Teamwork and energy were on full display for the Saint John Vianney High School boys’ basketball team in a key victory recently over Shore Regional High School.
The Lancers led the entire game that was played in Holmdel on Jan. 29, securing a 44-31 victory against the Blue Devils for their fifth straight triumph.
Shore Regional seemed to always be within striking distance, with Saint John Vianney only leading, 9-8, at the end of the first quarter, 18-12 by halftime and 27-20 after the third quarter.
It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter when Saint John Vianney ran away with the game, thanks to both timely defensive stops and even more timely baskets.
Junior point guard Christian Booker and sophomore point guard Jahmal Garraway both pointed to Saint John Vianney’s effort and energy as the differences in the game.
“I think we played really well,” Booker said. “I think we played as a team today. We brought the energy, which we normally don’t really do, but we’re improving on that. I’m very happy with our energy today.”
“In the first half, we didn’t play that well,” Garraway said. “[Shore Regional] played great defense, so shout out to them as well. But luckily, in the second half, we were able to pick it up and get the win.”
The two players believe the win will give the Lancers much-needed momentum heading into the postseason.
“This definitely boosts our confidence,” Booker said. “We’re on a streak now. We have to keep it going.”
“If we can win these next games, we’ll be ready for the Shore Conference [Tournament],” Garraway said. “This was a big win for us.”
The Lancers fell to 10-11 after a 47-48 loss to Matawan Regional High School on Feb. 1 in Matawan.
The Lancers will have a major test on Feb. 9 when they play as the host to Shore Conference A Central Division leader Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School at 6:30 p.m. They follow with a game on the road against Immaculata High School in Somerville on Feb. 10.
For the Blue Devils, head coach Erik Mazur and junior point guard Kyle Koob were happy with their defense despite the loss, although they wish that the team’s offense performed better.
“I thought we defended well at times,” Mazur said. “I thought we rebounded the ball well. We’re improving in that. Our offense struggled a little bit today making shots. I think that was the big difference in the game right there. We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t knock them down when we needed to.”
“We definitely got better on the defensive end, especially our 2-3 zone,” Koob said. “We’re definitely rotating better in it better than we were in the beginning of the season. We couldn’t get some looks offensively, and sometimes, we got lazy with the ball.”
Mazur said he hopes Shore Regional will continue to make strides on the defensive end. He is in his first year with the Blue Devils, having previously coached at Barnegat High School from 2006 to 2014.
“We just want to keep working hard and getting better, especially on the defensive end.” Mazur said. “We kind of pride ourselves on being better defensively. It’s my first season [at Shore Regional], and that’s one of the first things we talked about when I first got here at the beginning of the year, is getting better defensively. We’re working to continue to get better at it, and we want to get better at rebounding, so we can push the ball in transition and be more effective on the offensive end.”
Koob believes improvement will come if the Blue Devils produce at a higher level during practice.
“We need more leadership in practice, and I take that upon myself and a lot of the seniors as well,” Koob said. “We all need to step up and make sure we’re having better practices. [On Jan. 28], we didn’t have a great practice. So, tomorrow, we need to make sure that we have a great practice, so we’re prepared for our next game.”
The Blue Devils fell to 6-12 after losing, 53-38, to Red Bank Regional High School on Feb. 1 in Little Silver.
Shore Regional was scheduled to be home to Rumson-Fair Haven on Feb. 6 and will remain in West Long Branch to face Raritan High School on Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m.