By Ryan Fennell
Toms River – According to their head coach, the Red Bank Catholic Caseys are the worst third quarter team in America.
Nearly every team in the Shore Conference would line up to be as bad as the Caseys are in the third quarter though, seeing that on Saturday, Mar. 9, the Caseys cruised to a 54-42 win over Immaculate Heart Academy at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River to capture the Non-Public Group A State Title, the program’s sixth state title and first since 2007.
The thing is, the Caseys play so well in the first, second, and fourth quarters so far this year, the below par third quarter play hasn’t come back to bite them.
In the championship game last Saturday, the Caseys opened up a 13-3 lead to start the game and led by 8 at the end of the first quarter at 15-7.
Then, RBC extended its lead in the second to as much as 14 points midway through and eventually went to the locker room with a 12-point lead at 26-14.
In the third quarter, while scoring as many points as they did in the second, the Caseys allowed Immaculate Heart rack up 16 points to pull within 7 at 37-30 at the final break. But, the Caseys came out in the fourth and put the game away leading by as many as 17 with less than a minute to play.
“I don’t know what it is,” RBC head coach Joe Montano said. “We’ve tried different things. I’ve walked out of the locker room and let them talk. I’ve said different things. We’ve warmed up differently. I have no idea what it is. As long as we keep winning, hopefully it doesn’t hurt us.”
“We come out so excited and with so much momentum and then we kind of get satisfied with where we’re at where we really should be concentrating on separating the lead more,” junior Grace Fallon said. “We always make things interesting.”
But despite RBC’s season-long third quarter troubles, the Caseys get to hang another banner as the 2013 Non-Public Group A State Champions.
“Anytime you win a championship is special and meaningful,” Montano said. “But, more importantly with this group, they’re just such a team, such a great group of kids. They trust each other.
“It makes it enjoyable. It’s a privilege for us to have the opportunity to coach these guys because they make it fun everyday. I’m just so proud of them and happy for them because they deserve this type of reward.”
“We worked so hard to get here,” Fallon said. “We’re just happy to have the opportunity to be this far into the season. We’re just enjoying it together, taking one game at a time. We’re very excited.
“Honestly, if someone told me we’d be playing in the [Tournament of Champions] this season I don’t think I’d believe them,” Fallon added. “But, this team, we believed in each other the whole time. No one thought we were going to make it this far. We flew under the radar, did our thing, and we’re just so honored and happy to be in a position like this.”
And what is ‘our thing’ according to Fallon?
“Unselfish basketball,” she said. “No one cares who puts the ball in the basket as long as we win the game, so I honestly think that’s what’s made us so successful is our unselfishness.”
Fallon had a team high 17 points in the game to go along with her five assists and five rebounds. Fallon also went 9 for 14 from the free throw line.
The Caseys had 24 defensive rebounds in the game with Caroline Corcoran pulling down 7.
“I think a lot of our defense created our offense in this game,” Fallon said. “Our composure on the offensive end really is what helps us. Just take care of the basketball and make good decisions.”
Junior Quinn McMenaman stepped up late in the game when senior Mary Kate Caverly had to leave early in the fourth quarter when she picked up her fourth foul.
McMenaman hauled in 6 rebounds for the Caseys and managed to scoop up several loose balls to maintain or give the Caseys necessary possessions.
“Quinnie was great,” Montano said. “I thought she got a couple of loose balls, I thought she got a couple of rebound – she made a couple of shots. She’s very capable. It’s just a matter of her getting her confidence and hopefully it’s coming at the right time.”
Alex Barazotti netted 10 points for the Caseys while Caverly added 9 while grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. Alex Alfano also had 9 points and went 2 for 4 from three-point range.
Samantha Wilkes had a game-high 19 points for Immaculate Heart, but the Caseys managed to contain the rest of the team, limiting everyone else to single digits.
RBC moves on to the Tournament of Champions as the three-seed behind Malcolm X. Shabazz (1) and Rancocas Valley (2).