By Warren Rappleyea
Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s boys basketball team is rolling toward the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III tournaments having won 16 of 17 games after a 1-3 start.
One of the primary reasons for the Bulldogs’ success is the scoring prowess of guard Brendan Barry, who is coming off a season-high 50 points in a 71-49 win Feb. 13 over Middletown High School North.
Opponents knew all too well about Barry coming into the season. A year ago, he averaged 21.4 points and was known for his 3-point shooting proficiency. This winter, despite often being double- and sometimes even triple-teamed, the 6-foot-2 senior is averaging 25.7 points and has 53 3-pointers to his credit.
However, it’s not the 3-pointer that has led to Barry’s dominance.
“After last season, I wanted to get stronger because other teams were respecting my 3-point shot,” Barry said. “I wanted to be more aggressive, to start taking the ball to the basket more often and work on my mid-range jumper and refine my game — score when I need to, pass the ball and play good defense.”
After working through the offseason with a strength and conditioning coach, Barry reported for duty looking to do more this season. The mid-range jumper has made him more dangerous and his willingness to drive to the hoop has meant more trips to the foul line.
“Brendan works hard all the time; he’s always looking to get better,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Chris Champeau said. “He’s always there when we need him, and he’s stepped up to become a real team leader.”
That was certainly apparent in the Bulldogs’ tough 56-55 loss to Red Bank Catholic High School Feb. 6. Barry scored 20 fourth-quarter points to key a Rumson-Fair Haven comeback from a 12-point deficit, but the Caseys prevailed on Evan Madigan’s buzzer-beater. Barry ended the night with 39 points — 20 of them coming from the foul line.
“That loss hurt us in the seedings, but it might be a good thing,” Barry said. “It brings you back to reality.”
In all, Barry has surpassed the 30-point mark five times this winter, with 16 games of 20 or more points. He also averages nearly five assists and four rebounds.
“It’s not just me,” Barry said. “We have a great team. Mickey [Schluter] can score, Elijiah [McAllister] and Tyler [Pierson] are amazing under the basket and Mike [O’Connor] spreads the ball around, plus we have a great bench.”
Earlier in the season, Barry became the Bulldogs’ career scoring leader. He sank a 3-pointer in front of a full crowd at home near the end of the second quarter Jan. 22 to break the mark of 1,417 points set by Palvin Williams in 1973. Williams came up from his home in the Dominican Republic to attend the game and participate in the ceremony honoring Barry.
“That was a special moment for me and having Palvin come up was great,” Barry said.
Barry’s strong all-around game and good grades [4.21 grade-point average] have attracted the attention of several NCAA Division I and Division III colleges; however, he won’t make a decision until after the season concludes. And if Barry has his way, it will go well into March.
“Right from the start, we set our goals as winning the Shore Conference and state tournaments,” Barry said. “That hasn’t changed at all. I think we have the talent and commitment to do it. That’s what we’re focused on.”