LINCROFT - From the beginning of the season, the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team has believed it is good enough to win an NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A championship, and one bad second-half performance a week prior to its Friday sectional semifinal against Gloucester Catholic was not enough to change the Colts' collective mind.

It was, however, a wake-up call.

Since losing to Rumson-Fair Haven in the Shore Conference Tournament championship on Feb. 27, CBA has won two NJSIAA Tournament home games in convincing fashion, most recently disposing of sixth-seeded Gloucester Catholic Friday, 71-47, behind a balanced offensive effort.

Senior Shaun Belbey ran the show for the Colts on Friday, scoring 11 points and handing out seven assists in CBA's 71-47 win over Gloucester Catholic. (Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ)
Senior Shaun Belbey ran the show for the Colts on Friday, scoring 11 points and handing out seven assists in CBA's 71-47 win over Gloucester Catholic. (Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ)

"It's not like we were ready to pack it in after losing the Shore Conference final," CBA coach Geoff Billet said. "We've thought from the very beginning that winning the Non-Public A South was a realistic goal that was attainable if we could string together four good games.

"Shore Conference was the same thing, and unfortunately, we had one bad half and we lost control of things. It happens in basketball, but if anything, it was a good lesson for us against, let's face it, a really good Rumson team who flat-out outplayed us. If we didn't know it already, now we know we have to play our best basketball for four quarters if we want to win a championship-type game."

In that 50-24 SCT loss to Rumson, no CBA player scored more than seven points, despite three players on the roster averaging at least 13 points per game. Friday, all five CBA starters scored at least seven points, with four scoring in double-figures.

Junior Pat Andree led the Colts with a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds, while Jack McGuire added 14 points and Jack Laffey added 13 - including nine in a 19-8 first-quarter run by CBA. Senior point guard Shaun Belbey also added 11 points and seven assists, while junior John Salcedo rounded out the starting lineup with seven points.

"As a point guard, my job is so much easier when everybody is hitting shots and contributing," Belbey said. "It gives me space to penetrate and four good options to give the ball to, and if they are going to stay at home, I'll have some opportunities to score as well."

After Laffey scored nine points to establish a 16-8 CBA lead, Salcedo capped the first quarter with a three from the right wing with three seconds left, pushing the Colts' run to 9-0. CBA made it a 20-3 run within the first 2:34 of the second quarter behind a pair of threes by Andree, a drive by Salcedo and a three-pointer by McGuire that gave CBA a 30-11 lead.

Andree's 20-point game followed up games of 11 points against Paul VI in the opening round of the tournament and seven points against Rumson in the SCT final. Andree entered the SCT final averaging a shade over 20 points per game, and after the rest of the Colts could not pick up the slack for Andree in the championship game, the entire lineup has chipped in over the first two games of the tournament.

McGuire broke loose for 29 points in the first-round win over Paul VI with Laffey adding 25. Salcedo was the third scoring leader in that game with 12 points, making the Eagles pay for the defensive attention they showed Andree.

"Pat's tough to stop even for two guys, but if defenses are going to try to double-team him, we have other guys who will step up," Belbey said. "We've proven we can beat teams when he doesn't score his usual 20 and today was a day where he got his and so did everybody else."

Friday was more of the same, as McGuire and Laffey played a two-man game to get the scoring started and Belbey knocked down a three to put the Colts on top for good. Andree scored only two points in the first quarter while facing constant double-teams, but once Laffey and the rest of the starters established themselves as threats and Andree stepped out for a three-pointer, the Rams' defense could not account for CBA's weapons.

The Colts will play the winner of Saturday's sectional quarterfinal between No. 7 Red Bank Catholic and No. 2 Camden Catholic on Sunday. According to Billet, if Camden Catholic wins, the Irish will host the sectional semifinals Sunday at 6 p.m., while CBA will host the semifinal at a time to be determined if the Caseys pull off the road upset.

CBA defeated Red Bank Catholic, 63-49, when the two met in the SCT Round of 16 at CBA.

"Camden Catholic is a similar team to what we saw in Gloucester but with more size, so the match-up is going to be challenging if it's them," Billet said. "If it's RBC, we saw what they have and we'll be ready for another battle. They've got a lot of weapons too, so either way, we're going to have to try to keep playing like we have."

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