Catching St. Anthony on its fourth game in five nights, unbeaten East Brunswick had as good a chance as anyone in handing the New Jersey powerhouse its first loss since Mar. 13, 2010.
But despite dealing with Boys & Girls (N.Y.), Long Island Lutheran and Newark Tech just since Friday, the Friars wear-you-out style of defense showed up as it seemingly always does and helped them to a 46-37 victory over East Brunswick Tuesday night at the M.E.T.S. Charter School before a capacity crowd.
The victory is No. 83 in a row for St. Anthony, while East Brunswick saw its 15-game winning streak come to an end.
“I am so proud of the team,” St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley said. “I told them that I’ve never had a team play four games in five nights against quality competition like this before and win them all. And to have the fifth game against a team like East Brunswick with a terrific coach in Bo Henning is quite an accomplishment. I’m glad we were playing at home because that was the difference.”
East Brunswick (15-1) did Middlesex County basketball proud, playing a hard-fought game from whistle-to-whistle, but Hallice Cook’s performance in the second quarter was the difference maker.
Cooke, an Oregon State-bound guard, paced the Friars with 18 points. He stroked six 3-pointers, including 4 of 4 in the second quarter when St. Anthony opened up an 11-point halftime lead. The dagger was Cooke connecting from long-range right before the first-half buzzer sounded sending St. Anthony into the locker room with an 11-point lead (26-15).
“This was a classic, Hallice Cooke playing at home against a zone defense game,” said Hurley. “He was outstanding.”
Aside from the eight minutes in the second quarter, it was an evenly-contested game despite the Bears being outrebounded, 26-13.
Gary Baumer led East Brunswick with 15 points, but there was little help from anyone else. Amir Bell notched seven points and Rob Ukawuba was limited to a season-low five.
“I’m very pleased with the effort,” East Brunswick coach Bo Henning said. “We had some chances there in the third quarter, but overall, we didn’t protect the ball enough to beat a great team like that. This game is something we can build on. We will get no better preparation than this. But at the same time, I don’t want them thinking this was some kind of a moral victory, and those guys in that locker room don’t look like they’re taking this as any moral victory.”
East Brunswick closed to within seven with 1:20 to play in the third quarter, but that’s as close as it would be.
“This is a game we can definitely build upon,” said Bell. “It shows we can play with the best.”