Rumson-Fair Haven Overpowers Bound Brook to win Central Jersey Group 2 Boys Basketball Sectional Title
RUMSON -- The first half of Monday night's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 sectional final went about as well as host Rumson-Fair Haven could have hoped for against visiting Bound Brook. But despite a double-digit halftime lead, the Bulldogs didn't have to dig too deep in their memory bank to find an example of what happens when you don't sustain that momentum.
"In the (Shore Conference Tournament) quarterfinal we were up by 11 at halftime and we ended up losing in overtime, so the first thing coach said was that the first four minutes of the third quarter were going to decide the game," senior Geoff Schroeder said. "Those first four minutes were the most locked-in we've ever been."
The message was heeded and an 11-point lead quickly turned into a 20-point cushion, and from there, Rumson never let up off the throttle to surge to a 75-44 victory over the Crusaders that secured the Central Jersey Group 2 sectional title. The sectional crown is Rumson's fourth in program history, third in the last six seasons, and first since winning back-to-back sectional championships in 2017 and 2018.
"It's unbelievable," said senior Scott Gyimesi. "We've been working for this for four years and this one last time going out there, five senior starters; we've been working since the beginning so to do this in our last home game, senior year, it's amazing."
"I can't even describe it," Schroeder said. "A bunch of us have been on the team for three years and we just never managed to break through to a sectional final. This group of seniors has been really hungry. We had a four-year drought since our last sectional title and we put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for this. It's all worth it now."
"I told them in the locker room you're going to walk this path together forever, these five seniors, so let's make it count," said Rumson head coach Chris Champeau. "I've had these kids since fourth and fifth grade coming to my camps so to see them get a sectional title means everything."
While it was a collective all-around effort for Rumson with four of five starters in double figures, Gymiesi was the catalyst yet again. The 6-foot-5 senior was dominant at both ends of the floor and finished with a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds. It was evident early on that Bound Brook had no answer for him inside despite the presence of 6-foot-7 junior Jordan Summers.
"As a coach, I like to watch the first two or three possessions and see if they have an answer for him or not," Champeau said. "And when I saw that 0 (Summers) wasn't guarding him I thought we might get something going. He's a handful and he so (badly) wants to win that he'll do whatever it takes for the team."
"It's been a pretty common thing this entire season," Schroeder said. "He's my best friend and I wouldn't want to do any of this without him. And he's such a humble kid. He always puts the team first and no one sees how much work he puts in. That's what makes Scott really special."
Gyimesi entered the game averaging 19.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and got right to that pace in the first quarter with eight points and three boards as Rumson jumped out to an 18-4 lead after one. And when Bound Brook decided to collapse on Gyimesi in the paint, seniors Owen Sullivan and Cal Famula made them pay by knocking down three-point looks.
"I knew they had a pretty solid big guy and a pretty solid team, so I just tried to be patient," Gyimesi said. "I trust my teammates so when I had the opportunity to go up with it I was going to go up with it, and when I had the opportunity to pass I was going to find my guys. We got hot early and even though they had a few runs we kept our pace throughout."
Bound Brook broke out of its shooting funk in the second quarter and was able to get within eight points midway through the quarter, but that was as close as the Crusaders would get. The five starters - Gyimesi, Schroeder, Sullivan, Famula, and senior Trent Sloan, all had buckets and junior Luke Mikolajczyk provided a defensive spark off the bench as Rumson matched Bound Brook on the scoreboard to take a 33-19 lead into the break.
That's when the Bulldogs were reminded of their overtime loss to Christian Brothers Academy in the SCT quarterfinals. With a sectional title hanging in the balance, those were all the motivational words they needed to hear.
Rumson opened the second half on a 10-0 run, and by the time Summers broke it up by sinking a three-pointer with 4:11 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had opened up an insurmountable 43-22 lead. Gyimesi had eight points and four rebounds in the quarter as the Bulldogs stretched their advantage to 52-30 entering the final period.
Up to that point, Rumson had held Bound Brook senior guard Quadir Harrell to just four points, all of which came in the second quarter. Harrell entered the game averaging 14.9 points per game and had the game-winner to beat Raritan in the semifinals. Summers was also a non-factor most of the game as the Dawgs cooled off a player who was having a monster year averaging 21.5 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. He finished with seven points, all of which came in the second half.
"We know we're one of the best defensive teams in the Shore so we come out every night and know if we lock in defensively that's where our bread and butter is," Gyimesi said. "And that's what contributes to open looks on the offensive end. It's what gets the momentum on our side."
"From the beginning of the season we've been a defense-first team," Schroeder said. "We know any of our guys can score and we can count on our offense, but our defense has really been what's gotten us to this point. It's all heart and desire and I know every single guy on this team has that."
"We knew No. 2 (Harrell) was a tough matchup for us," Champeau said. "My whole thing was no gaps, get up on him. He's a great penetrator. If he's going to beat us with threes with a hand in his face, so be it. On the big guy (Summers) we wanted to sag in and make him work for every point. I never put Gyimesi on the big guy because Cal Famula is a tough, long, 6-foot-3 and I'll put him on (Summers) to be annoying to the kid. And if he turns the corner we have Gyimesi there. Even when they beat us we had guys coming in and blocking shots and tipping it."
Bound Brook's last gasp was to push the pace at both ends of the floor, but even though the Crusaders were able to get to the hoop with more regularity than in the first three quarters, Rumson had an answer at its offensive end, as well. Gyimesi polished off his great performance with six points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter and Famula hit a pair of threes that punctuated the championship victory. Rumson was even able to put in its senior reserves in the final three-plus minutes and Phillip Passalaqua and Christian Smith added to the fun with a conventional three-point play and a straightaway three, respectively.
Rumson will enjoy this one for the time being - rightfully so - but the turnaround is quick for the Group 2 semifinals. The Bulldogs' opponent? The juggernaut that is Camden High School, the No. 1 team in the state led by the naton's No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class, superstar DJ Wagner. The game will be played at Egg Harbor Township High School on Wednesday as part of a doubleheader with the Group 4 semifinal game between Marlboro and Lenape.
"The next game is going to be a David vs. Goliath matchup and we're more than welcome to be David," Gyimesi said. "We're going to look to win no matter who our opponent is, but I'm so happy we were able to get this one and do it at home.
"Obviously it's going to be a tough mountain to climb but I feel when we're at our peak...you never know what can happen," Schroeder said. "We're going to go all out with everything we have."