WEST LONG BRANCH
After playing from behind for much of the game, Shore Regional junior guard Kevin Bloodgood made a three-pointer from the left wing that started a game-breaking 12-4 run for the Blue Devils.
Bloodgood finished with seven of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, including going 4-for-4 from the foul line as he helped the No. 2 seed Blue Devils outlast No. 10 seed Keyport, 69-62, in an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 second round game on Wednesday night.
“We started moving the ball better on offense. We were just trying to get open shots because they were in the zone,” said Bloodgood of his team’s fourth-quarter comeback. “We don’t usually do well against the zone and I hit that 3-pointer in the corner and that really got us motivated.”
Bloodgood’s three-pointer gave Shore a 60-58 lead with 2:05 left.
From that point, Shore Regional scored all nine of its remaining points from the foul line. In the final 1:42, senior guard Matt Cosentino went 2-for-4, Bloodgood went 2-for-2, junior forward Dan Largey went 2-for-2 and senior guard Dan Pillari went 3-for-4 from the foul line to seal the game for the Blue Devils (19-7).
“We are a very good free throw shooting team,” Bloodgood said. “All of our starters can knock down clutch free throws in games.”
Keyport senior forward Alex Thomson gave the Red Raiders (15-9) their final lead, 58-57, when he made the first of two free throws with 2:31 left. Sophomore guard Jeff Sheard would add a layup and Thomson would make two more free throws with 33 seconds left to account for the Red Raiders’ four points in the final 1:42 of the game.
“We’ve been playing zone all year and that’s what we wanted to stick with. That’s what got us here,” Keyport coach Phil Recco said. “We knew they had some shooters and we had to get out on the shooters. We were very active in the zone and we have a lot of athletes up top (of the zone).”
The Red Raiders led 11-9 after the first quarter as senior guard Ezra Hill got them off to a great start with five of his team-high 18 points in the first quarter. The game was tied 32-32 at halftime as both teams turned their offenses up a notch in the second quarter. Keyport’s Sheard had six of his 12 points in the second quarter and Shore’s Pillari had 10 of his 17 points in the second quarter. Keyport held a 49-44 lead after three quarters.
“We were going to stick with our zone as long as we could because that is what we are used to. The zone took us into the fourth quarter but towards the end rebounding kind of hurt us,” Recco said. “They were crashing the boards really hard and were getting second and third opportunities.”
Those second and third opportunities led to the Blue Devils getting to the foul line in the final 1:42 to prevent Keyport from making a late fourth quarter push. While Hill led the Red Raiders with 18 points, Alvarez, Thomson and Sheard all finished with 12 points. Thomson had five points in the fourth quarter going 5-for-7 from the foul line while Sheard and Alvarez each had four fourth-quarter points.
“We had all the momentum especially after last night (Tuesday night),” Recco said. “I don’t think we ran out of gas but we played them tough right to the end. We had the momentum and this loss is a tough pill to swallow right now.”
Now, the momentum belongs to the No. 2 seed Blue Devils as they advanced to the Central Jersey Group I semifinals on Friday night. On Friday night, Shore Regional will host No. 6 seed South River at 6 p.m. in West Long Branch for the right to play in Monday’s Central Jersey Group I sectional final.