WEST LONG BRANCH
Redemption wasn’t easy for the top-seeded Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball team in Saturday afternoon’s Shore Conference Tournament Final.
Although the Garnet Gulls were the No. 1 seed and hadn’t lost to a Shore Conference team all season, Point Beach was still matched up against one of the SCT heavyweights in No. 2 seed Christian Brothers Academy, which had won 16 SCT titles coming into Saturday’s game at Monmouth University.
In 2013, Lakewood stopped Point Beach from winning the school’s first SCT title but a year later and a year wiser, Point Beach senior point guard Matt Farrell scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and led the Garnet Gulls to a 49-41 victory over the Colts. The win signified Point Beach’s first SCT title in the school’s fifth attempt.
“Coming in, that was our expectation to beat them. They (CBA) are a good team but I would have been really disappointed if we didn’t win,” Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. “Right from the tap, that was my expectation that we were going to win this game.”
And Farrell plus senior forwards Dom Uhl and Noah Yates made that belief more of a reality as the game went along.
Farrell had seven points in the second quarter and he finished with three rebounds and two assists. Uhl had five of his 10 points in the second quarter and he finished with five rebounds. Yates scored five of his eight points in the second half and he finished with six rebounds and two steals.
But the moment that stood out in Catania’s mind was the shot that Farrell hit at the end of the third quarter.
“Farrell hit a big three from the top of the key when they lost him a little bit at the end of the third quarter and that (shot) put us up four points,” Catania said. “I felt good about the momentum going into the fourth quarter. The kids were fired up. Then we came out and got stops (in the fourth quarter).”
Farrell’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Point Beach (24-1) a 33-29 lead. But the momentum carried well into the fourth quarter as Point Beach went on a 9-3 run to begin the fourth quarter and took its largest lead, 42-32, with 2:11 left when Yates sank two free throws.
“We backed it up this year. The only game we’ve lost so far this season was to the Patrick School by two points and they are a powerhouse in New Jersey,” Yates said. “Playing in games like this means a lot to everyone.”
And so does winning the school’s first SCT title to go along with the school’s first sectional and state titles in boys basketball, which were both won last season. Now, Point Beach will begin its reign as the defending NJSIAA Group 1 state champion when the Garnet Gulls, which are the top-seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 bracket, host No. 16 seed Asbury Park on Monday evening.
CBA sophomore forward Pat Andree was the Colts player that Point Beach couldn’t slow down. Andree finished with 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half and he also finished with seven rebounds and went 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
“As for his future as an individual player and for our team, the sky is the limit. He’s a hard worker and he’s only going to get better,” CBA coach Geoff Billet said. “He’s averaged 16 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore and you forget sometimes (how young he is) because it feels like he’s been playing for us forever. He’s still got two more years and he’s going to be a very special player for us the next two years.”
CBA senior guard Louie Pillari added seven points and two rebounds while senior forward Chimaechi Ekekeugbor added six points and four rebounds for the Colts (17-5). CBA did have the advantage on points in the paint, 20-16, and on second-chance points, 8-4, and on fast breaks points, 4-0, but that didn’t translate into another SCT title for the Colts making their 23rd appearance in the SCT final.
The Colts will now turn their focus to the NJSIAA tournament as the No. 6 seed in the Non-Public South A bracket. They begin their quest for the Non-Public A state title on Wednesday afternoon when they host No. 11 seed Bishop Ahr.