By Jim Hintelmann
RUMSON – The Bulldawg Christmas Classic was the first holiday tournament ever hosted by Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, so it was only fitting that Rumson gave the crowd what it wanted, an impressive 68-63 win over St. Mary’s of Long Island Thursday.
In winning, though, the Bulldogs had to do it the hard way, rallying from a 63-60 deficit by scoring the final eight points of the game to take the championship.
“We felt going in that they were very athletic,” said Rumson coach Chris Champeau. “We decided to play a little zone against them. The way we press, we eventually hoped that they would wear down because we feel that we are in the best shape of any team at the Shore.”
Trailing 60-55, St. Mary’s seemed to get control of the game when it scored eight straight points to go in front 63-60. A lay up by JJ Curran, the tournament’s most valuable player, put Rumson in front, 64-63 with 59 seconds left, and then Jack Donnelly and Zach Fendrick both made two free throws to wrap it up.
“I haven’t won any team championships since I was in the eighth grade,” said Donnelly, who will be playing basketball at Hamilton College in New York next season. “This is a great feeling and I hope that the momentum will carry on.”
The game was played at a fast pace throughout with St. Mary’s leading 17-15 at the end of the first quarter.
St. Mary’s went out in front, 23-17, early in the second quarter, but Rumson made another run with a 12-3 spurt, five of them by Drew Corsi (17 points), to go ahead 29-26.The Bulldogs still led 32-30 at the half.
“It felt good to come out and hit some threes, which we do best,” said Corsi. “In the first half they were getting second chances, had mental lapses and we didn’t box out, but we got together in the fourth period.”
Corsi hit a three-pointer and two free throws to begin the third quarter to build the lead to 37-30. Rumson eventually pulled away to a 48-39 lead late in the period on a driive by Corsi.
St. Mary’s, though, rallied with eight straight points, four by Travis Whitfield, to narrow the score to 48-47, but Rumson still held a 53-51 advantage after three periods.
St. Mary’s tied it up twice at 53-53 and 55-55 before Rumson regained the lead at 60-55 on a trey and two free throws by Donnelly to set up the wild finish.
“Everyone played hard and together,” said Curran, who will be playing lacrosse at Villanova next fall. “This was awesome.”
“We hope that winning like this in the first tournament in the school’s history will carry us into the Shore Conference schedule,” said Champeau.