By Bobby Klatt
Shore Sports Network Correspondent

TINTON FALLS - Ranney used a third quarter run to break the game open and start off the season in style, defeating St. Rose 68-55 in a Class B Central matchup Friday night.

With four freshmen in the starting lineup and a new head coach, expectations were through the roof in the preseason for the Panthers. Word of the young, talented group must have spread as the gym was packed 20 minutes before tip-off with not a seat to be had for their season opener.

“It was crazy to play in front of a crowd like that,” said Bryan Antoine, who finished with a game-high 26 points. “My hands were shaking really bad before the game. I couldn’t even drink water.”

Freshman Bryan Antoine scored 26 points in his first varsity game to lead Ranney to a 68-55 win over St. Rose. (Photo by Bobby Klatt)

After a highly contested first half in which the Panthers took a 28-24 lead into the locker room, Ranney broke out to a 38-30 lead half late in the third quarter. The Panthers finished the period on a 9-0 run behind three straight three pointers from Antoine and fellow freshman Alex Klatsky.

Freshman Scottie Lewis saw limited minutes in the first half because of two early fouls and finished with four points.

“We were going too fast early on,” said Antoine. “We just needed to slow it down and run our offense.”

St. Rose continued to battle on as the Purple Roses cut the led to 58-50 with three minutes remaining. St. Rose shot 5-for-9 from deep in the fourth quarter including three from sophomore guard Jared Scheininger.

Ranney finished the game off from the free throw line in the final two minutes as the Panthers went 10-for-13 from the stripe to close it out.

“We don’t have any easy games,” said first year head coach Taj Holden. “The B Central is going to be a tough division with Mater Dei, Point Beach and St. Rose again at their place. Teams are going to have veterans and we have a bunch of young guys. We are going to fight and claw every game.”

St. Rose finished with three players in double digits, with J.P. Krotulis leading the way with 15. Dave Calloway came off the bench to tally 11 points.

It took a matter of 10 seconds to get the crowd into the game as Joe Mahoney hit a pull up three right off the opening tip. He scored the Panthers’ first six points and finished with 10. Ranney shot 4-for-10 from three point range in the first quarter.

St. Rose continued to attack the basket with Krotulis in the post and Brendan Hueth, who finished with 11, from the outside. Ranney led 20-14 at the end of the first.

The game continued to be physical, especially in the paint, as the Purple Roses won the second quarter by holding Ranney to just eight points, six of which came from Chris Autino off second chance opportunities. Autino finished with 20 points in his first high school game.

Free throws were the major storyline in the first half as the Panthers failed to get to the line while St. Rose went 5-for-12 from the stripe.

“It’s going to be physical all year,” said Holden. “Our guys probably haven’t seen a really good post player like J.P. (Krotulis) who sets screens like he does and it was something we had to adjust to.”