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PATERSON -- From the first game he played for St. Rose High School in December of 2022 as a sophomore transfer from Italy, Bryan Ebeling's main responsibility in just about every one of his team's games has been to slow down the opponent's top scoring threat.

During St. Rose's 2023-24 winter break schedule, Ebeling has done that and then some: he has also been St. Rose's best scorer.

Ebeling capped a sparkling three-game stretch for himself and his team with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in a 68-42 Purple Roses win over Bergen Catholic Monday at John F. Kennedy High School of Paterson in the annual New Year's Jump Off Showcase.

Over St. Rose's last three games -- wins over Archbishop Stepinac of N.Y., the George School of Pa. and Bergen Catholic in a span of four days -- Ebeling is averaging 15.3 points and an even four assists while playing high-level opponents.

"I think he is more comfortable being in American and understanding the system," St. Rose coach Brian Lynch said. "On top of that, when you watch him score, he is not just shooting threes, he is not just driving; he is showing a little bit of everything. On top of that, he is not getting rattled and he is making great decisions."

"I think my defense is one of my best attributes that I can give to the squad," Ebeling said. "We've got a lot of shooters and athletes, so I have always felt that it was my job to play defense. If the team needs me to score, I can do that too."

It was fitting that on an afternoon in which Ebeling led the Purple Roses in scoring, St. Rose's defense was on top of its game. During a near-12-minute stretch from early in the second quarter to just pass the midway point of the third, St. Rose (7-1) outscored Bergen Catholic, 30-4, to turn a 20-15 lead into a 50-19 rout.

"Defense is our first thing," Ebeling said. "We want to be warriors on the court and fight for every rebound, every steal and don't let them get to the basket. That is our mentality every single game."

"Bryan Ebeling, to me, is the most underappreciated player in New Jersey," Lynch said. "He had (16 and 13) points, respectively, against major teams at the Jordan Classic, he got 17 today, and oh by the way, he is always guarding the other team's best player. We have guys that fly under the radar that really buy-in to their roles and how they can impact winning."

A three-point play by Crusaders sophomore Jaden Brown with 3:38 left in the third quarter represented the first points of the second half for Bergen Catholic (5-2) and snapped an 18-0 run by St. Rose.

"From the first day I had with these guys, I told them offense was going to take a little while to come together, but the thing we can do from day on is be great on defense," Lynch said. "With our size and our length and our athleticism, we can be really effective in that part of the game. They know that if it's not going well offensively, we can always be a contender because we can hold teams to five points in a quarter."

St. Rose's scoring distribution was spread among seven players -- all of whom connected on for field goal within the first nine minutes of the game and finished with at least six points.

Leading scorer Matt Hodge was at the bottom of St. Rose's scoring leaders on Monday with six points on 3-for-7 shooting from the field. Hodge -- who has two games of 30 or more points this season -- still made his presence felt with nine rebounds, six assists and a block that he pinned up against the glass to turn St. Rose loose in transition.

"It doesn't matter if Matt scores because he impacts every aspect of the game," Ebeling said. "He can always help with the leadership, with the steals, with the rebounding and the assists. Whatever it is, he is going to lead us to wins. He is always involved."

Senior Gio Panzini put up 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the win and sophomore Jayden Hodge went for 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks while earning game MVP honors.

Jayden Hodge and Panzini also played standout basketball during St. Rose's three-game stretch during the break. Jayden Hodge averaged 18.3 points and 5.7 rebounds, while Panzini posted 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, with both players causing havoc on the offensive glass, at the rim and in passing lanes.

After sitting out for 30 days, then taking several games to get acclimated to a new school and new team after transferring to St. Rose from Red Bank Catholic prior to the 2022-23 season, Panzini has settled into his role with this year's team and thrived in it.

"I think last year, it was hard for him to take ownership of his role," Lynch said of Panzini. "This year, he has been a leader from day one, really since the summer. He knows that he and Matt are the seniors and this is their team, and I think he's carrying himself with the maturity and the confidence of a leader and that's enhancing every part of his game, which is huge for us because he's six-five, super-athletic, can shoot, so to have him locked in like that makes us really dangerous."

Sophomore Tyler Cameron and freshman Avery Hodge each added eight points off the bench and junior Evan Romano pitched in six points, five rebounds and four assists for St. Rose.

Since dropping a 62-59 decision to the Patrick School on opening night, St. Rose has won seven in a row - five of which have come against teams from outside the Shore Conference. Patrick School is 9-0 to open the season, with noteworthy in-state wins over Don Bosco, Hudson Catholic, Roselle Catholic and Life Center to go with the win over St. Rose.

St. Rose will resume its Shore Conference slate this week against Raritan on Thursday before taking on St. Benedict's on Saturday at Brookdale Community College in the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase.

"We're feeling really great," Ebeling said. "We have really big goals this year, so we want to keep the mindset ready for every single game."

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