RED BANK --- To hear Sophia Sabino bestow reverence upon promising Red Bank Catholic freshmen Justine Pissott and Ally Carman in the manner of an elder stateswoman is both convincing and somewhat odd.

The genuine tones of the compliments sound like that of praise from a worldly  upperclassmen. Yet, Sabino is closer to a relatable peer than a wily veteran, just a sophomore herself, albeit quite a smart one, already keen to so many of the qualities associated with her complicated role.

A year ago, Sabino was a key reserve, leaned on for her shooting stroke more than her floor generalship, a job conducted by First-Team All-Shore playmaker Rose Caverly. Playing a bit out of position was an acceptable option, both for court time and the proximity to observe the finest attributes of a point guard, courtesy of Caverly’s modest style.

“I learned from Rosie,” Sabino said with gratitude toward Caverly, now a freshman at the University of Maine. “She is the best point guard I’ve personally ever seen.”

Sabino is shaping up to be not too shabby herself. With a sense when to push the tempo, when to down shift into a halfcourt set, when to distribute and when to shoot, she accentuated a number of her best features while promoting those of Pissott and Carman, all instrumental in No. 5 Red Bank Catholic pulling away in the second half to topple No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven, 52-38, on Thursday night.

Sabino was timely and versatile, compiling 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Pissott eagerly displayed her range as well her burst in the open floor to contribute 13 and Carman, an imposing 6-4 center, supplied 11 points and nine boards. Their output a byproduct of the chemistry the Caseys are quickly developing.

“When you have Rose with you last year, it’s good and it’s bad,” noted RBC head coach Joe Montano’s of Sabino’s freshman predicament. “It’s good because you have a safety net. It’s bad because then maybe you don’t do some of the things you normally do. I think now she has to do things she’s good at and we’re seeing how good she is.”

Sabino was at the root of a late third-quarter surge that powered Red Bank Catholic (2-1, 2-1 in the A Central). The Caseys grabbed the lead early in the first quarter and maintained the upper hand before junior forward Lucy Adams buried two straight 3-pointers to suddenly put Rumson-Fair Haven (1-2, 1-2) on top, 25-23, with 5:01 showing in the third.

The lead was short lived. Sabino set up Pissott for a trey that reclaimed the advantage and triggered a 14-3 uprising over the next 2:40. Within the surge, Sabino converted a Pissott assist, fed 6-2 forward Nicole Stanford for an inside bucket and sank two free throws that materialized from her steal, capping the burst and pushing the RBC cushion to 37-28.

“We’ve got to take that kind of leadership anywhere we can get it,” said Montano of Sabino's control.

"You could see the fire in our eyes...the intensity," Sabino said of RBC's quick resilience and sustained energy. "Everyone wanted to get to the rim and shoot."

Now in his 29th season, Montano is getting to take a trip down Memory Lane through Pissott and Carman. For over a decade, the Caseys have had no other recourse but to ask natural forwards and wing players like Sam Guastella, Grace Fallon and Katie Rice to defend bigger players in the post. This winter, he gets to harken back to an era when RBC had the good fortune of sizable frontcourt duets such as Kristina Danella and Kristina Coppolino, Jessica DePalo and Brooke Tomovich and Angela Cappadona and Lauren Brutsman.

"It's been amazing," said Carman of having an immediate impact for RBC with a 13.6 scoring average. "It took a lot of hard work. We've already built this chemistry within our entire team."

"I always can count of Sophia," added Pissott of her point guard's vision and sense. "Every time I pass it to her, I know she is going to make the shot. When everyone is doing their job, it's a great feeling."

Despite the height Red Bank Catholic had stationed inside, which includes versatile 5-11 junior Fab Eggenschwiler and 6-2 classmate Nicole Stanford, Rumson was able to more than hold its own on the glass. Much of its offensive success came through the Dawgs’ ceaseless hustle on the boards, led by Adams, who backed her game-high 18 points with 11 rebounds and staunch low-post defense.

“As a coach, all you can ask for is the kids give it everything they have and they did,” said Rumson coach Dave Callahan, whose team suffered from a chilly night shooting night but compensated with grit under the offensive boards. “I can’t ask for anything more. We have a lot of cross-sport athletes and those shots will start to fall over the next month.”

Sophomore Grace Munt had 11 points for Rumson.

Rumson-Fair Haven (1-2, 1-2)     05           12           14           07 --- 38
Red Bank Catholic (2-1, 2-1)       08           14           15           15 --- 52

RFH: Adams 2-2-8-18; McBarron 0-1-1-4; Passalaqua 0-0-0-0; Munt 1-2-3-11; Boyle 2-0-1-5; Kendal Cardinale 0-0-0-0; Grace Collucci 0-0-0-0; Elizabeth Kelly 0-0-0-0; Charlie Rosen 0-0-0.
RBC: Carman 4-0-3-11; Eggenschwiler 1-0-1-3; Pissott 2-3-0-13; So. Sabino 3-1-6-15; Setaro 1-2-0-8; Panayides 0-0-0-0;  Sh. Sabino 0-0-0-0; Stanford 1-0-0-2; Wilson 0-0-0.

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