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Last year, the Red Bank Catholic boys basketball team was hoping dominant performances against both Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven had them prepared to go to Christian Brothers Academy and earn a monumental win over the Colts.

It didn't work out that way, but oddly enough, the Caseys' schedule shook out almost the exact same way this season. With a roster not only full of returnees but also with a few productive newcomers off the bench, Red Bank Catholic showed this past week just how far they have come in a year.

After double-digit wins over Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven during the middle of the week, Red Bank Catholic closed it out with an impressive, 59-47, win over previously-unbeaten and top-ranked CBA. With the win, Red Bank Catholic took over the No. 1 ranking in the Shore Conference for the first time in program history and earned the Week 3 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Award.

Photo by Steve Meyer
Photo by Steve Meyer
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The Caseys entered the week riding high off a win over Marlboro -- then ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- that avenged an earlier loss to the Mustangs in the WOBM Christmas Classic final 10 days earlier.

With CBA awaiting for a Jan. 15 showdown, that meant RBC would play three games in 17 days that pit the top two teams in the rankings against one another.

Before getting a chance to beat another No. 1 team and take over the spot for their own, the Caseys had to get past Shore Conference Class A Central rivals Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven. RBC had no trouble with Holmdel, punishing the young Hornets squad, 79-49.

Two nights later, Red Bank Catholic found itself in a tight game against Rumson but turned on the jets in the fourth quarter to pull away with a 52-34 win over the Bulldogs.

While Saturday's game was much closer than 12 points throughout most of the 32 minutes, Red Bank Catholic jumped out to a 6-0 lead and never allowed CBA to pull even. A wire-to-wire, double-digit, road win over a rival to take over the No. 1 spot in the Shore Conference was about as convincing of a result as RBC could have produced.

Sophomore Zach Meeks capped a strong week with 14 points and eight rebounds to help lead the way and senior Alex Bauman put up another strong all-around performance with eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Senior C.J. Ruoff provided an emotional life by taking a shot to the face that left him with a bloody nose in the first minute of the game, then returning to score 12 points over the final three quarters.

While the performance by the starters carried RBC through most of the game, the bench was again instrumental. Senior Alex Brown replaced Ruoff in the early going and finished with five points to go along with tough defense. Sophomore big man Tyler Burnham scored four points and blocked a shot in just three minutes at the end of the first quarter.

Freshman Ryan Prior then helped bring home the win by assisting the Caseys' first basket of the fourth quarter, coming up with a steal and draining the clutch three-pointers -- all in the final eight minutes.

With wins over Marlboro, CBA, St. John Vianney, Rumson-Fair Haven, Raritan and Jackson Memorial, Red Bank Catholic is positioned to stay on top of the SSN rankings through the start of the Shore Conference Tournament, but still has some hurdles to clear. The Caseys take on Ranney on Saturday at home, will play state-ranked Rutgers Prep the following weekend at Central Regional and still has division games against Holmdel, Raritan and Rumson yet to be played.