By Jay Cook
TOMS RIVER – After trying to get in the WOBM Christmas Classic holiday basketball tournament for years, the Red Bank Regional Buccaneers made a statement in their first appearance.
Coming in as the No. 9 seed at the tournament’s commencement on Dec. 17, the Lady Bucs played above their ranking, finishing the tournament in fourth place after a hard-fought loss to Ewing High School in the third place game, 51-45.
Head coach James Young said that his team was ready to play the Blue Devils, whom they faced in last season’s playoffs.
“We lost by 20 to them last year in the playoffs, so we’re familiar with them, and we had a good scouting report,” he said after the game. “In the second quarter we got out of what we do, and we didn’t defend the way that we’re capable of.”
RBR fought hard to come back from a 10-point deficit coming into the second half of play, thanks to the newfound three-point shooting prowess of senior Emma Keegan, who set the tone of play going down to the final buzzer.
Young couldn’t say enough about Keegan, who has really come into her own this season. “She’s starting to become our best and most dangerous three-point shooter,” Young said. “As a senior, we’re kind of leaning on her more to do a little bit of everything for us.
She’s done a great job shooting the ball late for us in games, getting us back in games, but I’m also proud of the way she’s been a leader and the way she’s defended, more than I am for her scoring.”
Despite coming up just short in the third place game, RBR has a lot to be proud of when looking back on the WOBM Christmas Classic. They defeated Colts Neck, the eight seed, in the opening round of play, then followed that up with the biggest upset of the tournament.
The Neptune Scarlet Fliers, led by star senior Desiree Allen, entered play as the top seed and were preparing to play in the finals until they ran into the Bucs.
RBR seemed to forget past losses against Neptune, and with that mentality, outplayed the Scarlet Fliers to the tune of 50-35.
“Neptune’s been giving us fits for years, and they’ve beaten us up bad,” Young said. “I just think, at some point, every team when they want to take that next step, they got to draw a line in the sand and say ‘That’s enough, we’re going to look to outplay you.’”
The Lady Bucs lost to the eventual second-place team in the WOBM Christmas Classic, Point Pleasant Boro, in a high scoring affair, 61-57.
Despite the season only being a few weeks old, it seems like the Bucs (4-3) have a team that can hang in an uber-competitive Shore Conference, littered with nationally talented teams Manasquan High School, Saint John Vianney and St. Rose High School.
“We have to really make sure we tie up our defensive end of the floor because that’s where we’re going to win games,” said Young. “We’re not going to win games by being way better than you or more skilled than you, we’re going to win and beat you with defense and guts. Have to get back to doing that.”
———-This sports story ran the week of January 5 – 12, 2017———-
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