POINT PLEASANT BEACH - There are some coaches and players who might have looked at a start to the boys basketball season like the one St. Rose had to play and thought to themselves, 'Oh, no.'

Purple Roses head coach Dennis Devaney looked at his team's first three games - at the Ranney School, vs. Red Bank Catholic in the WOBM Christmas Classic and at Point Pleasant Beach - and thought to himself, 'It's about time.'

After dropping its first two games of the season to Ranney and RBC, St. Rose rose to the occasion Tuesday and defeated Point Beach - the No. 6 team in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 - 51-48. Tuesday marked the second straight time the Purple Roses have beaten the Gulls in Point Pleasant, the first coming last February to end Point Beach's string of 39 straight wins against Class B Central competition.

Junior Brendan Hueth scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half to lead St. Rose, while senior J.P. Krotulis added nine points and 12 rebounds.

St. Rose senior J.P. Krotulis handles the ball against Point Beach's Stephen Flanders. (Photo by Matt Manley)
St. Rose senior J.P. Krotulis handles the ball against Point Beach's Stephen Flanders. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"I'll take three games like this to start every year over a game where we win by 40 and it's over in the first quarter," said Devaney, whose team defeated Ranney  in a lopsided game to open last season and has routinely dominated the teams in the bottom portion of the B Central standings every year. "You don't play sports to play those games. Athletes want to compete and play good competition and that's what I've been trying to tell these guys about the teams we're playing. We're getting better because we have to get better to compete with these kinds of teams and it looked like they started thinking that way tonight."

Devaney did not think his players shared his enthusiasm in the second of those two games to open the year. St. Rose lost to both Ranney and Red Bank Catholic by a score of 68-55 and after trying to keep up with Ranney's four standout freshmen on the opening Friday night, they did not put up much of a fight against the Caseys in Devaney's eyes.

"Guys were sore and gassed after trying to stay with Ranney," Devaney said. "We battled in that game. Against RBC, I didn't think we put up much of a fight. I told our guys, if they were a fighter, they were just leaning on the ropes the whole game and as a coach, you want to see your guys hit somebody back. Not literally, of course, but you want them to respond."

After a physical practice on Sunday and one more day to prepare, the Purple Roses answered an early blow from the Garnet Gulls, who jumped out to a 13-4 lead after the first quarter.

"We had a practice that we probably should have had earlier," Devaney said of Sunday's practice. "It was like a football practice. I don't think we blew the whistle more than a couple times and guys were getting after each other. It got a little nasty at times, but it was one of those practices where after it was over, a lot of the guys were saying, 'You know, we really needed that.'"

Senior Billy Frost scored six points during an 8-2 run to pull his team within 15-12 and after a Danny Frauenheim three put Point Beach up 19-12, St. Rose scored the final six points of the half. Krotulis converted a three-point play and Hueth knocked down a three-pointer from the corner to cut the Garnet Gulls lead to 19-18 at halftime.

St. Rose took the lead for good on a three by senior Mike Gowen early in the third that made the score 36-34. Gowen hit two threes in the game to finish with nine points.

After a pair of free throws by Hueth pushed the lead to four, Point Beach senior Mike Rice nailed a three to pull his team within one - three of his team-high 13 points in the game.

St. Rose, however, answered with a 7-0 burst to build their largest lead of the game, 45-37. Hueth scored inside off a feed from junior Nick Paterno and after Krotulis got position for a basket inside to push the lead to five, Hueth again struck for a three-point play to put St. Rose ahead by eight with a shade over thre minutes to go.

"We have a good starting five with five guys who can do a lot of different things," Hueth said. "We don't ever really look for one guy in particular. We just try to pass the ball to the open guy and keep moving without the ball. Early on, we didn't have much success, but I think we started holding the ball a little longer and made them play defense a little more and it wore them down a little bit."

A driving, left-handed reverse lay-up by Rice pulled Point Beach back within 46-43 with 1:30 left, but Hueth came right back for a layup on a feed by Frost to push the lead back to five. Gowen made one of two free throws with 34 seconds left to make it 49-45 and after a pair of missed three-point attempts on the other end, Krotulis iced the game with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left.

St. Rose was able to defend the paint througout the game thanks to Krotulis and defended the three-point line well enough to keep the Garnet Gulls to a 5-for-16 shooting night behind the three-point arc. The defensive effort game with an offensive game plan that worked better and better as the game wore on.

"We decided to pull our offense out farther from the basket, if that's even possible," Devaney said. "I just felt like things were getting a little cluttered in the paint and our guys looked like they could just use a little more room to operate."

St. Rose has now defeated Point Beach two straight times after the Garnet Gulls put together a 39-game B Central winning streak that spanned parts of four seasons. Since running the streak to 39 games last year, Point Beach has now lost three of its last five Class B Central games - which included a loss to Mater Dei Prep to open the season.

"It feels great to be able to come here and win," Hueth said. "Point Beach has been the top team in the division and we've been able to hang right there with them and beat them."

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