Second-seeded CBA played host to No. 11 seeded St. Joseph of Metuchen on Tuesday evening in the quarterfinals of the Non-Public State Tournament and utilized a hat-trick by Anthony Cusanelli to skate past the Falcons 5-3.
Cusanelli, who has battled an ankle injury since the start of this 2013-14 campaign, is finally healthy, and is clicking with linemates Brendan van Riemsdyk and Bobby Hampton at the right time of year.
“It’s taken a long time to get back,” Cusanelli said, “but I worked hard to recover from a broken ankle, and I’m happy to be back with these guys and scoring some goals for the team, which is what they need me to do.”
“It’s not tough to have success when you’re playing with those two,” Cusanelli continued. “They’re two great players, and we seem to be able to produce a goal whenever the team needs one … and we were definitely able to do that today.”
St. Joseph jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after the Falcons matched the intensity, speed, and toughness of CBA through the first nine minutes of play, eventually generating a rush in which Michael Nisky slid a low-riding pass from the right wing through traffic to Kyle Jeffers who chipped it past Michael Cernero.
The Colts’ first-line trio followed with three consecutive goals, including a game-tying goal by Cusanelli at 13:02 of the first, another even-strength tally by Cusanelli 51 seconds into the second period, and a power-play goal by Bobby Hampton at 4:41.
“We’re a good group of guys that knows where to find each other on the ice,” said Hampton, a sophomore who leads the Colts in scoring with 67 points. “It’s finally starting to click now, we’re starting to see the chemistry we’ve built pay off. We’re burying the puck at the right time of year.”
Following roughing double-minors that sent St. Joseph’s Marc Jonhnstone and Hampton to the penalty box for four minutes apiece, the Falcons pulled within a goal as Felipe Rodriguez slipped a wrist shot past Cernero at 10:31.
However, with 30 seconds remaining in the second period an intense forecheck by Michael Foggia allowed CBA to hold the zone, and put a bouncing puck on the stick of Billy Antonides. Antonides then swung a pass blindly to the weak-side where Malafronte was waiting with an open net, and the junior put CBA up 4-2 with 2.4 seconds left on the clock.
“Two of the guys responsible for that goal, Billy Antonides and Greg Malafronte, are two of our more defensive-minded guys,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. “They were able to contribute a big one, that swung the momentum back in our favor. Sometimes you get lucky, push the right buttons, and the kids respond.”
Rodriguez scored his second of the evening early in the third period, but Cusanelli put the game out of reach with a hat-trick goal at 8:17 to put CBA in the semifinals against seventh-seeded St. Augustine on Thursday at Mennan Arena at 4:30 p.m.
“As we head into St. Augustine we have to keep playing with confidence,” said van Riemsdyk, who finished with four assists. “You can’t take any team lightly. They’re there for a reason and it’s because they’re a very good team. You can’t take them lightly because they were ranked lower. We’ll have to go in there and play the game like it’s our last … because it could be.”
IN FIRST-ROUND NJSIAA BOYS BASKETBALL:
SPOTSWOOD 54, HOLMDEL 53: Gerard Nocera scored a game-high 25 points and Jeff Harris added 14 for the 13th-seeded Hornets (12-12) in their loss to the No. 4 Chargers (21-5) in Central Group II.
Spotswood’s Marlon Hart, who finished with nine points, buried two free throws with 45 seconds to play in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Holmdel went ahead with one minute left in regulation on a layup by Luke Mayell, who scored eight points. Senior Jake Dadika, who pumped in 21 points for the Chargers, hit an off-balance runner with 15 seconds remaining and added two free throws, sending the winners in front to stay.
MONTGOMERY 66, MARLBORO 54: The 16th-seeded Mustangs closed their season at 11-12 with a Central Group IV loss to the No. 1 Cougars (25-1).
Justin Markowitz paced the Mustangs with 17 points. Kenny LaRocca added 12. Matthew Ringel contributed 10.
HILLSBOROUGH 70, COLTS NECK 41: Despite placing three scorers in double figures, the 13th-seeded Cougars (14-10) fell to the No. 4 Raiders (22-2) in Central Group IV.
Chris O’Reilly tossed in 14 points. Tom O’Reilly and Lloyd Daniels netted 10 each.
SOUTH RIVER 77, HENRY HUDSON 63: The 11th-seeded Admirals (7-16) fell to the No. 6 Rams (15-11) in Central Group I.
Jaxon Terrell paced the Admirals with 17 points. Chris Coberg and Jake Link added 14 and 12, respectively.
IN FIRST-ROUND NJSIAA GIRLS BASKETBALL:
PATRICK SCHOOL 48, RANNEY SCHOOL 23: The 11th-seeded Panthers ended their season at 15-10 with a loss in Non-Public South B to the No. 6 Patrick School (18-5).
Carly Ansell led the Panthers with six points.
Jesse Flaherty, the former Red Bank Catholic and The Peddie School standout, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Wagner College.
Flaherty helped Red Bank Catholic to a 10-1 record in 2012. Flaherty rushed for 908 yards on 153 carries and scored 13 touchdowns in eight games for Peddie last fall. He won the Maurice P. Shuman Football Award as Peddie’s most outstanding player.
St. Rose senior Lauren Gates and former Colts Neck player Rachael Ivanicki will compete for Monmouth University.
Gates, a forward, scored 54 goals and handed out 14 assists in her four-year varsity career. Ivanicki enrolled at Monmouth this semester after transferring from Bryant University.