FREEHOLD TWP. - Christian Brothers Academy coach Geoff Billet subjected his team to an amount of film study that he described as "more than most college teams" in advance of the Colts' huge Shore Conference Class A North showdown Friday at Freehold Township.

In the first meeting between the two rivals, Freehold Township, according to Billet, got too many open looks down the stretch and it led to CBA losing in the final seconds.

During the first half on Friday night, Billet had to wonder if that film session wasn't a gigantic waste of time but in the second half, CBA's persistence paid off.

CBA senior Stephen Braunstein. (Photo by Matt Manley)
CBA senior Stephen Braunstein. (Photo by Matt Manley)

After trading baskets with the Patriots during a hot-shooting first-half, CBA's defense dug in during the second half and the Colts - ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - outlasted No. 7 Freehold Township, 69-58, Friday to avenge their only loss inside the Shore Conference this season.

Seniors Josh Cohen and Stephen Braunstein scored 23 points apiece and Cohen added 17 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead CBA.

"We watched the film from last time we played them and we were missing shots, we were turning it over," Braunstein said. "We are a better team than we played that day. At the beginning of the year, me and Josh were kind of carrying us but since then, a lot of other guys have stepped up for us and been big on both ends."

CBA took a 38-37 lead into halftime behind 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) shooting while Freehold Township shot 16-for-26 (61.5 percent). CBA took control in the third and went up 55-44 late in the quarter.

Just as it did in a 63-62 win over CBA on Jan. 7, Freehold Township rallied and pulled within 55-52. Unlike in the first game, the Colts answered with a game-clinching run, closing with a 12-3 run - which included six points and all three blocks from Cohen.

"In the first game, they did a great job and we did a horrible job defending their set plays," Billet said. "They ran about seven or eight plays in the second half of that game and the probably scored on all of them. We just a bad job guarding in that first game and I think we did a much better job tonight, especially in the second half."

Braunstein, meanwhile, shot 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point line as part of an 8-for-17 night for the entire team.

"We came in knowing that if we played well defensively, we would win the game so we went into the locker room at halftime pretty disappointed with how many points we had given up," Braunstein said. "We made an emphasis on getting stops and we came out motivated to play a lot better on the defensive end."

Freshman Ryan Mabrey scored 11 points on three three-pointers and sophomore Colin Farrell chipped in 10 points off the bench for CBA, which used its own marksmanship in the first half to answer a torrid start by Freehold Township.

The Patriots shot 8-for-10 in the first quarter and the Freehold Township starting five combined to convert their first 10 field-goal attempts of the game before finally missing 1:30 into the second quarter.

Senior Greg Billups led Freehold Township with 16 points while classmates Seth Meisner and Cristian Corcione added 12 points each.

"The younger guys have done a great job for us this year," Braunstein said. "Colin has been great - he has been going to the basket and no one is stopping him. Ryan is great - he is a knock-down shooting. Mike (White) has been great on the defensive end and he can knock down shots. They are all huge for us."

With Friday's win, CBA is one win or one Freehold Township loss away from clinching a share of the Class A North title and if the Colts can get both or win their last two division games, they will win the outright Class A North championship for the first time since 2015-16. The Colts close the A North season with Manalapan and Freehold Boro while Freehold Township must play Marlboro and Middletown South.

Before setting out to close out the A North title, CBA will jump out of bed on Saturday and get ready to take on Red Bank Catholic in the Founder's Cup game at CBA at 1 p.m. The Colts won two out of three meetings between the rivals last year, but Red Bank Catholic won the last one - which came in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals.

"We just try to take it one at a time," Braunstein said. (Saturday) is going to be a fun game. It's sold out, it's going to be loud, intense. We're just focused on RBC now."


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