*Watch the full replay on SSNTV at the bottom of the post*

TOMS RIVER - For first 16 minutes of Thursday's second Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal, the Manasquan boys basketball team played like the buzzsaw of the tournament field - carving up third-seeded Christian Brothers Academy on both ends of the floor.

During the second half, the Warriors finally got CBA's best challenge and despite some anxious moments, Manasquan absorbed the Colts' best shot and secured a historic win for the program.

The second-seeded Warriors stormed out of the gate and rode junior Alex Galvan down the stretch to beat CBA, 70-64, to win its 16th straight game and advance to the program's first SCT championship appearance since 2005.

Manasquan lost to CBA in the championship game 14 years ago and has lost to the Colts three times since in the Shore Conference Tournament before finally vanquishing the Colts on Thursday night.

 

"Our whole season has been craziness one way or another," Galvan said. "We're always thinking we'll be able to stay together and play well, no matter what happens and that's all we did tonight."

The Warriors will now head to OceanFirst Bank Arena on the campus of Monmouth University Saturday to try and capture the program's first SCT title since 1957. In order to end the 62-year drought, the Warriors will have to knock off top-seeded Ranney, the No. 1 team in the state and one of the top 20 teams in the nation, according to USA Today.

Galvan led Manasquan (25-2) with 21 points and eight rebounds, including 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Warriors ward off a late charge by the Colts. CBA (20-5) drew within 10 at 54-44 before Galvan answered with the first of two three-point plays in the quarter. The second came after CBA cut its deficit to seven, with Galvan's basket-and-foul-shot pushing Manasquan's lead up to 62-52.

The 6-foot-6 senior later knocked down two foul shots to extend the lead to 64-55.

"His offensive rebounding is the key," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said of Galvan. "We can put it up there and he does a good job getting position and getting putbacks."

With CBA entering the fourth quarter trailing, 52-38, Manasquan was forced to seal the game on the free-throw line and delivered by hitting 10-of-12 from the line during the fourth quarter. Galvan and freshman Ben Roy each went 4-for-4 in the quarter.

"I guess they just got hot," Galvan said of CBA in the second half. "I knew they weren't going to give up. They were going to play hard the whole time."

Roy bounced off the bench to score 17 points to go with three assists while fellow back-court-mate and junior Kieran Flanagan continued his stellar play at the point with six points and six assists, including a key drive to the basket that helped stem the CBA tide in the fourth quarter.

Both Roy and Flanagan have come on strong during the month of February - Flanagan in the traditional point guard role and Roy as a scorer. Flanagan is averaging 12.3 points and an even five assists since Feb. 1, while Roy is scoring 13.2 points per game over the last six games and 16 per game during the Shore Conference Tournament.

"What happens is you get to the second half of your conference schedule and now Ben Roy has been scouted," Bilodeau said. "It's like the rookie quarterback in the NFL: no one knows how to play him until Week 7 or 8. Now everybody has the book on him so second time through the schedule, teams are jumping his right hand and denying him the ball and now he has to adjust - put it on the deck more, find people and then go from there."

Galvan and Roy were two of four Manasquan players in reach double-figure scoring, with seniors Brad McCabe and Xander Korolik also reaching the benchmark. McCabe and Korolik spearheaded Manasquan's torrid start to the game, with McCabe scoring 11 points during a 23-9 first-quarter run on the way to 15 points and nine rebounds for the game. Korolik, meanwhile, added eight of his 10 points in the first half and grabbed six rebounds.

Behind McCabe's hot start from the outside, Manasquan jumped out to the big first quarter lead and piled it on during the second quarter en route to a 42-21 halftime lead.

The Warriors were coasting at 48-26 before CBA's offense caught fire and made things interesting. After scoring only four points in the first half, 6-11 senior Josh Cohen poured in six points in the third quarter and 12 more in the fourth to reach a game-high 22 points.

Senior Stephen Braunstein, meanwhile, scored eight of his 21 points in the fourth quarter for CBA, which played its second straight game without injured freshman point guard Ryan Mabrey, who tweaked his knee in the round-of-16 win over Jackson Memorial.

Senior Liam Kennedy stepped up to score eight points in Mabrey's absence but the Colts supporting case could not quite add the necessary offense to Cohen and Braunstein.

CBA made its move late in the third quarter, closing with a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to 14 heading to the fourth. The Colts then scored on a Braunstein three-point play to open the fourth and make it a 15-4 run.

"The shots that are open all night are now shots you don't want when you're trying to protect a lead," Bilodeau said. "We said a few times, 'Let's not go for anything quick unless it's a layup.' We took a couple quick one and missed them and we said, 'Just keep running and we'll grind them.' We just tried to be a little more selective."

Following a Galvan basket, it was Cohen's turn for an old-fashioned three-point play that cut Manasquan's lead to 54-44. Sophomore Colin Farrell scored on a drive and Flanagan and Cohen traded baskets to make the score 59-50 before Braunstein later converted a floater to pull CBA within seven.

Galvan followed with a three-point play to extend Manasquan's lead back to double-digits but before long, Braunstein connected on a three-point play to get CBA back within 64-58 with 1:13 left.

Roy then knocked down both ends of a 1-and-1 to inch the lead back up to eight and although the Colts got as close as four points, it was not until the final 12 seconds and Roy put the game away with two free throws.

Manasquan will put its Shore-Conference-leading 16-game winning streak on the line against the team expected to repeat as champions from the season's outset. The Warriors have been successful with an up-tempo style that was apparent during the 42-point first half vs. CBA on Thursday and, according to Bilodeau, they won't shy away from playing the same way Saturday against the athletic Panthers.

"You can't reinvent yourself in two days, nor can they (Ranney)," Bilodeau said. "The way I see it, they have to play us too. We're just going to play loose and attack and do what we do.

"Our guys are fired up to play whoever it is. This is where they want to be. Why not let it be the number one team in the state? I think it's a great opportunity."

 

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