat a little bit.”

Balanced scoring was another key to Manasquan’s success with Sheehan, Jensen and senior forward Aidan McMenaman all scoring in double figures and senior Luke O’Shaughnessy chipping in nine points.

Both student sections were out in full force and that energy transferred from the stands to the court, especially on the defensive end for the Warriors from the tip. They held the Bulldogs scoreless for the first 5:42 by forcing four turnovers early and opening up a quick 8-0 lead. Jensen didn’t just contribute offensively early on, but defensively as well. He took three charges as well as registering three of his seven blocks in the first half.

Rumson fought its way back in the second quarter with threes from Barry and Alex Geiger and shot 4-for-7 from deep in the first half to only trail 23-20 at the break. Manasquan opened up the second half with a 10-3 run, but Rumson continued to hang around and keep the game within striking distance, closing the lead to 39-32 going into the final quarter before Manasquan fought its way to the win.