The Holmdel High School boys’ basketball team was in a dog fight with Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School on Feb. 7 in Rumson.
Holmdel was trailing its Shore Conference A-Central Division foe at the half by seven points.
Down by four in the final minute of the third quarter to the feisty Bulldogs, who were looking to pull off the upset, Holmdel got back to playing Holmdel basketball as their coach Sean Devaney said to win its third consecutive contest.
The Hornets rallied for a 54-40 victory when it outscored Rumson-Fair Haven with an 18-0 flurry to finish the contest and improve to 15-3 on the season.
“I’m really glad with how we responded in the second half and very proud of our kids,” Devaney said. “I don’t think our guys ever feel out of a game. They always know that we can get stops and get back in it.”
The missed opportunity to pull off the upset over Holmdel adds to a tough stretch for Rumson-Fair Haven, which is 1-4 in its last five games after losing to Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Rumson on Feb. 8, 74-47.
Rumson Fair-Haven coach Chris Champeau hopes the stretch can strengthen his squad, which is now 11-9 on the season, for a strong run in postseason play.
Harping on the team’s motto that “Tradition Never Graduates”, Champeau said he knows his squad will give everything they have to win games in the playoffs.
“We’re a scrappy squad that can exceed expectations,” Champeau said. “We have had teams in the past come out of nowhere and make noise in the playoffs. Our kids don’t give up and are going to try their best not let our tradition go away.”
Senior Jack Giamanco started the Holmdel comeback, banging home two-straight three-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter to put the Hornets up 42-40 going into the fourth quarter.
Giamanco flourished from downtown in the victory, knocking down three shots from behind the arc and finished with a team-high 14 points in the contest.
“It wasn’t our game in the first half, but we came out hard in the second half and kept fighting,” Giamanco said. “My teammate got me the ball when I was open and I made the shots.”
Teammate Ryan Bradley threw down a monstrous one-handed slam dunk off the to open up the fourth quarter for the Hornets. Bradley finished with seven points in the victory.
Senior Doug Chan had a big second half to anchor the Holmdel comeback. Holmdel had faced a 26-29 deficit entering the third period.
Chan scored all 11 of his points in the second half, while also playing stellar defense on the other end of the floor.
Holmdel’s man to man defense was on complete lockdown mode in the fourth quarter to shut down the Bulldogs, making it impossible for Rumson-Fair Haven to get an open look from outside the wing.
Holmdel is allowing only an average of 43.3 points a game this season and hasn’t lost a contest when holding its opponents to under 45 points.
“We’re always going to compete hard defensively,” Devaney said. “We have to bring it every game. We don’t have the type of team that’s going to go out and score 90 points. Every game is somewhat of a grind for us, so I’m proud of these guys for bringing everything they have in practice and in the games.”
Junior Alex Baker knocked in eight points for the Hornets in the victory.
The Hornets are 10-1 in their last 11 games.
Senior Jack Carroll scored a game-high 18 points for Rumson-Fair Haven, going off for 11 of those points in the first half after a strong second quarter of play.
Carroll was on a roll in the second quarter, skying up to knock down an alley-oop layup off a nice feed from teammate Hunter Reid to give him eight points in the quarter and Rumson-Fair Haven a 22-17 lead with under two minutes to go until halftime.
Sophomore Geoffrey Schroeder recorded 10 points in the loss for the Bulldogs.
“We put together a good half or three good quarters of play, but need to learn how to finish games,” Champeau said.
Special Note: Before the game, Champeau was honored for recording his 200th career victory as a coach in the Bulldogs’ victory over Raritan High School on Jan. 29.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports