Boys Basketball – Strong Second Half Gives CBA Ninth Straight Win, Tune-Up for St. Rose
MIDDLETOWN -- The Christian Brothers Academy basketball team held a four-point lead at halftime Thursday against a Howell squad coming off a big win earlier in the week and hoping for another.
While that lead kept the Colts on pace to earn an important win in the Shore Conference Class A North divisional race and the competition for a No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Tournament, it was not good enough for the players in the CBA halftime locker room. They knew they needed to do better, not only to finish off a win over Howell but also to sharpen their edges for the test that was to come a day later.
CBA -- ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 -- stormed out of the halftime locker room, dominated the third quarter and secured a 67-44 win over No. 15 Howell for its ninth straight win.
The chance to savor Thursday's win will not last long: the Colts will turn around quickly and travel to play St. Rose -- the No. 1 team in both the Shore Conference and the state -- on Friday night.
"This game (vs. Howell) meant a lot too," CBA junior Justin Fuerbacher said. "There are a lot of examples of a team losing a Thursday game because you're looking ahead to Friday, so it's really one game at a time."
Earlier this week, St. Rose handled the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference, Manasquan, but a 63-44 margin. On Friday, the No. 3 team will get its shot at St. Rose after losing to the Purple Roses twice in 2022-23. The second of those losses was in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, while the first was a tight game during the regular season at CBA.
"We played them twice and they were two very different outcomes," Fuerbacher said. "We want to find out what we can do to put us over the edge and win. We lost both times last year, so we want to figure out what the key will be to beat them."
Before focusing all of its attention on the Purple Roses, CBA had to turn back a Howell squad that beat No. 5 Red Bank Catholic on Monday to start off its week with a statement. The Rebels stayed close with the Colts through 16 minutes, with junior Zach Padilla and senior D.J. Orloff combining for 24 of Howell's 26 points in the first half. Orloff also grabbed 10 rebounds before halftime, giving him a double-double by intermission.
CBA held a 30-26 lead, but Orloff's domination of the glass was a sticking point at halftime for the home team.
"That was definitely the main focus," Fuerbacher said of the rebounding effort. "Even before coach (Geoff Billet) got in there, the talk was everybody's got to do their job, get their guy, go get it and then the rest should take care of itself.
"Howell is athletic. They are a good team by every stretch of the imagination, but it was our will. We just weren't executing and when we started executing, that's when it started to turn around for us."
Fuerbacher took over in the second half, scoring 13 of his team-high 17 after the break. The junior forward scored nine points in the third quarter, during which CBA outscored Howell, 24-10, to establish a 54-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Junior Kevin Pikiell also scored seven of his nine points in the third.
Sophomore Charlie Marcoullier scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half, while senior Peter Noble and sophomore Connor Andree also had nine points apiece. Noble dished out four assists as well, while Andree grabbed eight rebounds.
Orloff finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead Howell, while Padilla scored all 13 of his points in the first half.
CBA can clinch no worse than a share of the Class A North championship in its next division game Monday at Manalapan, but before getting a chance to win a division champion, the Colts will have a chance to do something even more memorable on Friday.
St. Rose enters Friday's game on a 17-game winning streak and only one of those wins was by a margin of fewer than 10 points. Manasquan's 19-point margin of defeat was the closest any Shore Conference team has come to matching the Purple Roses to this point of the season.
"We want to carry the energy from today into the game tomorrow," Fuerbacher said. "We're on a winning streak right now, so if we keep playing the way that we've been playing, that should help us a lot."