By Brian Deakyne
RUMSON – Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School basketball coach Chris Champeau has a message for the rest of the state:
“We’re ready to shock the world.”
On the heels of an up-and-down 2013-2014 season, Champeau and Rumson are preparing to enter the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament as underdogs – and that’s just how they want it.
“We feel like, when we’re healthy, we can beat anybody,” Champeau said. “We haven’t had a healthy team since the first game, so the goal is to win both (tournaments).”
Rumson (12-9) drew a 24th seed in the upcoming Shore Conference Tournament and will face ninth-seeded Jackson Memorial High School in the first round and a 10th-seed in the sectional tournament and will take on seventh-seeded Point Pleasant Borough High School in the first round.
But for Champeau, the motivation for these Bulldogs is a simple look-back at the Rumson team that reached the Shore Conference Tournament and sectional final two years ago.
“Two years ago, we went to the Shore Conference Tournament final and the state final as a 13-seed,” Champeau said. “The reality was that it was a 12-6 team at the end of the season that had to win three games on the road to reach the championship game. It’s all about coming together at the right time and getting the ball rolling. We really do believe that we can compete with everybody.”
Rumson opened the season with a win over Shore Regional High School, but as the season wore on, the Bulldogs struggled with consistency and finding ways to win close games.
“We’re still a young team,” Champeau said. “I start two sophomores and two juniors, so this is really good experience for them and looking forward to the future.”
In the middle, the Bulldogs have relied heavily on senior Jack Herrmann, the team’s leading scorer and sophomore Brendan Barry has emerged as Rumson’s second leading scorer.
“In a sense, we’re going to go as far as Jack will take us,” Champeau said. “But Brendan Barry has stepped up as our second leading scorer and it already feels like he’s a seasoned veteran. We’ve had seven games decided by less than three points, so that experience and being thrown into the fire during the season definitely helps us.”
But, even with the inconsistent season, Champeau believes the door is open for any team to win either tournament.
“We really feel like it’s (top-seeded) Point Beach and then everybody else has really beaten each other up. We’re excited, fired up, and ready to go.”