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BAYVILLE -- For the first time this season, the Raritan boys basketball team stared down the threat of of a loss while facing Central Regional Wednesday night.

For the seventh time in seven tries this season, the Rockets won, this time proving their mettle on the road, in overtime against a division leader

Seniors Jack O'Leary and Mike Diller combined for 38 points, as well as on the game-winning basket with eight seconds left, as Raritan -- No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- outlasted Central, 49-48, in triple overtime.

O'Leary scored a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and also found Diller underneath for the go-ahead layup with eight seconds left.

Central called timeout with seven seconds left to draw up a full-court play in hopes of scoring the winning basket, but the Rockets forced a low-percentage runner and corralled the ball as time expired.

O'Leary gave the Rockets a second life in the last minute of regulation, when he took the ball the length of the court and drove for the tying layup to even the score, 36-36, with 25 seconds to go.

Diller, who finished with 14 points, defended the final shot and O'Leary blocked the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer by Central sophomore Jaycen Santucci to ensure a first overtime period.

O'Leary and Santucci traded scores in overtime and with 21 seconds left, Central sophomore Royalty Riley gave the Golden Eagles a 39-38 lead when he made the front end of a 1-and-1. Raritan, however, matched Central when senior Jack Coleman hit the second of two free throws with 4.5 seconds left to send the game into another overtime.

Raritan senior Billy Tigar and Central junior Jordan Babot traded two-pointers to open overtime No. 2 and after O'Leary put Raritan in front, 43-41, junior Brayden Lowden hit the first of two big three-pointers during the three overtimes -- this one putting Central ahead, 44-43.

The Rockets responded with a tying free throw from O'Leary, who was awarded an extra shot from the line after two Central fans ran into his line of vision out of bounds underneath the basket and began doing pushups to distract him. The referees conferred and ruled O'Leary's first missed did not count, but O'Leary made the second and missed the third attempt to allow Central to escape the scenario still tied at 44-44.

The game moved into the third overtime and the pace picked up for the first time all night. O'Leary again started the overtime with a score, but Lowden eventually responded with a three that vaulted Central into a 48-46 lead.

Diller hit the front-end of a one-and-one to cut Raritan's deficit to one an the two teams exchanged turnovers to give Central the ball back. Senior Matt Agar then came up with a steal to give Raritan the ball back and with the clock ticking under 10 seconds, O'Leary drove in from the wing, drew a second defender, and slipped a pass to Diller for the go-ahead layup, followed by a timeout by Central with 6.9 seconds showing on the clock.

Santucci countered O'Leary with a double-double of his own, which included a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles. Riley provided 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench and junior Mile Chevalier chipped in 10 points, six assists and three steals for Central.

The Golden Eagles took Raritan to the limit despite losing senior point guard John Truhan early in the first quarter to a cut above his left eye that required staples to close up, according to John Truhan Sr. -- the Red Bank Regional girls basketball coach and John's father.

Central leaned on its defense to hold Central to 12 first-half points and the Golden Eagles led, 25-15, early in the third quarter before Raritan closed the quarter on a 10-0 run to tie the game heading into the fourth.

Wednesday's game was the closest game Raritan has played this season and the first game the Rockets have played that was decided by fewer than seven points. Four of their first six wins, including the previous three, came by margins of 15 points or greater.


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