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BELMAR - Toni Panayides sometimes can’t help herself. The consummate teammate, Red Bank Catholic’s hustling junior guard is naturally deferring, instinctively prone to make the extra pass at the expense of taking an open shot.

No one - not Caseys’ head coach Joe Montano nor any of her appreciative teammates - would dare ask Panayides to change that refreshing modesty, but each and everyone of them at one point or another has likely encouraged Panayides to be more inclined to join in the shooting rotation.

“She has to shoot the ball,” Montano said. “She is our motor and one of the most competitive kids we have. When she’s shooting and doing all the other things she does, she gives us another dimension."

Fabienne Eggenschwiler is cut from similar cloth. The 6-0 senior swing doesn’t get enough of the credit she deserves as the one routinely assigned to lock down an opponent’s best asset. Her impact usually isn't fully acknowledged until a post-game boxscore is dissected and the unfortunate soul who’s had her attached to her shorts for 32 minutes has little to show on the ledger. 

Panayides and Eggenschwiler broke out of character Tuesday night, not by deflecting the spotlight but by thriving under it. Each was integral in carrying out her specific task and made notable contributions throughout, but particularly down the stretch in propelling No. 2 Red Bank Catholic to a 46-43 victory over No. 4 St. Rose in front of a packed house inside the MAAC.

Red Bank Catholic (14-2, 9-0), once the owner of a 10-point lead, was suddenly thrust into catch-up mode at the outset of the fourth quarter. Down by as many as four and trailing, 39-37, with 3:44 left in regulation, the Caseys answered in a fashion that showed their poise, diversity and grit.

Ally Carman, a 6-4 sophomore center who scored a game-high 16 points, rose straight above a defender to put back an offensive rebound and knot matters at 39-39. A mere 38 seconds later, Panayides slid into the right corner, took a pass from sophomore guard Justine Pissott and buried a 3-pointer to put RBC back on top, 42-39, before fittingly reciprocating, firing a skip pass to Pissott, who darted by a flashing defender on a drive that capped a 7-0 burst that unfolded in a span of just 1:47 and gave the Caseys a 44-39 lead with 1:57 to play.

"Toni hit a big shot in a big moment," said Montano, who picked up his 650th career win with the victory and is now just four shy of passing former Rumson-Fair Haven  coach George Sourlis to become all-time leader in basketball wins in Shore Conference history. "She has worked hard at it."

" I knew as soon as I got that ball, I had the confidence in myself to make that shot," admitted Panayides, who totaled six points,.five rebounds, a steal and an assist.  

Eggenschwiler drew the unenviable task of guarding  Brynn Farrell and did more than just neutralizie the Florida-bound. The 5-11 senior guard (20.8 ppg.) was limited to a season-low six points and relegated to being more a facilitator, one that resulted in seven assists. Given the choice to either concede Farrell's scoring prowess or induce her into distribution, Eggenschwiler was happy to live with the latter.

Fab Eggenschwiler of Red Bank Catholic (left) and Brynn Farrell of St. Rose (Photo by Gregg Lerner)
Fab Eggenschwiler of Red Bank Catholic (left) and Brynn Farrell of St. Rose (Photo by Gregg Lerner)

"If you step on the court and you're afraid of defending her, she is going to go by you," Eggenschwiler said of the main ingredient in the defensive formula cooked up to deny Farrell. "It's a mentality thing. You have to want that type of role."

Red Bank Catholic got virtually all it wanted in the first half. The combination of Pissott and junior guard Sophia Sabino mixiing fearless drives with long-range finesse to balance Carman's dominance on the blocks, gave way to a 23-13 lead with 1:24 left in the second quarter.

To its credit, St. Rose, which endured a 66-43 loss at RBC on Jan. 3, scratched and clawed its way back into the game. The Roses embarked on a 19-7 tear in the third quarter that featured five points from junior point guard Abby Antognoli, four from senior guard Makayla Andrews and a 3-pointer from junior Niaisya Ervin that put St. Rose in front for the first time, 31-29, with 2:12 left in the period.

The lead swapped hands three times thereafter.Two free throws by Sabino inched Red Bank Catholic ahead, 37-35. But a steal and conversion by Andrews and baseline jumper courtesy of senior forward Maria Tedesco staked St. Rose to its final advantage, 39-37, with 3:44 on the clock.

Antognoli and Andrews each finished with 10 points while Tedesco dropped in nine for the Purple Roses.

Red Bank Catholic (14-2, 9-0) 10 13 07 16 --- 46
St. Rose (11-5, 7-2)                  07 08 19 09 --- 43

Red Bank Catholic: Sophia Sabino 0-1-4-7; Justine Pissott 3-2-0-12; Toni Panayides 0-2-0-6; Fab Eggenschwiler 1-0-0-2; Ally Carman 7-0-2-16; Nicole Stanford 0-0-0-0; Casey Prior 0-0-0-0; Shaelyn Sabino 0-1-0-3.
St. Rose: Abby Antognoli 2-2-0-10; Maureen Stapleton 0-1-0-3: Maria Tedesco 3-0-3-9; Brynn Farrell 2-0-2-6; Makayla Andrews 5-0-0-10; Niaisya Ervin 0-1-0-3; Layla Laws 1-0-0-2; Maggie Cavanaugh 0-0-0-0.

Follow Gregg Lerner on Twitter @gregglerner. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

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