MIDDLETOWN - Senior Jaden Rhoden and junior Travis Holland were not on the Toms River North varsity boys basketball team in February of 2015, but both witnessed first-hand the most lopsided loss the program has suffered during the successful six-year tenure of head coach Rory Caswell.

Saturday against Christian Brother Academy at Brookdale Community College - the team that handed Toms River North that 36-point loss in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals two years ago and the same arena in which it happened - Rhoden and Holland were on the floor for the Mariners and they made the difference.

Rhoden earned Hoop Group game MVP honors with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Holland contributed 17 points and seven rebounds to spark Toms River North - the No. 4 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a 57-51 win over the No. 7 Colts in the second game of the Boardwalk Showcase at Collins Arena.

"I came to watch that game (against CBA) two years ago so I know what went on," Rhoden said. "There was definitely a little extra motivation knowing what happened the last time we played them, especially with Mike (Nyisztor) and Darrion (Carrington) being on that team. It was just one game and it was two years ago, but it meant something to come out and show we can beat a good program like CBA."

While Rhoden's eight fourth-quarter points and clutch baskets from the field and at the line have become commonplace since he transferred to Toms River North from Central Regional before last year, Holland's knack for showing up in big moments is just now becoming a welcome trend for the Mariners. With CBA right on Toms River North's heels, 46-45, with under three minutes to play, Holland drove to the basket and hit a running shot off the glass as he drew a foul. He hit the ensuing free throw to extend the lead to 49-45.

"It was a struggle adjusting to my new role (as a starter) for the first few games," Holland said. "Now, I'm starting to get used to my role: driving, slashing to the rim, hitting free throws, blocking shots. I'm learning from seniors and I'm just trying to do my job."

CBA answered Holland's three-point play on a floater in the lane by junior Rob Mahala, cutting the Mariners lead to 49-47. Rhoden then hit one of two free throws to push the lead back to three and Toms River North authored two defensive stops before beginning a march to the free-throw line over the final 52 seconds.

Senior Mike Nyisztor converted all four of his attempts in the final minute while Rhoden hit 6-of-8 over the final 1:44 to help the Mariners put the game away. Nyisztor also reached double-figure scoring for Toms River North with 12 points.

While Nyisztor and senior point guard Darrion Carrington were both sophomore starters on the 2014-15 Mariners team that failed to score in the first 11-plus minutes and scored only five first-half points against CBA in the SCT semifinals, CBA does not have any players back from that team and returns just one bench player from last year's rotation.

Despite the lack of experience, the Colts have been competitive throughout their 5-2 start to the season and Saturday was no different. CBA played Toms River North to a 25-25 tie during the first half, capped by a three-pointer by sophomore Liam Kennedy that tied the score. Kennedy led CBA with 18 points and four assists to take home the other MVP award.

The Colts were even with Toms River North, 34-34, late in the third quarter before four points by Rhoden gave the Mariners a 38-34 lead heading to the fourth. CBA stayed close and took the lead, 45-44, on a pair of free throws by Kennedy just north of the three-minute mark.

Mahala - the only CBA player to play important minutes last season - finished with 13 points for CBA, while sophomore Josh Cohen added 12 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.

"I think we won the game when we trapped them and sped CBA up because when we slowed down the tempo, they were really good in their execution," Rhoden said. "We knew we were more athletic and could move up the floor better than them."

Toms River North was in a similar battle eight days earlier against CBA's Class A North rival, Freehold Township, in the WOBM Christmas Classic final. The Patriots broke open a close game heading into the fourth and won 45-39 - handing Toms River North its only loss of the season. With a chance to close out a different A North opponent on Saturday, the Mariners delivered.

"We have to keep playing our style and we can't get selfish," Rhoden said. "We have to play as a team, because that's what wins games. Once we sped up the game and got some turnovers, we were able to share the ball and get easy shots. That's how we want to play and that's what we need to be able to do, especially against good teams."

Box Score

Toms River North 57, CBA 51

Toms River North (8-1)187131957
CBA (6-2)151091751

TR North (57): Darrion Carrington 1 1-4 3, Holden Petrick 1 0-0 3, Travis Holland 5 7-7 10, Jaden Rhoden 8 4-8 20, Mike Nyisztor 2 7-8 12, Mark Mogarte 0 0-0 0, Sean O'Donnell 0 0-0 0, Eliot Daks 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 19-27 57

Three-pointers: Petrick, Nyisztor

CBA (51): Liam Kennedy 5 6-6 18, Matt Lautato 1 0-0 2, Josh Cohen 6 0-0 12, Rob Mahala 6 0-0 13, Lucas Waraksa 1 0-0 3, Chris Lautato 0 1-2 1, Stephen Braunstein 0 0-0 0, Ron Meehan 1 0-0 2, Nolan Madden 0 0-0 0, J.P. Harvey 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 7-8 51

Three-pointers: Kennedy 2, Mahala, Waraksa

Fouled Out: Cohen


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