RUMSON - There wasn't much easy about the 24 hours leading up to the Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball team's home showdown with recent rival Manasquan on Saturday, and despite a double-digit lead with under three minutes to play, there was not much easy about putting away the Warriors.

One day after learning teammate Elijah McAllister would miss the rest of the season with his second torn ACL in 10 months, the Bulldogs rode an inspired start to each half to a big lead and held on for dear life to beat Manasquan, 65-64, in a game worthy of the rivalry the two programs have developed over the previous three seasons.

"That, right there, is Manasquan vs. Rumson," Rumson coach Chris Champeau said. "No matter what the records are, regular season or tournament, that's how these games always go. It's never over."

Photo by Matt Manley
Rumson's Teddy Sourlis (left) and Jack HIggins (right) surround Manasquan's Devin Jensen. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Junior Jack Solano led all scorers with 20 points for Rumson, which led Manasquan 65-52 with a little more than two minutes left. The Warriors, however, chipped away with a 12-0 run that chopped the Bulldogs lead to one in the final seconds. Rumson missed three consecutive front ends of one-and-ones to help Manasquan stay in the game.

Senior Devin Jensen led the comeback with 10 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter. Senior Tyler Hobbie also hit two big shots during the run - a three-pointer from the left corner that cut the deficit to 65-60 with a minute left and a long two with 12 seconds left that pulled Manasquan within 65-63.

"I thought Devin Jensen had ice water in his veins over the last five minutes of the game," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau. "Tyler Hobbie made a couple big shots, guys stepped up and made plays and we did a better job on defense. We were down 10 in the first half and came back and took a lead, so we didn't feel out of it. Down 13 in the fourth quarter, we kept battling. They were better than us today."

After the final missed free throw by Rumson, the Bulldogs elected to give a foul in the back court, but Manasquan senior Brian Paturzo flung the ball toward the rim as Bulldogs junior Tommy Oakes made contact with him. Paturzo's heave from beyond midcourt hit the front of the rim, but the senior was awarded three free throws with four seconds left.

Rumson burned a timeout after Paturzo hit the first free throw and out of the timeout, he missed the next two. Manasquan got the ball back under the rim with one second showing on the scoreboard clock (which does not show tenths-of-a-second) and senior Tyler Pierson deflected Paturzo's inbound pass and time ran out.

"Having lost Elijah last night, I almost felt like that last free throw that didn't go in was a little assist from heaven," Champeau said. "It was like hey, maybe they're going to get (a break) tonight. Because we almost gave it away."

Pierson finished with 14 points, sophomore Ian O'Connor added 13 points and nine rebounds and junior Teddy Sourlis chipped in 10 points for Rumson.

"We're got used to winning by 15 or 20 points," Pierson said. "Now, all of a sudden, we're in these close games. We don't want to be playing these close games anymore."

Sophomore Brad McCabe chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds and senior Seamus Hogan added 14 points for Manasquan. Paturzo, meanwhile, finished with five points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Rumson stormed out to a 23-13 lead after one quarter and after Manasquan pulled even at 32 in the opening minute of the third quarter, the Bulldogs banged five three-pointers during the remainder of the third to go up 53-40 heading to the fourth. Solano hit three of the five three-pointers to lead the barrage.

Manasquan had its own injury issues with which to contend Saturday, as juniors Ryan Flanagan and Justin Gladden both missed the game. Flanagan is among the top 10 in assists in the Shore Conference and missed his fifth straight game with a foot injury. In those five games plus the game in which Flanagan injured his foot, Manasquan is 2-4.

"I have felt since day one - injuries or no injuries - that even with a lot of inexperienced guys, I thought we would be tough," Bilodeau said. "In some ways, the injuries have helped us, because guys have had to step up and play big minutes. So we have even more experience than we would have and we should be getting healthy next week and we're going to have all of our guys back."

While Manasquan is hoping to get healthy for the postseason, Rumson knows it is moving forward without McAllister. The mood in the locker room prior to the game, according to Champeau, was a somber one but that changed when McAllister rallied his team with a pregame speech.

"He was like, 'I'm going to be okay,'" Sourlis said. "'I've done it before. I've come back before and I just want to see you guys win.' And now, our mission is to win for him."


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