TOMS RIVER - The Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball team has made a habit of getting off to fast starts during its run to the NJSIAA Group I semifinal and Thursday's game against South Jersey champion Woodbury started out much the same way.

Unfortunately for the Garnet Gulls, they ran into a team that has a habit of closing out games strong.

The Thundering Herd rumbled back from an 11-point second-quarter deficit to get within two by halftime and outmatched Point Beach in the second half to win, 59-46, and advance to the Group I title game for the second straight season.

"The two previous games (against Pennsgrove and Glassboro), we were down and came back," Estrada said. "This felt like just the two games before this."

Junior guard Aaron Estrada took the game over in the second half with 19 of his 30 points coming after the intermission and 11 coming in the fourth quarter. Woodbury trailed, 42-40, after a layup by Point Beach senior Danny Frauenheim early in the fourth quarter before closing the game on a 19-4 run.

"We came out and hit them in the mouth like we did all state tournament," Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. "They were kind of surprised by our intensity and then (Mohamed Traore) got his second foul. We pushed the lead still, but once they (Woodbury) got the momentum, we could never get it back."

Point Beach stormed out to a 26-15 lead by the midpoint of the second quarter before Woodbury made its move. Estrada started a 15-4 run with a three-point play and sophomore Andre Parker capped it with an elbow jumper on the first possession of the second half, which tied the game at 30-30.

The teams traded blows into the fourth quarter, with Frauenheim giving the Garnet Gulls a 37-34 lead on a three-pointer late in the third and Estrada countering with six straight points to make it 40-37. Point Beach senior Mohamed Traore then ended the quarter with a game-tying three just before time expired, sending the game to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 40.

Frauenheim opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a drive, but Woodbury responded with six straight points, capped by a layup by Parker that came after the fifth offensive rebound of the possession by the Thundering Herd. After grabbing three offensive rebounds in the first half - and none over the first 11 minutes - Woodbury racked up 10 in the second half alone.

"They had momentum going into the second half and we were struggling shooting the ball today," Catania said. "That's going to happen, so we knew they were going to come out with some momentum in the second half and then really took it to us on the glass, more than anything."

A pair of Frauenheim free throws cut Woodbury's lead back to 46-44 and the Herd came back with a jumper by junior T.J. Carter and a floater by Estrada to stretch the lead to six - its largest of the game to that point.

Senior Trevor Covey converted a basket as he was fouled off a Josh Yates inbound pass, but missed the ensuing free throw to keep the deficit at four. That would be the final points Point Beach scored and Estrada scored seven of his team's final nine points to close out the game.

"He is smooth," Catania said of Estrada. "He looks slow on tape, but I think the thing you can't judge (on film) is how strong he is. He gets his hands on a lot of balls and when he's in there, he's able to get through traffic. I was real impressed with him. He tried everything with him - we didn't leave him all game, we tried doubling him. He just made some tough shots."

Point Beach managed only 20 points over the final 20 minutes of the game and shot 0-for-8 from three-point range in the fourth quarter after going 6-for-17 over the first three quarters.

Frauenheim ended his brilliant four-year career with 17 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals to lead Point Beach. During his four varsity seasons, he eclipsed the 1,000-point threshold and also set the new school record for career assists by passing current Notre Dame senior Matt Farrell.

"Danny's a warrior," Catania said. "He plays until the final buzzer. I think for the last three years, he played every minute for us, except for maybe blowouts. Everybody's main thing playing us during the season was to stop Danny and not many people were successful doing it. He played great again today."

Senior Mohamed Traore added 12 points despite playing only six minutes in the first half due to two fouls in the first quarter that relegated him to the bench. Senior Trevor Covey - also a 1,000-point scorer in four varsity seasons at Point Beach - wrapped up his career with nine points on Thursday night.

Those three seniors, plus classmates Yates, Chris Pina and Johny Lageveld helped Point Beach win its third Central Jersey Group I title in the last six years and first since 2014. Sophomore Jake Clark is the lone returning player for next year to log significant minutes on Thursday.

"I love those guys," Catania said. "Letting eight seniors, I'm not happy about. I wish they could come back and I could coach them again. We've built this program around the idea of being a family, so I know I'll see these guys again when they come back, but I'll definitely miss coaching them."


Box Score

Woodbury 59, Point Beach 46

Point Beach (21-10)191110646
Woodbury (20-11)1315121959

Point Beach (46): Danny Frauenheim 5 6-7 17, Mohamed Traore 5 0-0 12, Jake Clark 1 0-0 2, Trevor Covey 3 2-3 9, Josh Yates 1 0-0 3, Chris Pina 1 0-0 3, Johnny Lageveld  0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 8-10 46

Three-pointers: Frauenheim, Traore 2, Covey, Yates, Pina

Fouled Out: Traore, Clark

Woodbury (59): Aaron Estrada 10 9-9 30, T.J. Carter 2 0-0 5, Marcus McGruder 2 2-4 6, Andre Parker 3 2-3 8, Jay'Shawn Harvey 1 4-6 6, Isaiah Bailey 2 0-0 4. Totals: 20 17-22 59

Three-pointers: Estrada, Carter



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