TOMS RIVER - The abundance of athleticism that pulsates through the Red Bank lineup is apparent within every muscle flinch the Bucs make.

It’s indisputably recognized when the offense finds its gear. Within the hard cuts that unlock a back-door layup in the halfcourt or the blinding sequence of a fast-break bucket, the speed, length and polish is rather apparent.

Yet, the finest quality of Red Bank serves it best on defense. A point guard that thinks she sees an open shooter is lured into nothing more than a basketball mirage, the view a deception that vanishes the instant a lengthy defender appears to intercept the pass.

“I like defense better than offense sometimes,” said Red Bank’s 5-11 senior swing Meghan Murray. “You can control the tempo and turn it into offense through layups in transition.”

The formula had its moments – most evident in a third-quarter charge – but some early offensive hiccups were compensated by an intrusive defense that sustained Red Bank’s desired level of energy throughout. Elevating the pace with flashing and harassing traps, the fifth-seeded Bucs induced 28 turnovers and enough attrition on the part of foul-plagued Point Boro, the 12th seed, to gradually seize control in the second half on course to a 59-40 triumph on Saturday in the opening round of the WOBM Christmas Classic at RWJBarnabas Health Arena.

Murray was at the forefront of both ends of the floor for Red Bank (3-0). Her game-high 27 points, fueled by a 14-for-21 showing at the foul line, was balanced by eight rebounds, seven steals, three blocks and endless gas in the tank. The Bucs received additional boosts out of their sophomore backcourt combination.

Point guard Chloe Teter piled up 10 points and six assists while Caitlyn Decker hit a pair of 3-pointers, sank 10 of 14 from the stripe and totaled 16 points to go with six boards, three assists and three steals.

What do all three have in common? They are all multi-sport standouts, athletes in the purest sense of the word, and invaluable to what Red Bank seeks to accomplish. Teter plays tennis, Decker is on the soccer team and Murray is a coveted lacrosse recruit.

“There’s a beauty to coaching multi-sport athletes,” said Red Bank coach John Truhan. “They want to compete and win. That’s a luxury.”

That luxury paid out on the defensive side. Endless activity in its halfcourt defense hastened Point Boro (3-1) into quick decisions. Passes distributed into corners were quickly engulfed by two trapping defenders converging in unison.

“Our energy comes through on defense,” Decker said. “We are talking to each other and we want the ball. So, we’re aggressive going for it. It sets the tone for us going forward.”

“We’re quick into the passing lanes, boxing out for rebounds and sliding for help on defense…it’s all important,” added Murray.

Yet, Point Boro overcame miscues and mounting foul woes to compete in stride with Red Bank throughout the first half, heading into the locker room at halftime trailing by just three, 20-17. That margin took an uptick for the Bucs in the third quarter.

Leading, 26-21, Red Bank embarked embarked on a game-changing 15-4 tear to open a 41-25 by the end of the period. Within it, Murray struck for six points, including a pretty back-door layup off an assist from Teter, who dispensed four to engineer the burst marked by two that set up Decker for a pair of 3-pointers in a harmonic chain of events that framed the trio’s bond.

“By the third quarter, we had better opportunities for the back door because I think we started to wear them out,” noted Teter. “It was easier to run our offense.”

Freshman guard Genevieve Fara came off the bench to net a team-high 10 points, senior forward Riley Sexton had nine points and eight rebounds and senior forward Morgan Woods grabbed 10 boards for Point Boro.

Point Boro (3-1)     08           09           08           15 --- 40
Red Bank (3-0)      06           14           21           17 --- 59

Point Boro: Allie Delaney 0-0-3-3; Carlie Ventrini 0-0-0-0; Molly Burns 1-0-0-2; Lila Shaver 2-0-0-4; Genevieve Fara 2-0-6-10; Megan Feehan 1-0-0-2; Riley Sexton 2-0-5-9; Morgan Woods 2-0-1-5; Analise Albarano 0-0-0-0.

Red Bank: Chloe Teter 4-0-2-10; Meghan Murray 5-1-14-27; Abby Bynoe 0-0-0-0; Mia Conti 0-0-0-0; Caitlyn Decker 0-2-10-16; Maggie Jelley 0-0-0-0; Emma Moriarity 0-1-3-6; Mia Strand 0-0-0-0.

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