By Jim Hintelmann
RUMSON – When Rumson-Fair Haven Regional blew an 11-point third quarter lead to Red Bank Regional Monday, thoughts came back to the previous week’s loss to Holmdel.
In that game, the Bulldogs couldn’t hold a 13-point third quarter lead and eventually lost to Holmdel on a buzzer shot.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, history didn’t repeat as two clutch free throws by both Jack Donnelly and Drew Corsi in the final two minutes was enough to give Rumson a 63-61 A Central win after Red Bank had tied the score at 59-59.
“I was thinking about Holmdel,” admitted Rumson coach Chris Champeau, “and I was sure everyone in the gym was saying ‘here we go again’, but our kids stepped up and made free throws. That showed us what a tough team we have. A lot of other teams would have folded.”
Leading 37-32 at halftime, Rumson scored the first six points of the third quarter on two free throws and a lay up by Donnelly, and a put back from Jack Curran to open up a 43-32 lead.
Red Bank, though, slowly battled back behind the scoring of Seth Williams and Asim Jules to get back in the game, and finally tied the game at 57-57 on a short jumper by Steve Skop with 3:30 remaining.
Curran hit two free throws to put Rumson back in front, but Skop tied it once more with a put back at 2:21.
Corsi hit one of two free throws with two minutes remaining to give the lead back to the Bulldogs and, after a missed Red Bank shot, dropped in another free throw with 48 seconds left for a 61-59 advantage.
Red Bank lost the ball on an offensive foul and Donnelly made two foul shots with eight seconds left to clinch it and negate a last second Red Bank basket.
“Donnelly had fouled out against Holmdel,” said Champeau. “Today he hung in there and knocked them down.
“They like to run,” said Champeau, “but we’re not afraid to run with anybody. I told our guys that if we play solid and get a few stops, we can win this game. It also helps to have guys who can knock the threes down.”
Rumson, behind the scoring of JJ Conklin and Donnelly, jumped out to a 17-9 lead in a fast paced first quarter, but Red Bank tied the game at 23-23 on a drive by Tahji Tomaino.
Rumson, with Conklin scoring six of the points, moved back in front again and went up by five at halftime. Conklin had 15 points in the half but was held to just one point in the second half. Donnelly, though, took up the slack with 12 points in that half.
“They sagged off on me in the second half,” said Conklin, “but I was more than happy just to kick the ball out to Donnelly and let him make shots. We know a lot of these (Red Bank) kids and its nice to get a win.”