2004-12-29 / Sports
RBC boys play with something to prove
Local teams playing well in holiday tournaments
BY VIN RAPOLLA
Over the years, the Caseys have always established themselves as a force to be reckoned with early on. Well, this year they have company.
The Red Bank Catholic boys have started their season off strong with two wins against quality opponents. The team’s first win came on the road against division rival Manasquan, with their second victory coming in the Buc Classic this past Monday against third-seeded Franklin.
RBC’s lone loss came to top-ranked Raritan last week — a loss which apparently did nothing to shake this team’s confidence.
The Caseys return their entire starting line-up from last season, when they went 9-11 and 5-7 in Class A Central play.
They are led by four senior captains — 6-3 guard Steve Feinberg, 5-9 point guard Chris Messa, 6-2 forward Kyle Brandon and 6-2 forward Austin O’Malley. The team’s fifth returning starter is 6-5 junior center Mychal Mills.
Feerst, who is now in his eighth year coaching the Caseys, said that leadership is one of his team’s strengths this year.
“It was hard to choose captains from the four. It’s such a good team. I didn’t want to break anything up,” said Feerst. “The last couple years’ experience has been a factor for us, and this year we came back stronger and bigger.”
This group of starters ended the season for the Caseys on a high note, as they managed to win four out of their last five games. And now they’re looking to pick up where they left off.
“Their experience has really showed in the first couple of games,” said Feerst. “They’re coming through and making crucial free throws.”
The team also gets contributions from 6-0 junior guard Gary Curtis, 6-2 junior forward Ryan Kalish and 5-9 senior guard Mike Mercurio. The Caseys also have added some underclassmen to the lineup in sophomores Eric Fromer and Mike and Jon Oriolo, and freshman Ryan King.
“We have a nice group of vets and younger guys,” said Feerst. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with this team and the players compliment each other well.”
With the team’s positive attitude and its ability to score points on any given night, coach Feerst feels this year’s team will do well in such a competitive league. He’d like to see his team make both the state and Shore Conference tournaments, and possibly compete for the division.
“I’m looking forward to this,” he said. “I know we’ll be competitive, and that’s what makes me happy. We have to stick by our team motto, ‘Togetherness equals Success.’ ”
Against Franklin, that togetherness led to an impressive win, as Brandon led the way with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while O’Malley added 15 points. Feinberg also played well, contributing 12 points and seven assists, as the Caseys advanced to the semifinals, where they were to take on third-seeded Elizabeth on Tuesday.
With a win, they would advance to Thursday’s championship game against either host Red Bank Regional or Monsignor Donovan.
The Bucs earned their semifinal berth with a 83-51 win over Asbury Park on Monday. Sophomore Kyle Fitzgerald broke out for a game-high 23 points in the win, as the Bucs raced out to a 41-17 halftime lead and never looked back. Seniors Rahmir Cottman and Keyron Sheard combined to score 29 points in the win, as the Bucs improved to 2-1 on the season, and looked every bit like the third-ranked team in the Shore Conference.
The Long Branch Green Wave missed out on its chance to be the third local team in the Buc semifinals, losing a hard-fought quarterfinal contest to Elizabeth, 67-63 on Monday.
James Harper scored 20 and Darius Morris grabbed 12 boards to lead the Green Wave, but it was not enough to top the Minutemen. With the loss, Long Branch fell to 1-2 on the young season.
In the Bayshore Holiday Tournament, the Shore Regional Blue Devils knocked off the top seed, Matawan, on Monday to earn a trip to the semifinals.
Shore’s Gary Knoeppel made four clutch free throws in the final 25 seconds to help knock off the Huskies, 46-41. For the game, Knoeppel finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Ryan Paskin led the way with 15 points for the 3-0 Blue Devils.
With the win, Shore earned a shot at Middletown North Lions in the semis, after North beat St. John Vianney, 41-34, in its quarterfinal Monday to improve to 4-0 on the season.
The winner of that semifinal will get the Mater Dei-Woodbridge winner in the finals tonight.
Mater Dei got to the semifinals by holding off a pesky Rumson-Fair Haven team, 66-53, in the quarterfinals on Monday. Rumson fell to 0-3 on the season, but got solid performances from Phil Conover, Steve Rumph, Evan Farragher and John Iovino, all of whom scored 10 points.