As he watched the final shot of the game roll and round and off the rim before falling to the floor for another nail biting loss, Freehold Township senior John Horrigan said it was a view that has become all to familiar for the Patriots this year.
"That's been the story all year long," he said. "We get to the very end and we need to find a way to start putting them down and getting the wins." In the end it was the Shore Regional Blue Devils who picked up the 60-58 win in a game both teams said will serve as good preparation for the upcoming state tournament.
The game may not have ended well for the Patriots but it started well as Horrigan used his strong presence in the middle to help push his team to an early 10-0 lead. Shore Regional was not deterred by the early deficit and pressed hard on the boards to stay in the game. By the time the first quarter was done they had used a combination of long range accuracy and hard charges to the basket to cut the lead to 16-14.
Blue Devil Coach David Emery said he was not surprised his team was unphased by having to catch up to their hosts. "This group has been the comeback kids all year," he said. "We've been in this spot before so we have some confidence in close games."
Emery said he also knows if his squad is going to succeed in the postseason they would be better served with a little more breathing room against their opponents. "I'd like it to stop so it doesn't continue, but I have confidence in our kids that we'll be able to come back."
Freehold Township held the lead for most of the first half before the visiting team took their game to the outside and showed how strong they can be when given open looks at the basket.
Dan Pillari was one of the strongest shooters on the Shore squad as he tallied 19 points for his team. During one stretch late in the first half Pillari hit three unanswered 3-pointers to give his team a 23-21 lead. Coming off the bench Dan Constantino had 16 points for Shore and the visitors went into the locker room at the half leading 31-27.
The second half was a back and forth battle with neither team leading by more than three points for the remainder of the game. Freehold Township held a 50-49 lead with just over five minutes to go before Shore took over and held on for the win.
Horrigan said that while his team did not win they would continue to work to extend their season as long as possible. "We just need to find a way to start winning," he said. "We'll keep working and putting ourselves in position to win games. We've just got to finish them out and get them done."
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