Boys Basketball – Dean Overcomes Fever, Leads No. 15 Red Bank Past No. 6 CBA
RED BANK -- Zayier Dean is the only player on his Red Bank Regional boys basketball team with All-Shore Team credentials, but he had only heard about the Bucs' December, 2022 win over Christian Brothers Academy while he was playing for Ocean Township, while several of his current teammates actually made it happen.
So when Dean woke up Thursday with a fever of 102 degrees, his priorities did not change. He planned to join his teammates on the floor at Red Bank Regional High School Thursday to make it a two-year winning streak over the Shore Conference's ultimate blue-blood program.
Dean dragged through the first half Thursday but closed on a rampage, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the second half and delivering two go-ahead baskets in the last 3:30 that helped Red Bank -- ranked No. 15 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Shore 16 -- finish off No. 6 CBA, 64-59, in front of a boisterous crowd that showed up to watch the two Shore-ranked teams separated by seven miles.
"The kid is a gamer," Red Bank coach George Sourlis said of Dean, who was a Second-Team All-Shore selection by Shore Sports Network as a sophomore at Ocean in 2022-23. "When you're a gamer, you find a way. I have only known him a short time, but as good as he is as a player, he is an even better kid and to me, that's far more important. We're happy to have him here and I think he has fit in great. The group loves him and he is not trying to do anything more than he is capable of."
Last season, Red Bank defeated CBA in the Buc Holiday Classic at Red Bank Regional, marking the first time the Bucs had defeated the Colts since the 2004 Shore Conference Tournament. On Thursday night, in a Shore Conference division crossover game that counts toward the standings in Red Bank's Class B North and CBA's Class A North, Red Bank showed that last year's long-awaited win over the Colts was no fluke.
After CBA marched out to a 15-10 lead through one quarter, Red Bank dominated the second and third quarters, during which the Bucs outscored the visitors, 41-28, to take a 51-43 lead heading into the final eight minutes. Senior Jameson Ackerman scored 11 points in the first half and finished off his scoring night with five more in the third to run his total to 16 for the game.
Dean came to life in the third with 11 points, including three three-pointers. His threes on consecutive possessions pushed Red Bank's lead to eight for the first time at 49-41 and he found junior teammate Ryan Fisher with a slick pass for a layup that made it 51-43 to close out the quarter.
CBA struck back with the first nine points of the fourth quarter, with sophomore Connor Andree scoring the last seven points of the 9-0 run. Andree's putback gave CBA a 52-51 lead with an even four minutes left to play.
"We played together today," said Sourlis, who improved to 2-0 vs. CBA since taking over as head boys coach at Red Bank last season. "We lost the lead in the fourth quarter and could have easily packed it in."
Dean snapped the CBA run by getting the friendly roll on a foul-line fadeaway to give the Bucs a 53-52 lead. CBA came back with two free throws by junior Kevin Pikiell to regain the lead, 54-53, and the two teams exchanged empty possessions after a Red Bank timeout.
From there, Red Bank's defense put the clamps on CBA, but the Bucs needed a dose of offense to regain the lead and Dean obliged. The 5-foot-10 junior penetrated to the free-throw line, spun around a defender, and scooped up a left-handed shot off the glass and in with just under three minutes to play for a 55-54 Bucs lead.
Ackerman picked off a pass on the other end and after he missed the initial layup, Fisher followed up the miss -- and one of his own -- with a putback for a 57-54 Bucs lead with 2:30 left.
CBA did not pull closer than three points the rest of the way and the Bucs celebrated a win over the Colts for the second straight December.
In addition to big scoring nights from Dean and Ackerman, Fisher chipped in 12 points in stepping up as the third scoring option.
"I thought Ryan Fisher had a good game," Sourlis said. "I thought it was his best game of the year. I thought he played terrific."
Sophomore Charlie Marcoullier led CBA with a career-high 19 points, including 11 in the first half. Pikiell chipped in 14 and all seven of Andree's points came during his personal 7-0 run in the fourth quarter.
"I was a little disappointed in our defense in the third quarter and early in the fourth," Sourlis said. "They've got great players, but they got too many easy baskets. They've got kids that can shoot the crap out of the ball, but I just thought defensively, we didn't make them work in certain spots and that allowed them back in the game."
Red Bank improved to 3-1 on the young season and all four of its games have been against opponents ranked in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16. The Bucs opened with an overtime win over No. 14 Southern, then suffered a humbling, 64-35 loss at No. 2 Manasquan.
Since losing to Manasquan on Saturday, however, Red Bank has responded with a 21-point win over No. 10 Marlboro, followed by Thursday's impressive performance vs. CBA.
"I'm really proud of how we have rallied after being humiliated by a really good team on Saturday," Sourlis said. "Our kids came in on Sunday and realized they need to be better. Manasquan is a really great team that plays together and we didn't play together on Saturday. We have played together since and I think we learned a really valuable lesson. That's why we wanted to play that game: you play somebody as good as them for as long as they have been, you're going to get better and learn some things about yourself."
Despite the strong start to the season, Sourlis is curbing his team's excitement over the early results. The Bucs started 4-1 last season, but went 4-14 the rest of the way, including 1-9 over their last 10 games.
"It's only December," Sourlis said. "It is good for our kids to build off of. I don't want this to be something where we peak like we did at this time last year. We won a great game against a really good team and now we've got to keep building. We still have things to fix."