Manalapan survives thriller, edges Howell
With a one-point lead and time winding down in triple overtime, Evan Pruden found himself with a good look at a three and a chance to seal the game for Manalapan.
“When I released the ball I knew it was going in,” Pruden said. “It just felt good when I took it, one of those shots you know is going to fall.”
It was one of two big three’s Pruden would hit in the overtime to help his team hang on to a 65-57 win over Howell Township, an absolute thriller seen exclusively on MSGVarsity.com.
“These kids never quit, there were a couple of times where they could have put their heads down and packed it in but they fought untll the end,” Manalapan head coach Rick Garretson said. “This one was a real big one, we knew that we really needed to dig in tonight and work hard to get a win. What a win.”
The Braves controlled the first half with steady play from Bryan Adams on the offensive end, especially on the glass. Adams would score 10 of his game high 23 points and grab six of his nine offensive boards in the first two quarters, helping Manalapan build a 23-19 lead.
Howell would adjust well in the second half though and the addition of Tory Robinson off the bench gave the Rebels a much-needed presence in the lane. With the rebounding numbers evened Howell was able to close the gap to 1 at 31-30 entering the final frame.
A fourth quarter and two overtimes filled with lead changes would crescendo into a third extra period that saw neither team wanting to surrender the victory despite many tired legs.
Each squad would have chances to win it, but Manalapan would get a couple of key stops down the stretch to go along with the clutch three balls and free throws inevitably preserved the win.
“We played three games in the past four days,” Garretson said. “But nothing was harder than the practice we went through yesterday, that’s the gods honest truth. These kids were hitting the floor and came out of practice with bumps and bruises, that’s the way we come out every day. “
Coming off of tournament MVP honors in a Manalapan Huskie Classic title over the holidays, the Braves usual leading scorer, Anthony Firsker, had a solid night pouring in 16 points and grabbing nine boards with six assists.
“I tried to use my body to get position and my strength to get to the basket and finish,” Firsker said of his game on the hardwood. The wide receiver proved why he is one of the most dominant basketball players in the Shore Conference with a solid inside-outside game and fearless foul shooting, knocking down all his throws from the stripe in OT.
The win moves Manalapan to 7-2 but it was one of those games you hate to see either team have to lose. When asked if he looked forward to another battle like this the next time Howell and Manalapan meet, Adams was quick to respond, “Absolutely not. I never want to do this again. We have to beat them in regulation next time around. Tonight was crazy.”
Both coaches knew they had witnessed something special Thursday night on Church Lane. After the gym had cleared, Garretson exclaimed, “who knew we were going to play an instant classic, that might be the MSG Varsity game of the year.”
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