COLTS NECK - The Colts Neck boys basketball team got a taste of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals last year and eight minutes shy of getting another taste against Marlboro in the sectional quarterfinals Thursday, the Cougars showed how hungry they were for another bite at a sectional championship.

Senior Lloyd Daniels scored 24 points and added five rebounds, four assists and four steals to lead Colts Neck to a 68-46 win over the Mustangs.

The Cougars - the No. 2 seed in the bracket - outscored the No. 10 Mustangs 26-10 over the final 9:45 of the game to seal the win, led by nine points from Daniels during that stretch.

Colts Neck senior Lloyd Daniels scored 24 points to lead the Cougars past Marlboro on Thursday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Colts Neck's fourth-quarter outburst put the game out of reach before Marlboro could unleash its fullcourt press, which it has relied on during the season and used sparingly to rarely during the first three quarters.

"I told my teammates in the huddle just to stay calm and keep your poise," Daniels said. "(I told them) get me the ball and I'll lead us to victory. We just needed to keep our poise and take care of the ball."

Daniels is among the Shore Conference leaders in assists and has progressed to a full-time point guard over his Colts Neck career, but the Cougars deployed him in the post to collect a chunk of his offense on Thursday. He finished 10-for-16 from the field and all 10 of his field goals came in the paint - three on post-ups.

"If it's a small guy on me or even if it's a big guy on me, coach (Lou Piccola) is always having us go in the post in practice and work on our post moves," Daniels said. "If they can't stop us in the post, I can go down there and then I can step outside and now they have to respect both options."

"What I say this time of the year is, 'Do what we do best: ball-side cut, help-side defense - basic things defensively,'" Piccola said. "Simple. What are we going to do - 50 million different things? Make it simple."

Before Colts Neck pulled away late, the Cougars established a 26-13 lead early in the second quarter. Marlboro, however, chopped the lead to five by halftime and a transition runner by junior Dan Weiss to open the second-half scoring pulled the Mustangs to within 32-29.

Colts Neck responded and the two teams traded blows for the remainder of the third, capped by a 27-foot three-pointer by Marlboro junior P.J. Ringel that was waved off because Ringel released the shot after the clock had expired in the quarter. The shot would have cut Colts Neck's lead to five, but instead, the Cougars entered the fourth leading 46-38.

After dodging a bullet on the waved-off shot, Colts Neck scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to turn a competitive game into a rout. Daniels and junior Brendan Clarke keyed the run, with Daniels hitting a floater and a short jumper and Clarke scoring on a drive and a three-pointer from the left wing to cap the spurt.

Weiss halted the run with a three-pointer, but senior Tom O'Reilly scored twice on one possession after getting fouled on his first layup, followed by a pair of free throws by Clarke to make it a 17-3 Cougars run to start the fourth.

Senior Kyle Gordon added 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks for Colts Neck, while Clarke (nine points) and sophomore Rob Hill (eight) combined for 17 points off the bench.

Ringel led Marlboro with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. Weiss added 10 points and freshman Dylan Kaufman scored nine points in the first half before the Colts Neck defense took him out of the equation in the second half.

Colts Neck will host No. 3 South Brunswick on Saturday after the Vikings beat rival East Brunswick on a shot at the buzzer by leading scorer Eric Savage. The Cougars made it to last year's sectional semifinals before losing at Freehold Township one game before the sectional championship game.

"We go the two seed and that really got us fired up to be in our home gym for our senior year, with the best fans in the Shore," said Daniels, whose teams starts five seniors. "You can't beat that."