It was a surreal feeling for Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls basketball coach Dave Callahan when his players came out to warm up in the high school gymnasium before their season opener against Red Bank Regional High School on Jan. 27 with no fans in the stands.
The surreal feeling for Callahan signified how different the 2021 season has been with a shortened preseason and coaches trying to figure out ways to get their players ready to go in just two weeks by following protocols necessitated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Entering his fifth season as coach of the Bulldogs, Callahan was interested to see how his players would start the season with all of the different circumstances that were in place.
In the end, he was pleased with how his team played against Red Bank. Rumson-Fair Haven rolled to a 61-50 victory over the Buccaneers to begin the season 1-0.
“It felt fantastic being back on the court,” Callahan said. “I was super pleased with the way we played. For us to get a win like that over a good Red Bank Regional team was very important to start the season.”
The Bulldogs are loaded with talent across the board for another successful winter on the hardwood.
Senior Cortland McBarron is back in the starting lineup after a stellar junior campaign during which she averaged 10.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. She led the team with 67 assists.
McBarron scored 22 points with pulled down 13 rebounds against Red Bank Regional.
Sharp-shooter Julia Corsentino looks to continue to be a threat from behind the arc after knocking down 68 three-point field goals as a freshman. She hit four three-pointers and finished with 20 points against the Bucs.
Sophomores Charley Rosen and Dylan Cahill return after seeing significant playing time as freshmen a year ago.
Two key players who are healthy and back in action are seniors Grace Munt and Chase Boyle. Both players missed most or all of last season because of injury. The two seniors bring different skills that will be crucial to the team’s success in the eyes of Callahan.
Munt handles the ball well, can drive to the hoop and shoot well from behind the arc.
Callahan said Boyle is the “Dennis Rodman” of the Bulldogs because she can impact the game in so many ways. In the season opener, Boyle snared a team-high 15 rebounds while adding three steals and nine points.
Juniors Grace Colucci and Kaila Scarpa will contribute off the bench.
“We have really preached to our kids that your attitude is one thing you can control on the court,” Callahan said. “The most important thing is controlling our attitude and energy levels in each game.”
With another talented roster of players ready to compete, Callahan believes his squad can achieve great things. For this unique season, the Shore Conference’s divisions have been eliminated and the teams have been placed into what conference officials are calling pods.
Rumson-Fair Haven is in a regular season pod with Red Bank Regional, Shore Regional, Monmouth Regional, Long Branch and Red Bank Catholic.
Callahan said one of the team’s goals will be to win the regular season pod, advance to the top eight conference postseason pod and win that group.
“I believe our team is capable of it,” the coach said about winning the postseason conference pod event. “It would be a nice reward for us to get into that top eight pod and win it.”
There will not be a state tournament during the 2021 season.
The Bulldogs showed their toughness in their second game against Red Bank Regional on Jan. 29 in Little Silver. Trailing 39-27 with under 3:00 to play in the third quarter, the Bulldogs stormed back and had cut the deficit to four points entering the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs (2-0) completed the comeback in the fourth quarter as Munt and Corsentino led them to a 71-68 victory. Munt finished with a game-high 31 points, which included 24 points in the second half to fuel the comeback.
After not scoring through three quarters, Corsentino scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs take the lead and hang on for the win.
Playing in the face of the pandemic, Callahan said, “We know how precious this season is and we talk about how every day is a gift to be on the court. You take every day and every game like it might be the last one.”
Rumson-Fair Haven will have a big test in its second week of action, facing off twice against Saint John Vianney of Holmdel, which returns all of its key players from a team that finished the 2020-21 season ranked No. 1 in New Jersey.