MIDDLETOWN - Not long ago one of the Shore's hottest teams, the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team found itself struggling and banged up heading into the Shore Conference Tournament, which opened for the fifth-seeded Colts Thursday against No. 12 Red Bank Catholic.

Facing the rival Caseys for the second time in a week, CBA got healthy, then got back to dominating.

Junior Josh Cohen led four CBA players in double-figure scoring with 19 points and the Colts coasted to a 73-48 win over the Caseys - their second win over Red Bank Catholic in the last six days.

CBA senior Stephen Braunstein elevates for a two-handed dunk in the third quarter. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior Stephen Braunstein elevates for a two-handed dunk in the third quarter. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

With the win, CBA advances the SCT quarterfinals Sunday in Toms River, where it will take on Class A North rival and No. 4 Neptune for the third time this season. The two teams split the regular-season series, with CBA winning on its home floor, 43-42, and Neptune winning the more recent meeting, 53-36.

CBA has now won two in a row - both against RBC - after dropping three out of four. Prior to the three losses in four games, CBA had won 10 straight, which was the second-longest streak at the Shore when it ended.

"Other than maybe a spot in the (Shore Conference Tournament) seeding, the losses didn't really hurt us," junior guard Stephen Braunstein said. "We would still be playing Neptune on a neutral court, we'll just be wearing blue instead of white. I think knowing it didn't cost us anything allowed us to relax and just get back to work at practice to try and get ready to play RBC again."

Braunstein poured in17 points, including pair of dunks in the second half that served to demoralize RBC. The first one was a two-handed stuff after a drive to the basket to put CBA up 40-23 early in the third quarter and the second was a one-handed slam as he was fouled to make it 62-43 in the fourth.

CBA eventually got its starting five back on the floor when junior Liam Kennedy entered the game in the first quarter. Kennedy returned from a one-game absence due to a hip injury to score 13 points off the bench, including 3-for-3 from behind the three-point line. Kennedy injured himself in an overtime loss to Marlboro on Friday and sat out CBA's 66-57 win over RBC on Saturday.

"Liam is a very good player," Braunstein said. "He's our point guard. When he wasn't here, that forced me to have to bring the ball up a lot more, with took up some of my energy and made it harder to play on both ends. Having him healthy allows everyone to get back to playing their roles."

Senior Nolan Madden poured in 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the three-point arc and CBA shot 10-for-15 from beyond the arc as a team, with two of the misses coming in the final two minutes with the reserves on the floor.

CBA led 17-16 early in the first, at which point the Colts embarked on a 19-4 run to seize control of the game. RBC got the deficit down to 50-38 in the final seconds of the third, but CBA senior Rob Mahala drilled a contested three-pointer just before time expired to send his team to the fourth with a 53-38 advantage.

Sophomores Charlie Gordinier and Kevin Bauman scored 11 points each to lead Red Bank Catholic, while junior Stephen Lubischer added nine.

After a year away, CBA is back in the SCT quarterfinals for the fourth time in five years and would love nothing more than to pay Neptune back for handing CBA its most lopsided defeat since opening day against Blair Academy. In that loss at Neptune, Braunstein scored only six points and Cohen was limited to nine while Scarlet Fliers senior standout Jared Kimbrough went off for 23 points and 15 rebounds.

"We got off to a slow start in the first game and then we started playing really well together as a team," Braunstein said of the regular-season series with Neptune. "In the second game, we got off to another bad start and we just didn't play well. This time we need to come out hard and if we can do that, I think we'll win."


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