Photo gallery by B51 Photography

LITTLE SILVER - Red Bank entered Thursday night's Class B North showdown against Colts Neck as one of the more balanced and dynamic offensive teams in the Shore, while the Cougars had not allowed anyone to score 40 points in their first five divisional games.

Something would have to give.

"I don't like games in the thirties and forties,'' Red Bank head coach Scott Martin said.

Red Bank kept their coach happy, as balanced scoring made it difficult for Colts Neck's defense to zero in on one or two specific players. The Bucs' offense triumphed over the Cougars' defense as they picked up a 55-46 victory over Colts Neck (7-2, 5-1) in Class B North. The win by Red Bank (9-1, 6-1), ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, threw the division race into a three-way tie for first place in the loss column between the Bucs, No. 8 Colts Neck, and Wall, which won its sixth straight on Thursday night by beating Neptune.

Red Bank guard Anthony Mitchell dropped in a game-high 16 points to help the No. 4 Bucs knock off No. 8 Colts Neck in B North. (Photo by B51 Photography)

Senior guard Anthony Mitchell led Red Bank with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field, senior forward Eddie Hendrex added 15 points off the bench on 6-for-10 shooting, and junior Sadiq Palmer chipped in with nine points. The Bucs nearly shot 50 percent (20-for-44) from the field against a Colts Neck defense that had stifled one opponent after another, including No. 3 Red Bank Catholic earlier this week.

"We have a deep team where we all like to share the ball, and I think coach makes the right subs at the right times,'' Mitchell said. "We forced them to play our game."

"No one is selfish with the ball,'' Hendrex said. "Everyone is talented and can score and finish. We did that tonight and got the win."

Red Bank also gave Colts Neck a dose of its own medicine with a hard-nosed defensive effort of its own. The Bucs held the Cougars to 18-for-48 (37.5 percent) shooting from the field, including an 0-for-11 night for Colts Neck's second-leading scorer, junior guard Lloyd Daniels, who was scoreless. Senior guard Chris O'Reilly, the Cougars' leading scorer for the season, finished with a team-high 16 points, but a Colts Neck team that has compensated for some poor shooting nights with stifling defense this season did not have that luxury on Thursday.

Red Bank junior point guard Jack Navitsky glued himself to Daniels to eliminate a key scoring threat for Colts Neck. Tom O'Reilly added 15 points in the loss, although he had a rough night at the foul line, going 0-for-7 as part of a 6-for-18 showing from the charity stripe as a team for the Cougars.

"We were trying to take both of them (O'Reilly and Daniels) out of the game, and I thought Jack Navitsky did a phenomenal job (on Daniels),'' Martin said. "He kind of relishes that role."

The Bucs employed a diamond-and-one with Palmer on O'Reilly for certain stretches and used a triangle-and-two at times in addition to their trademark match-up zone. While O'Reilly finished with 16 points, he only took 10 shots, and one of his 3-pointers was a harmless one in the final seconds.

"We mixed a couple different looks at (O'Reilly), whether it was a triangle or the diamond, not the typical box-and-one,'' Martin said. "I think being a year younger (than O'Reilly), Daniels is not there yet, and I think we mentally took him out of the game more than physically."

"We keyed on that in practice,'' Hendrex said. "We knew they only had two players who score, so we wanted the other players to have to make plays. We knew if we couldn't stop two, we were at least going to stop one."

Another blow for Colts Neck was the loss of starting big man Mike Lamb, who suffered an ankle injury when he was fouled on a breakaway lay-up attempt only 20 seconds into the game. He was carried off by two teammates and did not return.

"Their whole momentum changed after their big man got hurt,'' Mitchell said. "Their momentum went down the drain."

The Bucs never trailed in the game, zipping out to a 7-0 lead with senior Justin Gilson scoring five of his seven points. They had the lead as high as 15-4 after Mitchell drained the first of his two 3-pointers in the game before Colts Neck cut it to 17-11 after one.

 

Colts Neck had the lead down to single digits after Tom O'Reilly nailed a baseline jumper, but Mitchell slashed to the hole for a lay-up in the final seconds for a 29-19 lead at half. Tom O'Reilly had 10 of his 15 points in the first half to keep Colts Neck in the game, scoring repeatedly on baseline cuts and great interior passing by teammates against Red Bank's zone. Mitchell had 10 of his 16 in the first half for the Bucs to help compensate for the absence of Palmer, who sat the whole second quarter after picking up his second foul with 1:07 left in the first quarter.

"I think (Mitchell) is a very difficult player to guard because he can get into the paint and finish, and if you leave him, he'll knock it down from three,'' Martin said. "He's sneaky about getting his shot off."

Hendrex also had six second-quarter points as he had room to operate inside because of the absence of Lamb.

A putback by Hendrex put Red Bank's lead at 36-24 before Chris O'Reilly hit one of his three 3-pointers and Tom O'Reilly hit a jumper to end the third quarter and cut the Bucs' advantage to 36-29 going into the fourth quarter.

A pair of free throws by guard Jordan deGroot and a turnaround bank shot by Chris O'Reilly had Red Bank's lead down to three points with 6:58 left in the game before Mitchell banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to ignite a 14-6 run that put the game away.

"That's the first bank shot he's ever made,'' Martin joked.

"(The defender) hit my elbow so it was a little strong,'' Mitchell said before smiling.

A 3-pointer by Chris O'Reilly cut it to 44-39 at one point, but Red Bank came right back with a slashing lay-up by Hendrex, a drive by Mitchell in transition and two foul shots by Palmer for a 6-0 run and a 50-39 advantage with 1:43 left in the game to end any suspense.

The win now opens up the division race, with Red Bank, Colts Neck and surprising Wall all boasting a two-game lead in the loss column on the rest of the division.

"To me, this is the hardest division in the Shore,'' Hendrex said. "We have a fight every night. We take no team lightly."

Box score

Red Bank 55, Colts Neck 46

Colts Neck (46): Daniels 0 0-0 0, C. O'Reilly 6 1-1 16, Lamb 0 0-0 0, Lalima 0 0-0 0, T. O'Reilly 7 0-7 15, Gordon 3 0-4 6, deGroot 1 5-6 7, Cavrack 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 6-18 46.

Red Bank (55): Palmer 3 3-3 9, Mitchell 7 0-0 16, Gilson 2 2-2 7, Navitsky 0 0-0 0, Hendrex 6 2-2 15, Christie 0 4-5 4, Ferrogine 1 0-0 2, Birch 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 11-12 55.

Colts Neck (7-2, 5-1)  11  8  10  17 - 46

Red Bank (9-1, 6-1)    17  12  7  19 - 55

Three-pointers: (R) Mitchell 2, Gilson, Hendrex; (C) C. O'Reilly 3, T. O'Reilly. Fouled out: None.