By Tyler Calvaruso
SSN Correspondent

ABERDEEN TWP. – After graduating all five of their starters from last season, Ocean had to turn to two of their key returners to lead them to victory in the Husky Classic semifinals on Wednesday night.

Senior guard Darius Brown and junior forward Andrew Seager both had career highs with 30 and 21 points respectively, as the Spartans (3-2) withstood a late surge from Matawan (2-3) and hung on to win 69-66 in a double overtime thriller. Brown and Seager combined for 51 of Ocean’s 69 points.

The win mirrored Ocean’s win over Long Branch on Dec. 20 in which the Spartans squandered a 21-point lead only to pull out a two-point win on a three by Brown in the final seconds.

“We’re a young team and I’m definitely proud of them,” Spartans head coach John Terlecsky said. “The Long Branch game was much of the same nip and tuck and we found a way to pull it out.”

Ocean senior Darius Brown, pictured last season. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

Ocean jumped out to an 11-2 lead on the Huskies, prompting a quick Matawan timeout. The Spartans held a 16-10 lead after one, with Brown scoring 10 of Ocean’s 16 points.

Brown was not the only player to have a big first quarter, as Matawan junior guard Reggie Tawiah, who would finish with 13 points and eight rebounds, had seven first quarter points to keep Matawan within striking distance.

Ocean continued to roll throughout the second quarter and took a 27-17 lead into halftime behind 15 points from Brown and stingy defense. The Spartans lived in the passing lanes, coming away with 10 steals in the game – four of those steals coming from sophomore Santieno Harding, who is also a standout soccer player for Ocean.

Matawan started their climb back in the third quarter behind junior Michael Dunne, who led Matawan with 29 points on the day. The Huskies cut Ocean’s lead down to 35-32 when senior Pat Hennessy stole an Ocean inbounds pass and converted a layup plus a foul, but Ocean was answered with two buckets before the end of the quarter and took a 39-32 lead into the fourth.

Matawan refused to go away in the fourth despite the stellar play of Seager in the quarter and cut the lead to two with 1:02 remaining after Dunne hit one of his four three-pointers on the night. The Huskies grabbed their first lead of the night on the ensuing Ocean possession junior point guard Zaire Jackson poked the ball away from Harding, took it coast to coast and finished a layup despite being fouled. Jackson hit the free throw, giving Matawan a 53-52 lead with 43.2 seconds remaining.

“I thought we could have been a little smarter with the basketball,” Terlecsky said. “I thought we made some bad decisions in that part of the game.”

Seager would come down and score in the post, giving Ocean the lead back for a short amount of time. Dunne later finished through contact to give Matawan the lead with 26 seconds left.

After a couple of Ocean timeouts, Seager got fouled while driving baseline and went to the line with a chance to win the game for the Spartans. He hit the first, but missed the second free throw and Matawan was not able to get a shot off, sending the game to overtime tied at 55.

Not much was doing in the first overtime, as both teams only accounted for four points each. Matawan’s Ramon Estrada had a chance to win it with a three from the corner, but could not hit the shot.

Ocean got back on track in the second overtime, scoring the first six points of the period. The Spartans rode that six-point lead to an eventual victory, despite a Dunne three cutting the Ocean lead to 69-66 with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.

“These games are huge down the road,” Terlecsky said. “Matawan is a pretty good team who is going to win a lot of games this season, so we’re pretty psyched about this one.”

Next up for Ocean will be Old Bridge in the Husky Classic finals. Old Bridge is coming off an overtime victory of their own as they beat Union 55-53 on Wednesday.

It may be a daunting task for a young team to get ready for a championship game coming off of a grinding double overtime game, but nothing is going to change for Brown and his teammates.

“We’re going to prepare ourselves like any other game,” Brown said. “Like the score is zero-zero from the tip and we’re going to go out there and play hard.”

Sign Up For The SSN Newsletter

Please fill out this form to sign up for the Shore Sports Network newsletter.