By Ryan Fennell
Jackson – It’s been some season so far for the Red Bank Catholic Caseys.
And it continued Tuesday night when the top-seeded Caseys defeated second-seeded Gloucester Catholic, 46-41, in the NJSIAA Non-Public South A Sectional Final at Jackson Liberty High School in Jackson.
After getting off to a hot start, which many doubted would continue throughout the season, the Caseys rattled off 16 straight wins before suffering their only loss of the year to Moore Catholic of New York back on Jan. 27.
RBC picked right back up after that loss and now sits at 27-1 with a Shore Conference Championship and Sectional Championship under its belt and will play for the State Championship on Saturday, Mar. 9.
“I’m really excited and proud of our kids,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Joe Montano said. “I can’t be happier for the five seniors in the room. This is the fourth most wins in school history, and we’ve had some really good teams.”
“We’re just so excited to be here and excited for the opportunity,” said junior Grace Fallon. “We’ve come so far from the beginning of the season and we don’t want to stop. We’re just going to continue to do what we’ve been doing all year.
“I’m really honored to be on a team like this that works their butt off and gets to this point of the season.”
Despite the accolades it hasn’t been a cakewalk for this Caseys team this season. RBC has played in closely contested games all season and the sectional final against Gloucester Catholic was no exception.
Although the Caseys held a lead the entire game after opening up with an 11-2 run, the Rams managed to tie the game at 20 just before the half and pulled within one point twice late in the fourth.
The Rams woke up late in the first quarter and stormed back in the second to make it a three-point game at 23-20 with RBC leading at the half.
Alex Barazotti opened up the scoring for the Caseys in the third with a three-pointer and followed it up with two consecutive drives to the basket for 7 of her game-high 16 points in the quarter.
But, the Rams still weren’t going away and, in the fourth, Maggie McIntyre hit a jumper to pull Gloucester Catholic within one at 38-37 with just under two-and-a-half minutes to play. Alex Alfano answered for the Caseys to put RBC back up by three, but Becky Pund drove to the hole for the Rams to get it back to one at 40-39.
“They got right back in the game and they played very, very well,” Montano said of Gloucester Catholic. “We don’t blow anybody out. That’s not who we are. We’ve got to play close games. I never, when we get off to that type of lead, think that it’s going to be easy.”
The Rams nearly took the lead for the first time all game on a three-point attempt from Pund on their next possession, but the ball circled the rim and spun out into the hands of the Caseys.
With fouls to give, the Rams started fouling to stop the clock and eventually send the Caseys to the line in the bonus.
Barazotti hit a pair from the line to make it a three-point game and then Mary Kate Caverly was sent to the line twice and knocked down all four to ice the game. The Caseys were perfect from the line in the game going 11-for-11, the first time all season they did not miss a free throw in a game as a team.
“The funny thing is on Saturday against Saint John [Vianney] she missed them,” Montano said of Caverly’s free throw shooting under pressure. “Knowing her I know on Sunday she went into the gym and shot 300 of them because she was not going to be denied.”
“They’re a good team and they were making tough shots, so we definitely had to keep our intensity but, at the same time, stay composed, take care of the basketball, make good decisions, and keep attacking,” Fallon said.
The Caseys move onto the Non-Public State Final this Saturday at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River and face Immaculate Heart Academy.