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FREEHOLD TWP. - St. Rose senior John Beattie did not get a chance to play in the Shore Conference Tournament in either of his first two seasons of varsity basketball so once he finally got the chance on Tuesday night, he and his teammates proved they were ready for the moment.

Beattie came out red-hot with 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter, junior teammate Tom Turnbach poured in 22 and the 21st-seeded Purple Roses knocked off No. 12 Freehold Township on the road to move on to the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16.

"I was really fired up because we hadn't made it to this tournament the last two years," Beattie said. "That was my little personal goal - to make the Shore Conference Tournament with a little chip on my shoulder."

St. Rose senior John Beattie. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
St. Rose senior John Beattie. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

St. Rose will next play No. 5 Wall on Thursday night - a local rivalry game between schools separated by fewer than three miles - with a trip to Sunday's SCT quarterfinals on the line.

Beattie started the game off by hitting his first five shots, scoring 11 of his team's 16 points in the first quarter as St. Rose took a 16-10 lead. He added a three-pointer in the second quarter to make it a 14-point first half and also finished with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

"John Beattie played a fabulous game," St. Rose coach Frank Carmody said. "He was like All-Shore today. He really got us off and running at the beginning."

Turnbach scored 10 points in the first half to give him and Beattie 24 of the team's 28 points in the first 16 minutes. St. Rose took a 28-21 lead at the break.

"Tommy Turnbach really had a good game," Carmody said. "He was battling their big guys and made a couple of tough shots."

Freehold Township limited Beattie to one point in the second half, but Turnbach and senior Kevin Tombs took over in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Turnbach closed the game with nine points over the last eight minutes and also finished with seven rebounds, while Tombs scored seven of his eight points in the fourth and dished out five assists for the game.

"I think it all goes back to trusting each other and trusting our preparation," Beattie said. "Even though we have had some coaching changes, we still focus on the same things that we did when I got here."

"I want everyone everyone scoring 12 points and Beattie scoring 17," Carmody said. "If they started going box-and-one or try to take Beattie out of the game, you find somebody else. You have to take what the defense gives you. That's the way we play."

St. Rose shot 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) during the first half to jump on top while holding Freehold Township to 8-for-21 (38 percent) with all eight field goals coming in the paint and 19 of the 21 points coming from junior forward Joe Lardaro and freshman center Jayden Holmes-Cotter.

The Patriots, as well as their student section, turned up the intensity in the third quarter and rallied to take a one-point lead on two separate occasions. Junior Anthony Barthel hit a pair of free throws to make it 36-35 in favor of Freehold Township and Lardaro put back his own miss to make it 37-36.

The two teams went to the fourth quarter tied, 37-37, and Turnbach opened the quarter with a three-pointer to give St. Rose a lead it would not give up. After Barthel cut the St. Rose lead to 42-41 on a drive to the basket, the Purple Roses went on a 10-3 run that put them ahead, 52-44, with under a minute to go. Tombs scored six of his points during that run and Turnbach accounted for the other four.

"It had a lot to do with our game preparation," Beattie said of dealing with the road environment and Freehold Township's run-and-jump defense. "Coach was joking that our jayvees did it better in practice than they (Freehold Township) did in the game. We were awful with it in practice but thank god we pulled through with it today."

Barthel scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Freehold Township, while Holmes-Cotter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Lardaro scored 12 points and eight boards. The trio combined for 42 of Freehold Township's 48 points, with St. Rose limiting Freehold Township's junior guard duo of Jayce Schapiro (four points) and Zach Orrico (zero) to a combined four points.

"Our one-three-one (zone) screwed them up," Carmody said. "They didn't handle it as well as they should have but (Lardaro and Holmes-Cotter) were beasts. You can't foul them - (Holmes-Cotter) made every free throw and then we missed ours. That's the only thing we didn't do well: make free throws. We played a great game other than that."

St. Rose needed a strong final week of the regular-season to qualify for the SCT, finished under .500 in Class A Central divisional play and was saddled with the No. 21 seed, but its battle scars from playing in a stacked division - which includes No. 1 Manasquan, No. 4 Holmdel, No. 7 Red Bank Catholic and No. 13 Rumson-Fair Haven - served as a reminder that the Purple Roses were ready to handle whatever draw came their way.

"We have a hard conference, so it makes you better," Carmody said. "You get better playing good competition and we play Manasquan twice, Holmdel twice, Rumson twice. We beat Red Bank Catholic. It's not always fun but you get better."

Tuesday's road win sets up a game at Wall that should make for a lively atmosphere between the two neighbor schools.

"It's going to be great for our two towns," Carmody said. "Those guys all know each other. It's like when we play Manasquan, all though Manasquan is ridiculous. Wall is good, but nobody is Manasquan."

Wall defeated the last seed in the tournament, Keyport, by a 92-64 score on Tuesday night. The Crimson Knights went 14-0 in winning a second straight Class B North championship but went 1-4 outside of its division against teams that qualified for the SCT, with the lone win coming against 24th-seeded Donovan Catholic in a WOBM Christmas Classic consolation game in December.

While Wall's struggles outside of the division might be encouraging for St. Rose's prospects, the Crimson Knights' 9-0 record at home serve as a reminder that the Purple Roses will face a stiff challenge from the No. 5 team in the tournament on Thursday.

"We have a lot of friends that go to Wall and it's kind of a crosstown rivalry, so it should be pretty packed," Beattie said. "I hope it's packed, anyway. I think we're all already looking forward to it."


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