By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP – Christian Brothers Academy’s basketball team had a rare off-season a year ago with a 14-10 mark, but the Colts could be back among the Shore’s elite this season with an experienced team.
The team’s current 3-2 record is misleading because both losses came to strong out-of-area teams, West Orange and DeMatha Catholic High School of Washington, D.C., a nationally recognized athletics powerhouse.
“Eight of our top nine players from last year are back this season,” said CBA coach Geoff Billet following Monday’s 55-34 A Division North win over Middletown South. “We have a lot more experience this year.”
Against Middletown South (2-3), CBA used its superior height, coupled with a tight defense to trim the Eagles after a slow start.
South, with a relatively young team, played even with the Colts for the first 10 minutes, holding CBA to an 11-11 tie after the first quarter and then taking the lead, 13-11, at the start of the second period on a jumper by Pat Campbell.
CBA, though, scored the next 10 points, 6 of them by 6-foot-7-inch sophomore center Pat Andree (20 points) to take control of the game with its pressing defense forcing a number of South turnovers.
“We had a huge size advantage and wanted to get the ball inside to our big men,” Billet said. ”Our defense was very good and we held them to 34 points. We’ll win a lot of games if we can keep doing that.”
South still stayed close a while longer, trailing 29-19 at the half, but CBA opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run and South never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
“We were a little rusty,” Billet said. “We hadn’t played in a while, but South played with a lot of grit and we knew that they would give us a battle.”
“CBA had good size,” South coach Kevin Cullen said, “but, overall, we rebounded fairly well despite their size.”
South received a solid game from senior Matt Gray, who matched Andree for game-scoring honors with 20 points.
“Matt is a terrific floor leader,” Cullen said. “He’s a dynamite scorer with a great jump shot and he should have a real great season for us.”
South suffered a key loss in their first game of the season when senior John Whalen went down with a torn ACL and will be out the rest of the year.
“John was our leading score last year,” Cullen said. “He brought poise and leadership on the floor.”
CBA has a big game Saturday, Jan. 11, when it meets longtime rival St. Anthony (Jersey City) in the Battle of the Boardwalk at Long Branch High School. Game time will be 1 p.m.
South will play host on Thursday to A Division North rival Manalapan.