Boys Basketball – Wall Finishes Off Neptune, Maintains Top Spot in B North
WALL TWP. - The shots aren't falling for the Wall boys basketball team but it hasn't much mattered. The Crimson Knights are still playing the role of defending Shore Conference Class B North champion while looking more and more like a team ready to repeat.
Wall - the No. 5 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - made just one field goal outside the paint on Thursday night and still put away B North rival Neptune, 52-47, to remain unbeaten in divisional play.
Senior Quinn Calabrese led Wall with 16 points, including a third-quarter three-pointer that represented the lone shot Wall hit from outside the paint. The Crimson Knights shot 1-for-10 from three-point range but refrained from attempting any in the fourth quarter, when they put the game away.
"We're not hitting anything right now," Wall coach Bob Klatt said. "Quinn's not hitting, Pat's (Lacey) not hitting, Tom's (Palluzzi) not hitting. Colin (Ackerman) hit in the preseason and he's not even looking for that shot right now, but he had a big night tonight.
"We're playing great defense right now. We're getting into people, we're doing our assignments, so that part is great. This is a great win because we know we have to defend our home court."
Sophomore Colin Ackerman finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists and went on a personal 7-0 run that was part of an overall run of 12-0 by Wall during the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. The 12-0 burst flipped a 33-29 Neptune lead into a 41-33 Wall advantage, with an Ackerman three-point play giving the Crimson Knights a 35-33 lead late in the third.
"We want to be intense for all four quarters but it just happened that we finished strong tonight," Calabrese said. "We are built for those situations."
Neptune chipped the Wall lead down to thee points on two occasions and each time, Wall junior Logan Peters answered. The Crimson Knights broke Neptune's press and junior Pat Lacey hit Peters for an easy layup to make the score 45-40.
After junior Sam Fagan hit a short jumper to cut the Wall lead back to 45-42, Peters again got behind the press, took a pass from Ackerman and finished at the rim as he was fouled for a 47-42 Wall lead.
Junior Tom Palluzzi blocked a shot on the other end and Ackerman hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 49-42 and Wall never looked back.
Peters finished with nine points off the bench while Lacey added eight - all in the second half.
Senior Sean Young led Neptune with 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the three-point arc, including 14 points with 4-for-5 shooting on threes in the first half. Fagan added 10 points and six assists and sophomore Malik Fields chipped in eight points and eight rebounds.
Wall dropped a competitive showdown on Sunday against Irvington - another hopeful in the race for the NJSIAA Group III championship. The Crimson Knights have since rebounded with division wins over St. John Vianney and Neptune and are hopeful that Saturday's loss provided some valuable lessons going forward.
"We have to keep getting better on defense," Calabrese said. "Irvington had a lot of quick guys and we know we are going to see a lot of that in the playoffs so we just have to work on our help-side defense and then not turn the ball over on offense."
"It's a whole new offense and we're still learning this," Klatt said. "Last year, we did a lot more dribbling and we're trying not to dribble more. We want to ball the move this year and I think it's driving the coaches a little crazy right now but we are getting there. We want to be playing our best ball in February and March and you can see guys are learning where they are supposed to be."
They are also optimistic that the shooting will improve.
"We've got great shooters on the floor, we just haven't been knocking them down" Calabrese said. "That'll come later in the year, hopefully. We just have to go through the adversity and get to the rim."