TOMS RIVER - The road to a 17th Shore Conference Tournament championship for the Christian Brothers Academy basketball program goes through a team that entered Sunday on a Shore-Conference-best 16-game winning streak, the team with the most wins in the Shore Conference and, likely, the No. 1 team in the state.

Still, senior Josh Cohen and his CBA teammates don't ever think of themselves as underdogs and those 16 titles by their predecessors are exactly why.

On Sunday, playing a neutral site game on the home floor of its opponent, the Colts - the No. 3 seed in the SCT - snapped the Shore's longest winning streak at 16 by beating No. 6 Toms River North, 63-55, at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena.

PHOTO GALLERY: CBA vs. Toms River North by Paula Lopez

Senior Stephen Braunstein scored a game-high 22 points to go with five assists, including three of CBA's biggest baskets of the game. Braunstein set the tone in the third quarter with a backdoor cut and two-handed flush off a feed from Cohen and later pulled up for three during a 12-0 run that closed the third quarter and sent CBA to the fourth with a 48-37 lead.

After Toms River North rallied to pull within 55-53, Braunstein scored off another backdoor cut, this time off a pass from senior Liam Kennedy after a timeout.

Cohen scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to help CBA bring home the win. Toms River North led, 26-25, at the break and was up, 37-36, late in the third before CBA closed the quarter with 12 straight points seize control.

Toms River North cut a 55-45 deficit to 55-53 with 1:13 left but CBA answered when Kennedy found Braunstein for a layup to push the lead back to four. Sophomore Mike White then scored off a turnover with 28 seconds left and Kennedy and Cohen each hit a pair of free throws to close out the win.

"It was one of those situations where we were trying to run clock but I should have just taken some open looks when I got them," Cohen said. "Up eight with a couple of minutes left I was thinking about timing these guys out. After they cut it to two, were were in the timeout and we said, 'Right here. Either we're going to win or they're going to win. Those points don't mean anything now.'"

Kennedy finished with 12 points and 3 assists for CBA, which played without freshman starter Ryan Mabrey. Mabrey injured his knee vs. Jackson Memorial on Thursday and is considered day-to-day, according to CBA coach Geoff Billet.

"Ryan has done a great job for us but having Liam in there running the point, we really don't miss a beat," Braunstein said. "He has been a starting point guard since our sophomore year so we had no doubt he would get the job done for us and he stepped up for us tonight."

Sophomore Collin Farrell came off the bench to score eight points, including the three-pointer that capped the 12-0 run in the third.

Junior Najae Hallenbeck led Toms River North with 17 points and junior Jakari Spence added 12 in a losing cause. Freshman Jaiden Frasier added eight points off the bench for Toms River North.

CBA will attempt to end the new longest winning streak in the Shore Conference when the Colts take on No. 2 Manasquan in the second semifinal on Thursday in Toms River. Manasquan will enter the game on a 15-game winning streak.

"They have as good a front line as we're going to see all year and their back court is really improving," Billet said of Manasquan. "They are well-coached, well-balanced so it should be a fun game. We have seen them a couple of times in the semifinals and quarterfinals in this gym and they are always tough."

"We have never really thought of ourselves as underdogs," Cohen said. "We are not afraid of anybody. Manasquan is a good team. They have good players, we have good players, so it should be a fun game."

 

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