MIDDLETOWN - Prior to Thursday, the last time the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team played Colts Neck, it needed double-overtime to win the game and claw back above a .500 winning percentage.

As it turned out, that win back on Jan. 9 was the first of a long winning streak, one that continued Thursday at Christian Brothers Academy with another win over Colts Neck, only this time more resounding.

Junior Stephen Braunstein scored 17 points, classmate Josh Cohen posted a double-double with three blocks and senior Rob Mahala did a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor to spark the Colts - ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a 54-34 win over the No. 6 Cougars for their 10th straight victory.

"We said at the beginning of the year, with some of the youth we still had, there might be a little bit of a rough patch early on," Cohen said. "We knew once we got going, we were going to keep going, and that's really how it's been since the last time we lost."

CBA junior Josh Cohen blocks a shot by Colts Neck senior Sabour Quddus. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA junior Josh Cohen blocks a shot by Colts Neck senior Sabour Quddus. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The first meeting between the two A North rivals in early January was a double-overtime classic that included big shot after big shot by both sides down the stretch, but that sort of game never materialized thanks to a combination of suffocating defense by CBA and an off-shooting night by Colts Neck.

"I always thought we were going to be able to score this year - we have the shooters and the inside option, as well as guys who can drive," CBA coach Geoff Billet said. "I didn't know how tough we were going to be defensively and we're beginning to get a little bit of an identity on that end of the floor."

CBA held the Cougars to 14 points on 5-for-27 shooting in the first half, although many of the missed Colts Neck shots were open looks. Although Colts Neck put up 20 points in the second half, the shots were even harder to come by against CBA's defense.

"Going into the halftime, we knew they were just missing shots and they are capable of getting hot," Mahala said. "We knew we had to rebound and keep playing hard. The main thing was to just play hard throughout the entire game."

Cohen dominated the glass in the first game with 17 rebounds, but his scoring was not as much of a factor as it was Thursday and he was much more active on defense as well. The 6-foot-9 junior scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds Thursday and was a deterrent in the paint throughout the game.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Colts Neck senior Rob Hill scored 19 points with Cohen matched up on him, while Cohen had 12 points - mostly at the free-throw line - and 17 rebounds. On Thursday, Hill did not score.

"Coach did a good job preparing me for Hill and Bosland and that pick-and-roll game that they run so well," Cohen said. "It's hard to stop, so I was going to flash and flash hard. Really, I was just more prepared after actually seeing it for the first time and this time knowing exactly what to expect."

"Last year, Hill was really the only guy who was able to stop Josh all year," Billet said. "He gets physical with him and I thought in the first game and again today, Josh got physical right back."

Mahala, meanwhile, spearheaded the defensive effort by marking up Cougars leading scorer Dan Gaines, who finished with 17 points. the senior wing also finished with eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the win.

"If everybody played as hard as he did - it can't happen," Billet said. "Not many guys play with that energy and that motor. He rebounds, he defends, he scores when we need it and he's such a good leader, which is important coming from a senior."

"Offensively, I'm trying to get guys open," Mahala said. "We're trying to get a win and I'm not really the main guy when it comes to scoring. We've got guys like Braunstein and Josh to score, so I'm looking to find them in transition and to just play as a team. I really pride myself on getting stops on defense and just getting the win."

Junior Liam Kennedy and Braunstein led the effort against Colts Neck point guard Ben Bosland, who endured an off-shooting game. After putting up a triple-double Tuesday against Freehold Township, Bosland finished with five points on 2-for-15 shooting against CBA.

The last time CBA lost, the Colts blew a 13-point second-half lead to lose to No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven, 46-43, at the Boardwalk Classic on Jan. 6. Since then, CBA has rattled off 10 straight wins, taken control of the Class A North divisional race and beaten the likes of Colts Neck, Eastern, Marlboro and Neptune in the process.

"I think after the Rumson game, it was as simple as they just didn't want to lose anymore," Billet said. "We think we're pretty good, I'm hoping we're pretty good and I just think they had to find a toughness about them to where they don't want to lose."

Extending the winning streak over the next several days will put CBA to the test. The Colts travel to play Cherokee (10-6) on Saturday and after taking on Freehold Boro on Monday, they will travel to play No. 5 Neptune Tuesday in a game that could very well decide the winner of the A North division title.

"It's still one game at a time," Cohen said. "We're on a ten-game win streak, but it's just about focusing on the next game, which is Cherokee. That's what got us to this point so we're just going to keep it going."


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