By Matthew Rocco
A resounding loss to the defending state champions wouldn’t derail the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls’ basketball team, as the Bulldogs keep marching forward under their new head coach.
With 10 straight wins to being the season, the Bulldogs have no doubt maintained their powerhouse status in the Shore Conference. No obstacle was too much for the Bulldogs to handle. Then came A Central Division rival St. John Vianney High School. The Lancers spoiled Rumson-Fair Haven’s perfect record with a 70-43 victory Jan. 17.
It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to get back on track. Senior Hannah Scanlan exploded for 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs over University High School — last year’s NJSIAA Group I champion.
The 67-45 win was the perfect statement for the Bulldogs, who have lofty goals for the postseason.
“We knew that playing a good team like University was going to be a good test for us and a good chance to see how united we were. And the girls responded beautifully,” head coach Dave Callahan said.
Scanlan, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season, is making the most of her final year. Her 23.8 points per game ranked sixth in New Jersey (as of Jan. 21).
The Bryant University-bound forward has not only played at a higher level, but her effort is elevating the whole team.
“When she gets on the court, no one outworks her. She doesn’t like to talk much, but she likes to let her actions show the other kids the way,” Callahan said. “She’s a great inspiration for us, and she’s an unbelievable player. We’re lucky to have her.”
Tori Hyduke is also playing phenomenal basketball, Callahan said. The junior point guard posted eight points, seven assists and four rebounds in the win over University. Senior Katie Foos added nine points and eight rebounds. Freshman Lucy Adams, filling in for the injured Megan Volker, scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds.
Rumson-Fair Haven (12-1) had a tremendous showing on defense, especially down the stretch. The team held University to a mere five points in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs proceeded to beat Roselle Catholic High School, 73-58, in an afternoon matchup Jan. 22, fueled by 23 points apiece from Scanlan and Hyduke. Junior guard Michaela McGarvey added 13 points.
The team’s performance against University gave the Bulldogs an added dose of confidence after learning some valuable lessons in the loss to St. John Vianney (10-3). The intensity of that divisional game offered a preview of what’s ahead in the Shore Conference Tournament, where the Bulldogs hope to play for a title.
“Vianney took us in every aspect of the game,” Callahan said. “They have played a little tougher schedule, so they came out more ready to play. Especially when it comes to tournament time, you have to be ready to play. If you come out flat, your season is over.”
Rumson-Fair Haven is in the thick of a division race, too. The Lancers are 7-0 against A Central opponents, and the Bulldogs are not far behind at 5-1. Red Bank Regional High School (10-5) is sitting in third place with a 5-2 division record.
The competition in A Central and the broader Shore Conference is the best way to prepare for big games late in the season, Callahan said.
“I find myself comparing us to teams like St. John Vianney, Manasquan and Red Bank Catholic, and they are all top-ranked teams in the state,” he said. “Our goals are to win the Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey Group II, and to do that, we have to get through all those teams.”
Manasquan High School (15-0), which competes in the same state sectional as the Bulldogs, will also host Rumson-Fair Haven Feb. 4 at 1 p.m.
The Bulldogs’ next game is Jan. 27 against Raritan High School. Tipoff in the Rumson-Fair Haven gym is set for 6:30 p.m. The team played Matawan Regional High School earlier this week.