Boys Basketball – Kyle Elliot Sparks Second-Half Surge, Mater Dei Beats Neptune
LONG BRANCH - The Neptune boys basketball team has proved to be a second-half team during the early part of the 2015-16 season, but Saturday at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase, the Scarlet Fliers faced a second-half buzzsaw.
Mater Dei Prep, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, hounded Neptune during the third quarter and buried the Fliers, 62-48, in the first game of the Boardwalk Showcase.
Senior swingman Kyle Elliot earned team MVP honors with 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals and scored the final 10 points of a 14-0 run to close the third quarter. Elliot scored 12 in the third and 18 in the second half as Mater Dei took a 47-29 lead to the final eight minutes after leading 25-24 going to halftime.
Mater Dei opened the game with senior Nyke McCombs defending Neptune leading scorer Barry Brown. After the Scarlet Fliers sharp-shooter scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the first half, Seraphs coach Ben Gamble switched senior Bryan Harris onto Brown and move Elliot off the ball to disrupt the passing lanes.
"We're a versatile team," Gamble said. "We can play a lot of different ways and I think the versatility and depth that I have kind of wore on Brown."
McCombs chipped in nine points, seven assits and three steals for Mater Dei while junior Elijah Barnes put up 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Of the five field goals Barnes made, four came on dunks.
Neptune has routinely started games slowly and come on strong in the second half, including its win over Red Bank Catholic on Thursday in which it rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the Caseys, 58-51. Mater Dei, however, has been adept at closing games in the second half during its 6-1 start.
Elliot has been the breakout player for the Seraphs so far this year and is now averaging a team-best 15.3 points per game while also being a driving force behind Mater Dei's suffocating defense.
"I just try to fit in where I can fit in," Elliot said. "If we need help defensively, I try to go out and give us that defensive energy. If we need to score, I'll look to score. We have a lot of guys like that who can do different things, so you just look at what the team needs."