MANASQUAN - While most teams are trying to fine-tune everything in these final weeks of the regular season to get ready for the tournaments, Manasquan boys basketball coach Andrew Bilodeau still feels like it's December for the Warriors.

A team that has finally gotten a few games under its belt with its complete lineup is at least starting to resemble the unit Bilodeau envisions for the postseason after a 52-45 win over Rumson-Fair Haven on Friday night that halted a seven-game winning streak by the No. 5 Bulldogs (10-3, 5-2). The Warriors (11-3, 6-1), ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, have battled some inconsistency with players out of the lineup with injuries but are starting to put it together at a good time, as Friday's win left them in a first-place tie with Shore Regional in the Class A Central race.

Manasquan junior Ryan Jensen dropped in a team-high 20 points, including a 7-for-8 showing from the foul line, to help the Warriors stop a seven-game winning streak by Rumson-Fair Haven. (Photo by Scott Stump)
Manasquan junior Ryan Jensen dropped in a team-high 20 points, including a 7-for-8 showing from the foul line, to help the Warriors stop a seven-game winning streak by Rumson-Fair Haven. (Photo by Scott Stump)

"It's like preseason all over again,'' Bilodeau said. "We had (starting forward) Aidan McMenaman out for six or seven games with an injury, and we had (senior forward) Kyle Bradshaw out until only a week or so ago. Now we're all back together and the gang's all here. I think we have a chance to be pretty good down the stretch."

Manasquan relied on its bread-and-butter to cool off the Bulldogs - stifling defense and pounding the ball into the post on offense. While Rumson junior star Brendan Barry poured in a game-high 27 points, he only had nine through three quarters as the Warriors built a 14-point lead going into the fourth quarter to be able to withstand an 18-point blitzkrieg by Barry in the final period.

Also, Manasquan held the rest of the Bulldogs to a combined 7-for-31 (22.6 percent) shooting from the field in the game, with Bradshaw and junior forward Ryan Jensen combining for seven blocks.

"We knew Barry was their best player, and on any given night he can get as many as he wants,'' Jensen said. "If we held him and helped on the other guys and made sure they weren't going to get easy buckets, that's how we were going to win that game. Our defense was behind it all. That's what started it, and our offense came with it."

Another crucial area was foul shooting. Manasquan entered the game shooting only 56 percent from the charity stripe as a team but went 16-for-19 on Friday night, including a combined 13-for-15 by Jensen and junior guard Jack Sheehan.

At the end of three quarters, Jensen had single-handedly outscored Rumson, as he had all of his team-high 20 points before the fourth quarter to help them build a 33-19 lead. Jensen also finished with 10 rebounds and four blocks, and Sheehan added 16 points, including a 5-for-6 showing from the foul line in the fourth quarter to help close out the win.

Manasquan's defense set the tone from the outset, as the Warriors held Rumson to only 11 first-half points in building a 23-11 lead. Barry had nine of the Bulldogs' 11, with the rest of the team shooting 1-for-14 from the field.

"Our goal was to hold them to 10 (points) each quarter,'' Sheehan said. "(Senior guard) Matt Paturzo did a great job on Barry, and we just played great Squan defense."

"You just have to try to not let (Barry) get the ball,'' Bilodeau said. " He's so crafty, and once he gives it up, you've got to really work hard not to let him get it back. He does a good job getting free. We didn't double him, and we didn't want to double him, because they have other capable guys. I thought we defended the other guys better than the first time against them up there (at Rumson)."

Offensively, the Warriors looked to play a high-low game and enter the ball in the post to Jensen as often as possible. He had 12 of Manasquan's 23 first-half points, and Sheehan had seven.

"In our losses, we've been shooting way too much and not getting the ball inside,'' Jensen said. "Today we had to go back and do what we do - play our defense and get the ball inside."

"We definitely have an advantage inside with Jensen and Bradshaw, so that was a focal point to get the ball inside and get them going,'' Sheehan said.

A rotation of Paturzo, who battled foul trouble, and senior Luke O'Shaughnessy helped hold Barry scoreless in the third quarter on only two shot attempts. That allowed the Warriors to maintain their double-digit lead as Jensen had eight third-quarter points on an array of putbacks as well as lay-ups after Manasquan beat Rumson's full-court pressure.

Manasquan had the lead as high as 42-24 after McMenaman, who finished with 9 points, splashed in a corner 3-pointer with 5:46 left in the game. However, Barry made it interesting down the stretch as he ripped off 16 points in the final five minutes, including six during a 9-0 run that cut the Warriors' lead to 45-40 with just under a minute remaining. Rumson's defense also forced five turnovers, including three steals by Barry, to create quick scores.

Sheehan hit three out of four free throws to get the lead to eight before Barry launched an NBA-range 3-pointer that cut it to 48-43 with 14.9 seconds remaining, but Sheehan closed it out with two more free throws to ice the win.

After falling to a sub-.500 Neptune team in a nondivisional game at the end of last week, the Warriors have won two straight to stay right at the front of the pack in the hunt for their third straight division title. Following some rough patches, they are hoping Friday night is the signal that things are falling into place in the final three weeks of the regular season.

"I think we had to come together a little more,'' Jensen said. "We started doing our own thing and weren't playing together. The energy was just a lot better tonight."

Box score

Manasquan 52, Rumson-FH 45

Rumson-FH (45): Barry 9 6-6 27, Geiger 3 0-0 7, Schluter 0 2-2 2, Famulary 0 0-0 0, Luby 1 0-0 2, Maguire 2 1-1 5, Ferrare 1 0-0 2, McCallister 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 9-9 45.

Manasquan (52): O'Shaughnessy 1 1-2 3, Paturzo 1 0-0 2, J. Sheehan 4 7-8 16, Bradshaw 1 0-0 2, R. Jensen 7 6-7 20, McMenaman 3 2-2 9, D. Jensen 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 16-19 52.

Rumson-FH (10-3, 5-2) 4  7  8  26 - 45

Manasquan (11-3, 6-1) 11 12 10 19 - 52

Three-pointers: (M) J. Sheehan, McMenaman; (R) Barry 3, Geiger. Fouled out: None.


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