OAKHURST - The Ocean Township boys basketball team has the kind of firepower from three-point range that calls for plenty shots from the outside, but the Spartans also have a senior post presence in Scott Bradley who can do damage near the basket.

When the two elements are working together like they were during its NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III first round game against No. 9 seed Red Bank, eighth-seeded Ocean can be a lot for another team to handle.

Senior Jake Talarico led the shooting barrage with six three-pointers on seven attempts and Bradley chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds as the Spartans won a rubber-match against the Bucs, 65-58, to set up a sectional quarterfinal showdown at top-seeded Ewing.

Ocean and Red Bank split the regular-season series during the Shore Conference Class B North regular season.

"There hasn't been much excitement in either of the last two years, but we've had a good following this year and it's been fun to play at home, especially as a group of mostly seniors," said Talarico, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "We are 9-3 at home this year, so we came in fired up to play in front of our crowd and to have a chance to win a state game, which we haven't done as a program since we were freshmen."

Talarico hit three three-pointers each in the second and third quarters and accounted for six of Ocean's nine triples. Senior Manny Padron knocked down two and finished with 13 points, six assists and three steals, while junior Darius Brown also hit a three-pointer and finished with nine points off the bench.

"When Scott's getting the ball inside, the whole defense collapses - especially when they (Red Bank) went zone in the fourth quarter," Talarico said. "That's when I really found my stroke because the whole defense is collapsing and we can get kick-outs and shots are eventually going to go down - especially when other guys are getting shots to fall and the defense has a lot of people to worry about."

Talarico's three three-pointers highlighted a strong second quarter for the Spartans, during which Ocean hit Red Bank with a 10-0 run that swing the game from 22-19 in favor of the Bucs to a 29-22 Ocean advantage. Talarico hit two of his threes during that 10-0 burst.

That 10-0 run extended to an 18-1 run with the start of the third quarter, which included three-pointers by Talarico and Padron on Ocean's first two possessions of the second half to help the Spartans open up their biggest lead, 37-23.

"Numbers-wise, he is one of the leading three-point shooters in the Shore," Ocean coach John Terlecsky said of Talarico. "He has his moments where he doesn't really miss. He had six threes the other night against Pinelands, so we're definitely looking to get him open and when he creates screens with Bradley, it caused problems for the other team defensively so we've tried to incorporate that in the play that we run."

Senior Matt Reardon and sophomore Devin Cooper keyed a push-back by Red Bank with four points each during a 10-3 burst to get the deficit down to 40-33. Talarico, however, responded with his fifth three to push the lead back to 10 and buried a long three as time expired in the third quarter to send the Spartans to fourth quarter with a 48-36 lead.

Ocean maintained a 56-43 lead inside the six-minute mark when Red Bank began to chip away. Cooper knocked down a three-pointer, followed by a steal and layup by Reardon to trim the Spartans lead to 56-48. Cooper then made it eight straight Bucs points with another three-pointer that cut Ocean's lead to 56-51.

Once again, however, Ocean responded, this time scoring six straight points by pounding the ball inside. Bradley scored on back-to-back trips and after assisting the second of those baskets, senior Yianni Kavarakas converted a layup off the last of senior Ru'Quan Dean's eight assists to push the Ocean lead to 62-51.

Red Bank made one last push as Cooper hit two free throws, Reardon converted a three-point play and senior Sadiq Palmer found senior Ben Sprauer for a transition layup to pull the Bucs within four at 62-58 with 53.8 seconds left.

Padron then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for the second straight possession and Red Bank returned to the other end of the floor with a chance to make it a one-possession game. Talarico, however, stripped Palmer for a crucial steal and set up Dean to hit one of two free throws with 34 seconds remaining.

"That's just playing help defense," Talarico said. "I was guarding (Chris) Outterbridge at that point so I know I don't necessarily need to worry about the three-point shot. I can stick a hand in there, I know I'm not going to foul out, and I can try to poke it out, grab the ball and win the game at the line."

With Cooper fouled out of the game three possessions earlier, the Bucs tried to get Reardon a look at a three-pointer, but he could not connect. Ocean added another point to the lead on a free throw by Bradley to push the lead to six with 26.1 seconds left.

The Spartans closed out the game despite shooting 3-for-8 from the foul line in the final minute of the game.

Ocean set up its perimeter game that took hold in the second quarter by working the ball inside to Bradley and driving to the basket. Padron scored seven of his points in the first quarter and Bradley posted up for four points each in the first and second quarters.

Scott Bradley (22) scored 15 points to help Ocean beat Red Bank on Monday. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

"I think when teams go zone against us, we sometimes don't move the ball enough and that's why we end up not winning as many games," Bradley said. "When we move the ball against the zone, we usually do pretty well. We get the ball inside, we score inside, we kick it out, we hit threes, we feed Jake, we feed our other shooters and it works out."

Reardon finished with a game-high 26 points and Cooper added 20 in defeat. Palmer dominated the glass with 19 rebounds, but scored just three points on 1-for-12 shooting, not including a offensive goal-tending call on his own putback attempt in which he grabbed the rim prior to tipping the ball in. Palmer also shot 1-for-5 from the free-throw line in the final game of his standout four-year basketball career.

"It probably didn't look on it, but we tried to concentrate on Reardon and he had a heck of a game," Terlecsky said. "I thought Yianni did a good job on Sadiq. I think he learned how to guard him the last time we played them. I don't take too much stock in trying to force a kid right or left, but we tried to (force him right) a little bit more.

"We didn't do a very good job keeping off the boards, but fortunately, when he did get the boards, he missed the putbacks and that helped us immensely."

Ocean will travel to play top-seeded Ewing Wednesday in the sectional quarterfinals after the No. 1 Blue Devils survived a scare from No. 16 Nottingham, 61-57. Ewing defeated Ocean by 40 points two years ago in the Central Jersey Group III first round and by 19 last year after the Spartans kept the deficit manageable into the fourth quarter.

This time around, Ocean will not have to deal with guard Trey Lowe, who is now at Temple University.

"We're not going there thinking we don't have a shot," Terlecsky said. "I know they're 21-4 and a much-heralded program, so we'll take our shot at them and see what happens."

"We're ready for the challenge," Talarico said. "It would be a story, right? Why not? We have nothing to lose."