ROSELLE – The Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball team had been so dominant during its 18-0 start to the season that the starters were rarely on the court for any of the fourth quarters this season.

Sunday at the Primetime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School, the Patrick School wore down those starters in the fourth quarter and beat Point Beach, 54-52, to hand the Garnet Gulls their first loss of the season.

Point Beach senior point guard Matt Farrell, pictured earlier this season, scored 22 points Sunday against Patrick School, but Point Beach fell, 54-52, for its first loss of the season. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Senior guard Matt Farrell scored a game-high 22 points, but Farrell and the Point Beach offense fell silent in the fourth quarter. The Gulls led 48-42 early in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics went on a 12-0 run to take a six-point lead heading into the final minute.

Farrell converted two free throws with 23 seconds left in the game to cut Patrick’s lead to 54-50, but by the time Point Beach senior Dom Uhl scored inside to cut the lead to two, the Gulls were out of timeouts with inside of five seconds left.

“Depth was definitely a factor today,” Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. “Our guys got worn down physically and also mentally. Not only (is Patrick School) deep, but there’s no drop-off when they go to the bench, so they can just run guys in, and we were only six guys deep.

“We got worn down physically and once we started the feel the fatigue, we started to show some mental fatigue as well. We got the lead because we shared the ball and in the fourth quarter, when they applied the pressure, we didn’t stay mentally on point.”

Among Farrell’s 22 points were two dazzling reverse lay-ups and an NBA-range three-pointer. The senior point guard also helped spearhead a turnover-heavy defensive effort that forced the Celtics into 25 giveaways, which included four steals by Farrell.

“That was the plan,” Catania said. “We saw on video that they have a tendency to get careless with the ball, and we thought if we could make their bigs have to put in on the floor, it might give them some problems. It’s tough when you ask only six guys to play that kind of defense against that kind of team, but I thought defensively, we did as much as we could. It was more our lack of execution on offense in the fourth quarter that cost us.”

“It’s disappointing. We came up here to win,” Farrell said. “This was the first time playing a team that was bigger and more athletic than us, and we knew that was going to be a challenge. But we thought if we executed, we’d have a chance to win and for 3 1/2 quarters, we did.”

Four Celtics players scored four points apiece in the fourth quarter and all three finished in double-figures. Dupree McBayer scored 14 points, while sophomore Bryce Aiken and senior Seton Hall recruit Angel Delgado finished with 11 points each. Senior Daniel Knight scored 15 points off the bench to lead the Patrick School.

Uhl finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while senior Noah Yates chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.

Point Beach took a 46-40 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to an 11-2 run to close the third. During the spurt, Noah Yates, junior Chris Schifano and sophomore Matt Van Nostrand each hit a 3-pointer. Van Nostrand, who scored six points as the only player to come off the Point Beach bench, capped the run with a three just before the third-quarter buzzer.

After turning the ball over just six times in the first three quarters, the Garnet Gulls committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, including three by Farrell. Following turnovers on consecutive possessions by Farrell, Point Beach ran its next four sets through Uhl, which also did not work against a ratcheted-up Patrick’s defense.

“We turned the ball over a few possessions in a row and that really took us out of it,” Farrell said. “That’s on me more than anybody because I have a couple of them. They were crowding me a lot more when I didn’t have the ball, and when that happens, we usually let Dom bring the ball up against a bigger defender, so that was what we did there. We just stopped running our offense.”

Point Beach may have missed an opportunity to run the table all the way to a second straight NJSIAA Tournament of Champions with its loss on Sunday. The Patrick School is the No. 8 team in the most recent Star-Ledger Top 20 and the Celtics figure to climb with another unbeaten week. This was the most challenging opponent left on Point Beach’s potential schedule until the Tournament of Champions and should Point Beach have pulled out the win, the Gulls would have entered both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Group I Tournaments as marked favorites.

Despite the disappointment, the Gulls went toe-to-toe with a team that figures to challenge for one of the T of C spots and did so without junior guard Mike Frauenheim, who is recovering from surgery on his wrist. Frauenheim could be back within the next two-to-three weeks according to Catania, and restoring him to the rotation will help Point Beach go a little deeper against teams like the Patrick School.

“We feel like we can beat anybody we play,” Farrell said. “We had a chance to win a T of C game last year, we scrimmaged (T of C winner) Roselle Catholic and won a few quarters against them, and we came up here today and had a chance to win. It’s frustrating that we have to experience a loss, but games like this are only going to make us better. That’s our main focus every game, regardless of the opponent – to get better, and we’re definitely leaving here a better team.”