MIDDLETOWN - The Christian Brothers Academy basketball team won the first two games in the young history of the Founder's Cup Series - an annual rivalry game against Red Bank Catholic - and with its rich basketball history, it would be fair to say the rivalry started out one-sided.

Red Bank Catholic elevated the rivalry with a stunning win at CBA in last year's NJSIAA Non-Public A Tournament, which made for a rabid atmosphere and a motivated CBA squad in the third annual Founder's Cup game.

CBA - the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - dominated the third installment of the official rivalry game from the middle of the first quarter through the finish, dismantling No. 5 RBC, 61-39, in front of a packed gym at CBA and a raucous home student section.

CBA senior Josh Cohen. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior Josh Cohen. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Senior Stephen Braunstein led CBA with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field and classmate Josh Cohen added 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.

CBA and RBC met three times last year, with the Colts handling the Caseys in the Founder's Cup game and in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16. In the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals, though, RBC put it all together and knocked off CBA, 59-54.

"We beat them the first two times last year and then they came here and beat us and we weren't too happy about that," Cohen said of last year's state tournament loss to the Caseys. "That fueled us today, so we were excited."

Saturday's game started off well for Red Bank Catholic, which jumped out to an 11-6 lead by the four-minute mark of the first quarter. From that point on, however, RBC had no answer for CBA's defense. After scoring 11 points in the first four minutes, Red Bank Catholic managed only 10 over the next 20 and faced an insurmountable 39-21 deficit at the end of the third quarter.

"The first two times we played them last year, defensively, we just took them out," Cohen said. "Then they came here and they just started to click offensively. (Charlie) Gordinier went off on us and we knew coming into today, that's where the focus had to be. We couldn't let him beat us so we tried to stop him and it worked out."

Sophomore Mike White led the defensive effort by CBA. White defended junior swingman and Caseys leading scorer Charlie Gordinier, who finished with a team-high 12 points - the latest in a list of high-end head-to-head match-ups for the sophomore guard.

The most prominent assignment coach Geoff Billet has assigned White this year was Gill St. Bernard point guard and Rutgers University commit Paul Mulcahy, who scored 20 points and handed out eight assists in his team's win over CBA at the Boardwalk Showcase.

"Mike White is our guy," Cohen said. "We put him against Paul Mulcahy and he scored 20 but it wasn't and easy 20. Mike is scrappy and he is our guy on defense, so we felt good about putting him on Gordinier and he did a great job. Mike guarded him, then Peyton (Boesch) came in, then Mike would come back in so we always had fresh legs on him."

Saturday's win was the second noteworthy win in 24 hours for CBA, which topped Freehold Township on Friday night. Freehold Township handed the Colts one of their only three losses of the season and the only home loss for CBA, but CBA paid the Patriots back by topping them in Freehold, 69-58, to take over sole possession of first place in the Shore Conference Class A North with two games to go.

After shooting 8-for-17 from beyond the three-point arc at Freehold Township, CBA shot 8-for-16 on Saturday afternoon, with six different Colts players hitting at least one three-pointer. Braunstein accounted for three of them while White (five points), sophomore Colin Farrell (five), senior Liam Kennedy (three), senior Peyton Boesch (three) and freshman Ryan Mabrey (three) each hit one.

CBA senior Stephen Braunstein. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior Stephen Braunstein. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

In addition to slowing down Gordinier, CBA's defensive effort silenced RBC junior forward Kevin Bauman, who hurt the Colts in last year's state tournament. Bauman - a Notre Dame football commit - averaged a shade better than 11 points in the three meetings last year but scored only six points on Saturday, with Cohen providing the resistance for most of the game.

"I know he is strong and he does his thing, but that wasn't going to happen today," Cohen said. "I just knew he wasn't going to score much."

CBA will have a chance to wrap up the Class A North championship this week, which would be the program's first since the 2015-16 season - the year prior to Cohen, Braunstein and Kennedy joining the varsity team as sophomores. CBA can win the division outright with one win and a Freehold Township loss or with two wins over Manalapan (3-15) and Freehold Boro (6-14).

The Colts will conclude their regular season with a stiff test at the Metro Classic Showcase at East Orange High School next Saturday, when CBA will meet 18-0 Elizabeth.

Regardless of the outcome of that Saturday showdown, as long as CBA wraps up the outright A North title, the Colts will have made a convincing case as the No. 2 seed behind Ranney in the upcoming Shore Conference Tournament.

"Our team in December wasn't that bad either," said Cohen, who was honored before the game as the 19th player in CBA history to score 1,000 career points. "I think we have progressed since the middle of the season - you're kind of slow and everyone's legs aren't working like you want them to. There's winter vacation and everyone's a little sluggish. We just wanted to play basketball. We lost to Hun at Marist and we knew we needed to get going - win the division and that's what we're focused on right now."


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