The Howell High School boys’ basketball team was in desperate need of a victory with the postseason tournaments fast approaching.
The Rebels received that crucial triumph when they defeated Freehold High School, 47-34, in Freehold on Feb. 8.
It was Howell’s first victory in five games.
“This win brings us back,” Howell senior point guard Naseim Brantley said. “We were kind of on a losing streak, so this win brings us back. That’s good before we get ready for the playoffs.”
Brantley and junior Matthew Ganter had six points each for the Rebels. Senior shooting guard Dante Lanzetta led Howell with 15 points, while senior Alex Morton cipped in with nine points.
Junior Lucas Bruckmann led Freehold with 11 points, while senior point guard Ashante Worthy put in 10 points and junior center Quincy Davis had five points.
“We were moving the ball as a team today,” Brantley said after Howell’s victory. “We were playing defense tonight as well. We held them to 34 points tonight. That’s how you get it done.”
Brantley, who will be going to Sacred Heart University in Connecticul, does want to see that defensive effort continue once the playoffs start.
“We always want to improve on our defense,” Brantley said. “Keep the opponent’s score down and share the basketball. ‘Everybody eats.’ That’s our motto.”
“[In] our last game, we got blown out,” Lanzetta said in reference to Howell’s loss to Manalapan High School on Feb. 6 by a score of 82-74. “They scored 82 points on us. We really anchored down on our defense. Our offense tonight was all predicated on our defense.”
Lanzetta was happy with the victory, stating it will help propel the Rebels to a long playoff run.
“This was huge,” he said. “We’ve been on a big skid lately, so this win will get us back on track at the perfect time. Get a win before the playoffs, and be ready to roll.”
Howell improved to 10-9 on the season with the victory.
For Freehold, the loss in the final game of the season dropped its record to 2-19 and spoiled Senior Night for three senior players— Worthy, Aiden Sweeney and Kani Anderson.
Worthy was proud of the team’s effort, stating Freehold wanted to go out on top and never gave up until the final buzzer.
“We stayed as a team,” Worthy said. “We never gave up. Even when they were knocking down open shots, we still stuck together. We played as a team, and we gave it our all. This being our last game, we tried our best out there.”
Worthy was also an All-State quarterback for the Colonials, leading the Freehold football team to the Central Jersey, Group 4 state playoff final. They lost a heartbreaker to Long Branch High School, 43-42, in overtime on Dec. 2 at Rutgers University.
Worthy finished his brilliant football career with 3,034 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns. Always the dual threat, Worthy also finished his career with 5,902 rushing yards and 80 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 20 balls for 276 yards and four touchdowns in his career.
Worthy said that he loved his four years at Freehold, and that he’ll miss the passionate fans the most as he exited from his last home game for the school.
“Every time we played here [in Freehold], it’s a good crowd,” he said. “The cheerleaders would give it their all. The dance team, the coaches, the crowd, everybody. I’m going to miss playing in this gym and on that field.”
Worthy will play football for Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the fall.