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Strong defensive performance carries Freehold Township past Long Branch

Freehold Township High School boys basketball player Ryan Keegan drives into two Long Branch defenders on his way to the hoop during a game played on Jan. 22 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Long Branch 66-32.

Freehold Township High School’s boys basketball players and Coach Brian Golub met before the Patriots hosted Long Branch on Jan. 22.

All concerned were ready to turn the page on a three-game losing streak that included a last-second 53-50 loss to Christian Brothers Academy the night before.

The Patriots (7-6) rode excellent defense and strong rebounding to a 66-32 over the Green Wave to get back to their winning ways.

“Any win feels good,” Golub said. “We started playing better in the second quarter; started knocking down shots and kept grinding out there to do what we needed to do to get the win.”

Freehold Township led 17-12 entering the second quarter and went on a 10-2 run to begin the quarter.

A nice move to the basket by senior Josh Ibarreta ended with a layup and pushed the lead to 31-16 with 3:44 to play in the quarter.

The Patriots extended the lead to 37-16 with 1:00 left before an outstanding defensive play led to another basket. A full-court press led to a steal by sophomore Shawn Corchado, who found Nick Cardone under the basket. Cardone’s layup at the buzzer gave the Patriots a 39-16 lead at halftime.

Freehold Township outscored Long Branch 22-4 in the second quarter.

“We were able to turn some defense into some offense by scoring in transition by creating turnovers and securing defensive rebounds,” Golub said. “It was a complete team effort. We had a lot of guys with baskets and a lot of guys with rebounds.”

Junior Jayden Holmes-Cotter scored the first five points of the third quarter as the Patriots extended their lead. He finished with 12 points and leads the team in scoring at 19.2 points per game.

“I have taken on a bigger role this year of scoring more and getting a lot of rebounds,” Holmes-Cotter said. “I worked really hard in the off-season on my scoring, my dribbling and my all-around game to make sure I could help the team win something big this year.”

Senior Sean Keegan displayed his fancy footwork and jump shot to extend the lead to 49-19 with 3:54 to play in the third quarter.

Keegan finished with nine points. His brother, Ryan Keegan, scored six of his eight points in the first half.

The Patriots lost consecutive games to Saint John Vianney, Marlboro and CBA and Ryan Keegan said the players were trying to turn things back in the right direction.

“We are hoping to get on a roll,” he said. “We have a bunch of great players. We know our potential. We know we can compete against the top teams in the Shore Conference. We just have to finish games and keep working hard.”

Freehold Township’s 66-32 win over Long Branch gave the Patriots their third victory in the Shore Conference A North Division. The Green Wave’s 32 points were the fewest points allowed by the Patriots this season.

Cardone, James McCarthy and Bobby O’Brien each contributed six points in the victory.

The Patriots won five of their previous six games before their three-game losing streak. Upcoming games against winning teams Howell and Donovan Catholic of Toms River will test Freehold Township.

Freehold Township lost to Donovan Catholic, 64-50, in the second game of the season. The Patriots defeated Howell, 55-38, on Jan. 6.

“We know we can compete against the elite teams in the Shore Conference. We just have to learn how to win,” Golub said. “We have to learn how to win close games. That’s something that comes with experience and taking those losses (to SJV, Marlboro and CBA) to heart and learning from our mistakes. As a team, we need to grow, cut down on mistakes and become mentality tough.”

Freehold Township is scheduled to host Allentown High School on Jan. 24.

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