Boys Basketball – Balanced Midd. South Notches Historic, Double-OT Win Over CBA
MIDDLETOWN - Few teams in the Shore Conference combined the offensive explosiveness with scoring balance the way the Middletown South boys basketball team did a season ago.
With the top six scorers from 2018-19 returning, there was no reason to doubt the Eagles could become more explosive. Becoming more balanced, however, seemed nearly impossible and yet, the emergence of seniors Mike Dabas and Bobby Pirie have made Middletown South exactly that.
In one of the program's most significant regular-season wins in a decade Tuesday night, Dabas and Pirie - the fourth and fifth scorers on last year's team - again shined in a crucial game by combining for 29 points as Middletown South and its No. 3 ranked squad in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 fought past No. 9 Christian Brothers Academy, 61-58, in double overtime.
The win is the first for Middletown South over CBA since January of 2008, which was during current Colts head coach Geoff Billet's first season at the helm. Tuesday's win also marked the first time Middletown South has ever defeated CBA in the Eagles' home gym.
"We have tried to downplay it as much as possible," Middletown South coach Jim Anderson said of the 12-year drought vs. the Colts. "We have said all year that it's important for us to win the games we are supposed to win without mentioning (CBA) by name. There is a lot more pressure on this group to win games like this this year and we don't want to put any extra emphasis on them.
"With that said, CBA is good. I know people have dropped them in their rankings, but they have so much talent. You put them in a guard-heavy tournament with some of the other talented teams out there and yikes - they are very dangerous."
Dabas scored 15 points, including a three-point play that momentarily put CBA on the brink of defeat in the first overtime as well as Middletown South's lone field goal in double-overtime. Pirie, meanwhile, scored 14 points, including eight in the first half and two clutch free throws in the second overtime.
"I love the open floor, I love getting out and running," Dabas said. "When I see an opening, I know I can take it and my team trusts me to take it."
"Mike is definitely underrated," Anderson said. "I thought he should have been on the WOBM (Christmas Classic) top-two teams. He put up about 15 points and 10 rebounds in those four games. Mike is great about handling not being the guy on a poster but he does his job as well as anybody."
With Dabas and Pirie leading the way, three more Middletown South players checked in with at least eight points. Senior James Anderson scored 10, senior Jack Sheridan nine and senior Richie Boyko came off the bench to score eight.
"We have really worked hard to help them develop their games," Anderson said of Dabas and Pirie. "Bobby and Mike stepped up their offseason, they stepped up the competition they were playing in AAU and have played a lot."
"We all play as a team," Dabas said. "We all want to win, no matter who gets the credit. One night, it might be James, it might be me, it might be Jack - it could be anyone. Me and Bobby love playing together down low and we just keep trying to get better."
Dabas's key three-point play in the first overtime period extended Middletown South's lead to 51-46, but CBA came back to tie it with two three-pointers. Junior Colin Farrell hit one to cut the deficit to 51-49 and after Sheridan made one of two free throws with 38 seconds left, CBA junior Mike White missed an open look with 16 seconds left.
CBA, however, forced a turnover and with another shot to tie it, White banked in a game-tying three from the top of the key with eight seconds left to send the game to another overtime.
The teams traded scores early in double-overtime, with sophomore Ryan Mabrey pulling CBA even, 56-56, with a floater with 1:30 left. Albrecht and Anderson each made one of two free throws but CBA had a chance to tie the game when junior Charlie Ruoff was fouled on a three-point attempt. Ruoff missed all three attempts and Pirie hit a pair of free throws to make it 60-56.
Farrell scored to cut the deficit back to two and CBA got yet another chance to tie the game but Farrell could not convert on his potential game-tying attempt. Anderson hit one of two free throws with two seconds left and Farrell's half-court heave at the buzzer hit the front rim.
Junior Ryan Cremen led CBA with a game-high and career-high 18 points. The junior wing scored 10 points in the first half and delivered a huge three-point play with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter that put CBA ahead, 46-44. Middletown South would pull even on a pair of free throws by Anderson with 38 seconds left.
Junior Dane Moran added 14 points for CBA, while White finished with 11 points and Farrell chipped in eight. White also shadowed Anderson - the Eagles' leading scorer - throughout the game and limited him to two field goals.
"We know James Anderson is going to have all kinds of bodies thrown his way," Anderson said of his son. "Mike White is a great defender and James ran across (Kieran) Flanagan from Manasquan, so he knows other guys are going to have to step up because they are overplaying him so much."
Playing in his first game since an opening-night injury, Mabrey - the Colts top returning scorer and Shore Conference assist leader - scored two points and fouled out in double-overtime. White also fouled out for CBA early in the second overtime.
Middletown South's win keeps the Eagles in a first-place tie with both Marlboro and Freehold Township in the early stages of the Class A North race. Middletown South and Marlboro both own an edge on Freehold Township, with each already defeating CBA.
The last time Middletown South beat CBA, the Eagles went on to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship later that season - the last sectional title the program captured. The only other time Middletown South beat CBA was 1982, when Jim Anderson was a player at crosstown rival Middletown North.
"We knew how good they were," Dabas said of CBA. "We didn't take them lightly at all. But it was just another game. We're going to play our next game against Freehold Boro the same way. We want to do big things this year and in order to do that, we have to take that approach. Every game is important and the next game is all that matters."