By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK — If the Colts didn’t score early, they knew they would be in trouble.
Against Red Bank Catholic’s zone defense, Christian Brothers Academy knew an early lead would help them play the kind of game they wanted.
They did just that, scoring five unanswered goals over a nine-minute span in the first quarter to take a commanding lead they would never relinquish, burying the Caseys, 9-5, in the opening round of the NJSIAA non-public group A state playoffs at Count Basie Park.
“We said at the beginning that we needed a big lead to get comfortable because we knew they have the potential to play a zone defense and we struggle against that,” Christian Brothers Academy head coach Dave Santos said. “If we have a lead, we’d be in a better position to attack.”
After RBC took a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the game, it didn’t take long for CBA to hit the ground running.
Junior Lucas Habich answered sophomore Michael Convery’s goal 30 seconds after Convery put the Caseys’ on the board first, tying the teams at one.
The Colts then controlled possession for the rest of the third quarter, getting goals from senior Donny Finn and sophomore Thomas Palisi over a 1:15 span.
CBA got two goals later in the quarter, a minute apart, from sophomore Matt McGuiness, giving the Colts the 5-1 lead.
“This is a team that rides on emotions. If we missed a few shots, they could have come right back in. It would have been real easy for them to take the lead back.”
CBA scored just three times in the second half, and Red Bank Catholic nearly came back, but the Colts possession numbers were able to help them hold on to the ball and battle with the Caseys to the end.
RBC cut the lead to three goals twice in the fourth quarter, including trimming the lead to 8-5 with 9:40 left in the game, but the Caseys’ chances to cut the lead even further skimmed wide and CBA was able to take the game.
“CBA is disciplined. They’re well-coached, they’re ready for every situation and we kind of made it a game at the end. I wish a couple of shots went down and we were able to cut it a little closer but hats off to CBA, and I wish them the best of luck in the next round,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Ryan Eichner said.
Senior Dough Whitlock scored 20 seconds into the fourth quarter to draw the Caseys within three goals at 7-4, and two minutes later senior Frank Gabriel buried a shot from the left wing to draw RBC within three goals again, answering sophomore Thomas Deiner’s goal in between.
The Caseys battled defensively over the final five minutes of the game, but senior Stephen Deiner put home a shot on crease, putting the game out of reach with 3:09 left, padding the Colts lead to 9-5.
Thomas Deiner scored his first goal of the day in the third quarter and Gabriel answered with his first goal of the game as well.
Senior Alex Roth scored in the second quarter for CBA, finishing the fifth of five straight goals for the Colts, extending their lead to 6-1. Junior Chris Whitlock added a goal in the second for RBC, helping them stop the Colts run and drawing the Caseys within four at 6-2.
The Colts being held to three goals over the final 24 minutes is a credit to Red Bank Catholic’s tough defense, but CBA playing passively with a big lead also played a part.
“We wanted to pull them out,” Santos said. “We tried to make them going into a man [defense]. We wanted to spread the defense and pull them out, which worked to some extent.”
After the Colts took a 5-1 lead in the first quarter, the teams played even throughout, with RBC out-scoring CBA 4-3 over the final three quarters.
“We said before the game that lacrosse is all about possessions,” Eichner said. “We had that five or six minute span in the first quarter where we had trouble clearing the ball, they rode us very well and they picked up every ground ball. It came down to possessions, they have a few more possessions than we did.
“When they had their possessions they were able to put the ball in the back of the net, and we had our shots. A couple of our shots didn’t do in and that’s the difference in the game.”
The win is CBA’s second against RBC this season, after the Colts won handily, 11-3, over their conference rival on May 2.