MARLBORO - The Marlboro boys basketball team made the most of its five consecutive days off by preparing to play Lakewood in a Shore Conference Tournament round-of-16 game at home and during the first half of Thursday's game, the Mustangs did everything coach Mike Nausedas - or any other coach - could ask his team to do except for one, rather important thing: make shots.

The Mustangs - the No. 6 seed in the SCT - came out ice cold after their layoff, but by the time the third quarter arrived, so had their shooting touch.

Marlboro overcame a poor-shooting first half to blitz No. 11 Lakewood during the third quarter en route to a 64-44 win over the Piners. The win puts Marlboro in the Shore Conference quarterfinals for the first time in program history.

"This was our goal - to get to the elite eight," senior Dan Weiss said. "Now that we're here, coming off a pretty big win over Lakewood, we think we can keep going."

Sophomore Dylan Kaufman scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots. Weiss added 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, while senior Ryan LaRocca chipped in 11 points - including nine in the second half on three three-pointers.

"I think the seniors all want it more than I do," Kaufman said. "Of course I care, but they've been going at this for four years to get this far. It's the first time in program history. They can tell you how good this feels right now."

Marlboro shot just 7-for-29 in the first half but Weiss and LaRocca each hit their first two three-pointers of the second half to ignite a 22-5 run over the span of the third quarter, which put the Mustangs ahead, 42-28 heading to the fourth.

Although the Mustangs were cold offensively in the first half - they also shot 0-for-7 from the three-point line and 6-for-14 from the free-throw line - they were effective on the defensive end. Lakewood shot 8-for-21 in the first half and turned the ball over 10 times.

"They were hitting shots in our face in the zone and we were missing a lot of layups and free throws," Weiss said. "(Nausedas) just told us to keep playing defense how we were. They'll start to miss a few, we'll make some layups and foul shots and that will turn the game around."

The Piners' turnover woes against Marlboro's pressure-heavy 2-3 zone continued in the second half and the Mustangs forced 20 Lakewood turnovers in total on Thursday.

The offense finally came around in support of the defense in the third quarter, which began with Marlboro hitting five of its first six shot attempts to turn a 23-20 deficit into a 34-26 lead. Weiss hit threes on back-to-back possessions to give the Mustangs their first lead, 26-23, and LaRocca answered a three by Lakewood junior Jyheir Jones with a corner three of his own to put the Mustangs ahead for good at 29-26.

Senior P.J. Ringel then followed with a steal and a layup as he was fouled, followed by another three by LaRocca, this time from the right wing to put Marlboro ahead, 34-26.

After Lakewood senior Adi Palmer scored off an inbounds play from underneath the basket, Marlboro ripped off eight straight points to end the quarter. Ringel scored on a drive to the basket before Kaufman scored the last six Marlboro points of the third.

Lakewood junior Kevin Dent made one free throw to open the fourth-quarter scoring, but Marlboro came back with 11 straight points. That capped a 19-1 run, which was part of a larger 36-6 run that began in the final 1:30 of the second quarter, with Lakewood leading 23-17.

Palmer scored a game-high 26 points, including three three-pointers in the first half that helped the Piners jump out to the 23-17 lead.

With Thursday's win, Marlboro earns a third crack at No. 3 Freehold Township, which beat Marlboro twice in Class A North play. Both games were tight, with Freehold Township winning 51-48 in Freehold on Jan. 13 and 42-41 at Marlboro on Feb. 7 to clinch the outright Class A North title. The two teams will take the floor at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River in the second game of a quadruple header, which tips at 12:45 p.m.

"We're probably going to see them in (the NJSIAA Tournament) too," Weiss said. "We were pretty pumped to see that we could get them in this tournament first and maybe see them twice again."

"We wanted this," Kaufman said. "We wanted another shot at them bad."


Box Score

Marlboro 64, Lakewood 44

Lakewood (16-8)101351644
Marlboro (15-5)614222264

Lakewood (44): Cameron Mader 0 0-0 0, Jyheir Jones 1 0-0 3, Zyheir Jones 3 0-4 6, Adi Palmer 9 3-3 26, Dorian Vaughn 2 0-0 6, Khari Jenkins 0 0-0 0, Kevin Dent 0 1-2 1, Ryan Savoy 1 0-0 2, Omari Barskdale 0 0-2 0, DeAndre Harris 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 4-11 44

Three-pointers: J.Jones, Palmer 5, Vaughn 2

Marlboro (64): P.J. Ringel 3 1-7 7, Ryan LaRocca 4 0-0 11, Dylan Kaufman 7 4-5 18, Justin Marcus 2 1-2 5, Dan Weiss 5 3-4 15, Brian Levine 1 1-2 2, Noah Turner 0 0-0 0, Ethan Sherman 1 1-2 3, Matt Cabrejos 1 0-0 2, Alex Ratner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 11-22 64

Three-pointers: LaRocca 3, Weiss 2


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