By Bobby Klatt - Shore Sports Network Contributor

LONG BRANCH - A tale of two halves came down to who executed the best in the fourth quarter as Neptune pulled off a 59-49 upset over No. 8 Shore Regional to open up the Battle of the Boardwalk Showcase at Long Branch on Saturday.

The Scarlet Fliers (4-3) turned up the pressure in the second half, forcing bad shots and creating turnovers, while senior guard Shakeem Richardson heated up, scoring nine of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter on his way to earning Player of the Game honors for Neptune.

Myles Mooney (#12) and Neptune turned up the pressure on defense in the second half to pick up a 59-49 win over Shore Regional in the Boardwalk Hoop Group Showcase. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB)

“Coach (Ken O'Donnell) told me to focus on my defense,” Richardson said. “I wasn’t shooting well in the first half, so I focused on just taking better shots and getting my teammates involved.”

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Key role players for Neptune, especially in the second half, were senior Myles Mooney and sophomore Marque Ellington. They combined for 18 total rebounds, nine each, and 22 points to help Neptune snap a five-game winning streak by Shore.

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In a matter of one quarter, Shore’s seven-point halftime lead had been erased and Neptune took a 40-39 going into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter was much of the same as Neptune continued to pressure Shore (5-3), which shot 25 percent from the field in the game and went 3-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half. Neptune held Shore’s top two scorers – Dan Pillari (eight points) and Kevin Bloodgood (nine points) – to a combined 17 points on 3-for-20 shooting from the field.

“We played great team defense coming out of halftime,” O'Donnell said. “We knew they liked to run and push the ball quickly up the court, so our plan was to contain them. When you hold someone (Pillari) who scored 40 against the No. 1 team in the state to eight points, you know you did something right.”

A key turning point that changed the game late was a technical foul called on Shore's Matt Cosentino with 1:50 left in the game after a personal foul, which gave Neptune four free throws and the ball as it looked to extend its 47-42 lead. Junior Cameron Calderon hit one of his two, then Richardson hit both technical foul free throws to push the lead to 50-42.

In the final 1:30, the teams traded baskets as Neptune did a good job defending the 3-point line to close out its biggest win of the season.

Shore had led 12-9 after the first quarter thanks to a half-court heave by Cosentino at the buzzer.

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The Blue Devils had success attacking the rim and getting to the foul line in the second quarter, going 10-for-12 from the charity stripe in the first half. They also hit four 3-pointers before the break, including two by junior Dan Largey, who led them with 12 points and 10 rebounds to earn Player of the Game honors for Shore.

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The Blue Devils closed the half on a 7-0 run to lead by seven at the break before Neptune fought back for a big victory hinting at its potential. The win for Neptune brings the Scarlet Fliers back over .500 at  4-3.

“We had two tough games in the Jubilee, losing to Seton Hall Prep in overtime and losing at the buzzer to Marist,” O’Donnell said. “Maybe this will be a little statement saying we are back to where we would like to be.”