First-time participant and No. 2 seed Christian Brothers Academy found out just how tough of an opponent No. 14 seed Central Regional was in the 29th annual WOBM Christmas Classic semifinals Saturday night at Pine Belt Arena.
The Colts led by only one point at halftime before blowing the game open with a strong third quarter en route to a 58-45 victory. CBA will play in the WOBM Christmas Classic Final 7:30 p.m. today against No. 1 seed Toms River North.
“Central played very hard. There were a couple times I thought we had the game under control and I think that was my first mistake with a young team,” CBA coach Geoff Billet said. “We are still learning, we are still getting better.”
The Colts (5-2) learned how to overcome a shorter, quicker opponent that pushed the Shore Conference powerhouse program to the limit in the first half. Central (4-2) started off the game 0-for-5 from the foul line but the Golden Eagles didn’t let that bother them.
CBA led 14-8 after the first quarter when Pat Andree led the way in the first eight minutes with nine points while Central’s Evan Lang had five points in the quarter. The Golden Eagles then clawed their way back into the game in the second quarter when Joe Reavis got hot, scoring six of his seven first-half points in the quarter as CBA held a slim 19-18 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was CBA’s breakout moment when the Colts outscored the Golden Eagles, 21-5, to take what was a commanding, 40-23 lead at the time. CBA’s Louie Pillari, Kevin Neller and Andree each had five points in the pivotal quarter as the Colts pulled away.
“We have good shooters and it was a Catch-22 because they were playing zone and we were getting open looks, but we also had a distinct height advantage,” Billet said. “In the second half, we used that advantage a little bit more. We knocked in a couple 3-pointers and those couple turnovers from them helped us get some easy baskets.”
Central cut CBA’s lead to under 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Colts made enough baskets to keep the Golden Eagles at bay in the final eight minutes of the game.
“They went inside and they figured out our defense in the second half. They went with the high-low and we were a little worried with that,” Central coach Kurt Fenchel said. “But my kids don’t quit. They come to the game and play hard and that’s all I can ask.”
CBA’s Andree registered a game-high 19 points after scoring 10 in a strong second half. Pillari added 12 points and Jack Laffey added eight points. Central’s Lang finished with 12 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter. Reavis added seven of his 12 points in the first half and Austin DeRose and Javon Hardy each finished with six points.
TOMS RIVER NORTH 51, JACKSON MEMORIAL 48: Kyle Carrington made a layup with 1:59 left that put the No. 1 seed Mariners (6-1) up 49-48, and Evan Martin made two free throws with 8.6 seconds left to give the Mariners some breathing room in their WOBM semifinal win over the No. 5 Jaguars.
Damien Singleton finished with a team-high 17 points and Solly Stansbury added 15 points for Toms River North. Jackson Memorial’s Nick Specht scored a game-high 18 points, and Eric Carter and Salmon Simon each added 11 points for the Jaguars (5-1).