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MIDDLETOWN — For a program with the pedigree and championship history of Christian Brothers Academy it was surreal to realize the Colts were playing for their Shore Conference Tournament lives on the day before the cutoff.

That’s the situation CBA found itself in on Tuesday when the Colts, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, welcomed No. 9 Howell for a Shore Conference Class A North game. The stakes were as simple as they were dire: defeat the Rebels or miss the SCT for the first time ever.

“We mentioned it yesterday at the end of the (9-4 win over Colts Neck): ‘what’s going to be your legacy, seniors?’,” said CBA head coach Dave Santos. “Is it going to be a team that has a great run in the Shore Conference Tournament or is it going to be the first team in CBA history not to make it? They answered the bell today.”

CBA (6-5, 6-0) jumped on Howell early and never let up, pouring it on until the final minute to earn a 19-5 victory that officially clinched a berth in the SCT and also clinched a share of the Class A North division title. Sophomore Connor Macrae led the scoring barrage with five goals and senior attackman Nick Casner was his usual play-making self with two goals and four assists as the Colts opened a 5-0 lead after the first quarter, led 9-2 at halftime and pushed the advantage to 14-5 through three quarters.

“I’ve never experienced that in my four years here, having to win one game or you’re not going to make the Shore Conference Tournament,” Casner said. “I was thinking about this game all last night, that this can’t be it. I’m not going to miss the SCT my senior year.”

Junior midfielder Luke Valentino tallied two goals and two assists and junior midfielder Thomas Convery had two goals and one assist while senior Ryan Madalone and junior Robbie Hermansen each scored twice for CBA. Senior defenseman Clint Wilson, junior FOGO Nick Robertson, senior Matt Farrell and junior Hunter Connellan each scored once and senior goalie Ryan McGuiness made five saves.

Casner also hit a career milestone by reaching 242 points to tie Billy Duerr for third on CBA’s all-time scoring list.

Senior attackman Ryan Damelio had a hat trick, senior attackman Drew Bukowiec scored twice and senior midfielder Coleman Chrzan scored once for Howell (10-3, 3-3), which had its five-game winning streak snapped.

It was all CBA in the first quarter as Casner set up Macrae at 7:15 to put CBA up 1-0. The Colts would score four times in the final 3:50 of the first quarter for a 5-0 cushion after 12 minutes. Casner scored unassisted on a dodge from X, Madalone found shooting space and blasted one past Nick Roberto and Wilson made a long run from his own end to score and put CBA up 4-0. Valentino’s goal off a drive with 4.4 seconds left capped a great start to the game by CBA.

“We came out today firing,” Casner said. “We got a nice goal from our D-pole, Clint Wilson, and that got us fired up.”

Howell momentarily stopped the bleeding when Chrzan won the opening face-off of the second quarter, raced into the offensive zone untouched and beat McGuiness to make it 5-1. Damelio converted an extra-man goal at 8:17 to cut Howell’s deficit to 5-2, but CBA would close the first half with four straight goals by Hermansen, Macrae, Hermansen again and Casner for a 9-2 lead at the break.

Just over a week ago CBA saw first hand that a big halftime lead guarantees nothing. Freehold Township had the Colts on the ropes with a 7-2 edge at halftime of their pivotal Class A North game before CBA came storming back to win, 14-12. They vowed to make sure Howell didn’t do the same.

“That was our theme at halftime, we have to keep our foot on the gas,” Santos said. “We’ve had trouble all season with our finishing. Game-in, game-out we just haven’t been able to finish on a consistent basis. I’d like to think we turned the corner today.”

Convery’s goal off a feed from Valentino 59 seconds into the second half gave CBA a 10-2 lead. Damelio scored 12 seconds later to make it 10-3 and Bukowiec scored twice in a span of 20 seconds, including once with the extra man, to pull Howell to within 10-5, but his goal at the 6:36 mark of the third was the last time Howell would get one past McGuiness.

Valentino’s unassisted goal at 4:50 extended the Colts’ lead to 11-5 before goals by Macrae, Madalone and Macrae again made it 14-5 heading to the fourth quarter. The fourth was more of the same as Macrae scored his fifth goal midway through and Convery tallied at 3:20. Farrell’s goal less than a minute later gave CBA a 12-goal lead and made it a running clock. Connellan and Robertson closed out the scoring with goals in the final two minutes.

Able to exhale now that a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament has been secured, CBA can turn its attention to a game versus Middletown South on Thursday where a win will clinch the outright Class A North division title. After that it’s onto the SCT where the Colts are hoping to put together another deep run.

“I feel like every year we pick up our momentum right around the Shore Conference Tournament,” Casner said. “I know we can play with anyone if we play smart lacrosse.”

“There’s a bunch of really solid teams but I feel like on any given day we can hang with any one of them,” Santos said. “If we play and finish like we did today I like our chances.”

Box Score

No. 4 CBA 19, No. 9 Howell 5

Howell (10-3, 3-3) 0 2 3 0 — 5

CBA (6-5, 6-0)      5 4 5 5 — 19

GOALS — H: Ryan Damelio 3, Drew Bukowiec 2, Coleman Chrzan; CBA: Connor Macrae 5, Nick Casner 2, Luke Valentino 2, Ryan Madalone 2, Robbie Hermansen 2, Thomas Convery 2, Clint Wilson, Nick Robertson, Matt Farrell, Hunter Connellan.

ASSISTS — CBA: Nick Casner 4, Luke Valentino 2, Luke Grover, Thomas Convery, Matt Farrell, Kevin Junquet.

SAVES — H: Nick Roberto 5; CBA: Ryan McGuiness 5.

SHOTS: CBA, 35-20.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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