By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – With one of the best players in the Shore Conference on the bench, the Red Bank Catholic High School girls’ basketball team needed a big game from its role players on Tuesday night.
Despite missing junior Grace Fallon, who is nursing a right ankle injury, the Caseys prevailed for a tight 37-33 win over A-Central Division foe Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School at Eck Center.
Sophomore Jackie Robinson scored 7 points in the first quarter and senior Quinn McMenaman scored all 6 of her points in the fourth quarter – including a clutch steal and layup to put Red Bank Catholic up 3 points with less than 2 minutes left – to pace the Caseys to the win.
“Rumson’s a quality team and they have great players and we were missing our top player tonight,” Red Bank Catholic coach Joe Montano said. “Our girls played hard, I asked them to play hard all night long and they did and they battled and we did enough things well to win the game.”
The Caseys opened the game on a 6-0 run and ended the first quarter on an 8-0 advantage to take a commanding 14-3 lead, but Rumson, the reigning Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional champion came fighting back to tie the game in the second quarter at 15.
After taking a 17-15 lead into halftime, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson battled back through the second half before the Caseys were able to hit late free throws to hold on for the win.
“Anytime you’re playing a great team, you’re apprehensive, but I thought we played well (Monday against Shore Regional High School) and some of the young guys are starting to get some confidence that they can play at this level,” Montano said. “We’re learning to play together and I think every time we go out there, we get better. You always want to expect your team to win, but when you’re playing a great time like this, you realize it’s going to be tough.”
Rumson took its first lead of the night with 6:29 left in the game when junior Sam Sabino hit a lay-up to give the Bulldogs a 24-22 lead. The edge didn’t last long, however, as Red Bank Catholic came right back.
With a 1-point lead, McMenaman forced a turnover a midcourt and took it back for a lay-up to put the Caseys up, 28-25. McMenaman later went 4-for-4 from the line to account for all 6 of her points. She added a game-high nine rebounds to her line for the night.
“Quinn McMenaman played great for us down the stretch; she’s a kid that would rather pass it than shoot it, but she had a big, big steal to put us up 3 and made her free throws at the end,” Montano said. “To have our senior go out there and make those plays was big for us.”
The Bulldogs made a bid for a comeback in the final minute, when they cut a 33-27 lead to 33-30 and had an in-bounds play with :21.6 left, but junior Grace Stant’s potential game-tying 3-pointer was no good, and the Caseys sealed the win.
“We zoned them which, I don’t know, up 3, I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing to do in the world. But they run really good side out-of-bounds plays and we had young kids on the floor, so I wanted to try to keep them in front of us and we were fortunate that she settled for a long shot,” Montano said of Rumson’s final play.
In all seven players scored for Red Bank Catholic.
“I just complimented all of them after the game. They were great, no matter what I asked them to do,” Montano said. “Whether it was defense or going to shoot the ball or going to guard someone they’re not used to guarding, they all went out there and did a great job. I thought Maureen Coakley, our freshman, did a really good job down in the low block for us and battled all night long and played competitively. That was really big for us.”
Stant finished with a game-high 14 points and junior forward Stephanie Lesko added 7 points for Rumson.
Junior guard Alexandra Barazotti and Coakley each finished with 8 points for Red Bank Catholic.