Boys Basketball – Nick Facendo’s Late Basket Lifts Freehold Township to SCT Quarterfinals
FREEHOLD TWP. - The Freehold Township boys basketball team spent 32 minutes chasing one player around on the defensive end during Thursday's Shore Conference Tournament Round-of-16 game, but ultimately needed to score in the final minute in order to advance to the SCT quarterfinals for the first time in eight years.
Where Thursday's opponent - No. 14 seed Toms River South - had one nearly-unstoppable player for situations such as this, Freehold Township had options.
"We wanted to put the ball in the hands of one of our guards to try to get something going to the basket, and we just waited to see who their two best guards were going to be matched up with," Freehold Township coach Brian Golub said of the deciding play. "Whoever had the mismatch, that's where we were going."
Junior point guard Nick Facendo drove for a floater off the glass with 40 seconds left to put Freehold Township in front by one and the Patriots twice stopped Toms River South guard Tymere Berry to preserve a 62-59 win that sent the Patriots to their first SCT quarterfinal since winning the tournament in 2007.
Facendo finished the game with 11 points and five assists while senior Dan Saunders scored nine of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots overcome a three-point deficit after the third. Senior Tyree Wilson also scored 14 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Berry, the leading scorer in the Shore Conference at just under 25 points per game, finished with a game-high 23 points, but Freehold Township forced him into a turnover with under 10 seconds to play and the Patriots clinging to the one-point lead. Jason Czajkowski hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to three and Berry's desperation, double-clutch shot from 23 feet missed as time expired.
"We knew they were a very good, very athletic team and we've seen first hand how good Berry is," Saunders said. "They are one of the few teams we've played that is as athletic as we are, which we're not used to seeing. It was an adjustment for us, but we were able to battle and come away with the win."
Freehold Township beat Toms River South, 74-60, in the WOBM Christmas Classic consolation final on Dec. 30, a game in which Berry scored 24 points and Wilson did not play for Freehold Township due to illness.
"We played a 2-3 zone the first time we played them and that was the plan today," Golub said. "Then their other guys started hitting threes and we had to come out of it."
Sophomore Matt Shiffer came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers for a career-high 12 points for Toms River South.
"With all due respect, he wasn't even on our scouting report, and I don't think he even played in the games we watched them," Golub said of Shiffer. "That's a credit to the young man. I don't know how much he has played for them, but he came off the bench and hit some huge shots."
Freehold Township will play Rumson-Fair Haven at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday at Brookdale College in the SCT quarterfinals. The Patriots also beat Rumson earlier in the season, a 63-55 overtime win on Jan. 3.
"We're ready," Saunders said. "All season, we've prepared for these moments. Coach has prepared us for these moments and we've prepared each other for these moments. We're ready to go."