RED BANK – It took a couple of weeks, but Red Bank Catholic’s boys basketball team finally seems to have put everything together, especially after Friday, Jan. 24’s 68-52 A Division Central rout of Manasquan.
With a new coach Jim Catalano and a new system –and football players just rounding into basketball- playing shape – RBC (8-3) started off its season slowly, losing three of its first five games, including a 59-31 opening game loss to Manasquan.
However, after a 70-51 loss to Red Bank Regional, RBC has rolled to six wins in a row and Friday’s win moved the Caseys into a first place tie in the A Central race with Manasquan. Both teams are 6-1 in the division,
“We’re playing much better now,” said RBC assistant coach Joe Nappo who took over for Catalano who was ill. “We were jittery in our opener and had football players not ready. We took this game like a playoff because, if we lost, we would have been two games behind Manasquan in the loss column.”
Sophomore Evan Madigan, who started the season on the junior varsity, had a career game with 24 points and is averaging 15 points per game since the win streak began.
“We knew that we had to come out and play hard,” Madigan said. “That last game with them was still on our minds. We played a great game tonight and I was making my shots. I was playing jayvee ball early in the year, but they brought me up to varsity.
“I just thought about helping the team in any way I could,” he said “We have a lot of good players.”
Also playing a major role was football star Quenton Nelson, a 6-foot 6-inch, 300-pound senior lineman who has verbally committed to Notre Dame. He scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“We’re still trying to fine tune things,” Nelson said. “We started to click after the Red Bank game, a game Nelson missed because he was playing in an All-Star football game in Texas.
“Even though we’ve been beating teams, I still think that we haven’t executed the way we can,” Nelson said. “When we do, we’ll be even better.”
RBC led from the start and had its biggest lead of the first half at 29-14 before Manasquan, using a pressing defense that forced some turnovers, scored the final 10 points of the half to make it a 5-point game.
RBC, however, made adjustments and began the second half with 5 points in a row on a foul shot by Eddie Hahn, another sophomore starter for the Caseys, and 3-pointers by Joe Montano and Jeff Byrne.
“Everything is centering around Quenton,” Nappo said. “The whole team is playing well now but when Quenton is going well, he is the key. He did a great job and didn’t let us down, even when he was in foul trouble in the second half.”
RBC boosted its lead to 68-47 with 2 minutes left before Manasquan scored the final 5 points of the game.