COLTS NECK -- The Manalapan boys basketball teams has showed off its shooting prowess at different points this season, including in spurts against some of the best teams on its schedule to date in the 2023-24 basketball season.

After coming up short in its previous bid to knock off a team ranked in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16, the Braves played arguably their best half of the season Monday and did just enough down the stretch to finish the job against a ranked opponent.

Manalapan shot the lights out over the first 11 minutes Monday at Colts Neck and held off a fourth-quarter push by the Cougars to close out a 68-65 win over the No. 7 team in the Shore 16 rankings.

During a 9-4 start to the season, Manalapan has benefitted from a well-round scoring attack that includes six players who have scored in double-figures in a game this season, including four on Monday. Phil Pearlman was the scoring leader at Colts Neck, scoring a game-high 17 points, including eight of Manalapan's first 10 of the game.

Manalapan started the game by hitting 10 of its first 12 shots and 12 of its first 15 on the way to a 13-for-20 performance in the first half. The Braves connected on their first five three-point attempts of the game went into the locker room with a commanding, 35-18 lead over the Cougars.

Freshman Joe Farino hit three three-pointers on his way to 14 points after coming off the Manalapan bench. Senior teammate Colin O'Brien, meanwhile, scored 12 points, senior Anthony Leger added 11 and junior Aiden Sosinov poured in nine in the victory.

Manalapan built its lead to 21 during the third quarter and led, 56-36, heading into the fourth. Colts Neck came alive during the fourth, however, scoring the first 11 points of the quarter and cutting its deficit to 58-51 before the midway point of the fourth.

Colts Neck stayed close thanks to the one spot on the floor from which Manalapan did not shoot well: the free-throw line. The Braves went 19-for-39 for the game and 8-for-19 in the fourth quarter.

The number of attempts also meant foul trouble for Colts Neck, which lost four players to foul-outs -- including standout senior Mike Belcher with 2:35 left in the game and his team down 60-53.

Junior Kyle Moore came off the bench late and in the final two minutes, hit a pair of free throws and a corner three-pointer that cut Colts Neck's lead to 67-63. Junior Lucas Sloane later scored to cut Manalapan's lead to three, but with no timeouts, Colts Neck could not stop the clock from expiring and Manalapan held on for the win.

Belcher finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and senior Vova Trotsko posted 17 points to go with 10 rebounds to lead Colts Neck. The Cougars also had to overcome foul-outs of junior Bryce Belcher (eight points), senior Dom Beninato (seven points) and senior Dan Buoncore.

Manalapan's win on Monday follows up a come-from-behind win over West Windsor-Plainsboro North over the weekend and a 57-52 loss at Red Bank in which the Braves took the lead in the final two minutes after leading by six heading in the fourth quarter as well.

That loss to Red Bank is Manalapan's only loss since snapping a three-game losing streak in late December since dropping three straight decisions to Rumson-Fair Haven, Manchester and Woodbridge, the Braves have gone 7-1 and will put their hot streak to the test Tuesday at Red Bank Catholic and Friday vs. Marlboro.

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