Boys Basketball – Fuerbacher, Noble Spark CBA to Win Over Howell in Shore Conference Tournament Quarterfinals
MIDDLETOWN -- Playing without one of its two 6-foot-5 starters due to injury, the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team had to come up with a way to slow down Howell's 6-6 standout D.J. Orloff -- a player who game the full-strength Colts problems when the two teams met during the regular season -- in Saturday's Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal at Middletown South High School.
According to senior Peter Noble, CBA's plan to deal with Orloff could be summed up in two words: "Justin Fuerbacher."
Fuerbacher -- the 6-5 Colts junior who was able to play on Saturday -- played all 32 minutes, posted a double-double and held Orloff to a modest statistical output by his lofty standards as CBA fought off 13th-seeded Howell to earn a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals Wednesday at Red Bank Regional High School.
"He has been unbelievable on defense all year," Noble said of Fuerbacher. "We put him on the other team's best player, unless it's a guard, and he just locks them down. Credit to him. I don't know how many points he had, but he shut (Orloff) down pretty well. The kid is a freak. That's all there is to it."
While Orloff led Howell in scoring, he scored below his season average while battling against Fuerbacher. The 6-5 CBA junior played all 32 minutes and stayed glued to Orloff while posting 12 points and 11 rebounds to his own stat line. Fuerbacher's effort was especially important because CBA was without 6-5 sophomore Connor Andree, who suffered an ankle injury in Thursday's win over Donovan Catholic.
"Justin played his brains out," CBA coach Geoff Billet said. "He was exhausted because we couldn't pull him out and he knows that. I had a chance to take him out and probably should have when Orloff went to the bench in the second quarter, but we ended up going to him on offense and he scored. Orloff had some moments, but he and Justing kind of nullified each other and that's what we wanted."
Orloff entered Saturday averaging 19.2 points and 10.4 rebounds and put up 15 points and eight boards in the loss. He went for 18 and 13 in Howell's 67-44 loss at CBA last month in a game that saw Howell dominate CBA on the glass during the first half and go into the locker room trailing by only four points.
In that game, Fuerbacher and Andree stepped up in the second half and held Orloff to seven points and three rebounds and Fuerbacher continued his stellar play against Howell's senior big man, even without Andree.
"The goal was not to let Orloff wreck the game," Billet said. "In that first game, he gave it to us in the first half and we pushed back a little bit more in the second half, so the plan today was to make sure he wasn't going for 25 and killing us on the glass."
Noble also played a key role in CBA's victory. The senior scored a game-high 19 points with five three-pointers, including a dagger of a three with 2:20 to go that stretched CBA's lead to 50-43.
Noble hit two three-pointers and scored eight points during a 12-2 CBA run to open the game -- a lead the Colts would never give up. Howell, however, would shrink the lead down the three during the first half and to four in the second half, but the Colts routinely answered, particularly Noble.
"I told him that's what a senior is supposed to do," Billet said of Noble, the lone senior in CBA's starting lineup when Andree plays. "I am really happy for him. He has had a great senior season for us and doing it while playing a different position and different role for us than he has the last two years, when he was more of a point guard with the ball in his hands. They (Howell) hit three consecutive threes even though we were guarding them pretty well, but every time they got the lead down to four or five, we had an answer and it was usually Noble."
The senior guard banked in a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to extend CBA's lead to 27-20 at halftime. Noble did all of his second-half scoring on two fourth-quarter threes, including the shot from the right wing that put the Colts ahead, 50-43.
"We're just built like that," Noble said. "As a team, we've got it where if they shut down someone and put their energy towards stopping someone, then someone else is going to step up for us. I scored a little bit, they went on their run, they took away and then it was Pikiell or Charlie or Dylan Kielb stepping up."
Noble's three came after Howell had just cut CBA's lead to 47-43 on a three-pointer by senior Orloff -- the third of three consecutive threes by Howell following three-pointers by junior Joe Vella and senior Chris Meehan on the prior two Howell possessions.
CBA junior Kevin Pikiell converted a three-point play with 25 seconds to go to make it 53-43, effectively putting the game out of Howell's reach.
Sophomore Charlie Marcoullier also cracked double-figures for CBA with 11 points. Junior Joe Vella also scored 11 points for Howell with three three-pointers, while senior Chris Meehan added nine points for the Rebels.
CBA advances to Wednesday's SCT semifinal at Red Bank Regional, where the fifth-seeded Colts will take on top-seeded St. Rose. CBA faced St. Rose on Jan. 26 in Belmar, where St. Rose beat the Colts, 73-46. CBA jumped out to a 9-4 lead in that one, but fell victim to a 23-0 St. Rose run in a span of under six minutes of the first and second quarters to blow open the game early.
"Justin got two fouls early and our whole game plan got wrecked," Billet said of the loss at St. Rose. "Not that we would have won the game if not for the fouls, but I thought it could have been a more competitive game."
In CBA's last forray into the SCT semifinals two years ago, the Colts took a lead into the fourth quarter against Marlboro, which went on to edge the Colts, 45-37, on the way to winning its first ever SCT championship. Noble and Fuerbacher were starters on that team.
"Obviously, we're used to this because we're CBA, but for any team, getting to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament and being a top four team, it's huge," Noble said. "We are going to celebrate this and then it's back to work on Monday and Tuesday. Who wouldn't want to play a team like that in the Shore Conference semifinals?"
St. Rose, for all its dominance this season, has also never won a Shore Conference Tournament championship and will have to go through a program with plenty of championship history -- part of which was authored by its head coach Brian Lynch. Billet and Lynch were teammates for part of CBA's run of four consecutive SCT championships from 1993 to 1996, which is the last time a team won three conference championships in a row, let alone four.
"Brian is doing a great job with them," Billet said. "They are as good of a team as I have seen at the Shore in the last couple decades maybe. They can go toe-to-toe with the Ranney teams from a few years ago. We've got our work cut out for us."