MATAWAN – Matawan Regional has been a traditional football and boys track power over the years, but boys basketball has been in the shadows with its last NJSIAA sectional title in 1965.
Unfortunately for Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, the Huskies (24-4) finally have struck pay dirt with its best team since 1951. That was evident Tuesday, March 11, when they took the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship with a 67-54 victory in a steamy gym before a standing-room-only crowd.
“It was a long time coming,” said Matawan coach Tom Stead, who won state Group II championships as head coach at Holmdel High School in 1998 and 1999.
“It was about time we put (a basketball title) up on that wall,” he said. “I thought that we were the more physical team and I told the kids this week that we earned it. We are here and I really can’t help them anymore.”
Rumson, which finished the year at 13-10, appeared to have taken control of the game late in the second quarter when it scored the final 11 points of the half to erase a 26-18 Matawan lead.
A 3-pointer by Morgan McGuire and a drive by Tom Famulary got things started and the Bulldogs then picked up 6 more points, thanks to a Matawan technical foul after a Matawan personal foul was called.
McGuire made the two technicals and Brendan Barry, who was fouled on the play, made two more free throws.
Rumson was awarded the ball at half court and scored on another drive by McGuire to make it 29-26 at halftime.
“I thought that some of the calls went against us,” said Stead,” but my kids don’t quit.”
Matawan scored the first 5 points of the third quarter to retake the lead, 31-29, before Jack Herrmann made a pair of drives for a 33-31 Rumson advantage.
The game was tied for the last time at 35, then Matawan used a 10-2 run to go in front to stay.
“We’ve been waiting for this since the summer,” Matawan junior Jason Dunne said. “Halfway through the season, we thought that we had something special.”
Rumson narrowed the deficit to 54-49 with 3 minutes left, but Matawan closed out with a 13-5 run to put the game away.
Rumson, which finished the regular season with a 11-9 record, stunned Lakewood and Willingboro to reach the finals before losing to Matawan.