COLTS NECK, N.J. - Don’t count out the Colts Neck High School boys basketball. Down 50-39 to St. John Vianney midway through the fourth quarter on Monday night, the Cougars looked to be headed to their second loss of the season against the Lancers. Coach Lou Piccola and his Cougars had a comeback in mind instead.
Led by a 21-point performance by senior Andrew Abujawdeh and great defense down the stretch, Colts Neck outscored St. John Vianney 15-1 to pull out a 54-51 win over the Lancers to improve to an even 4-4 on the season.
“We just stayed the course,” Piccola said. “We trusted each other. We knocked down some easy baskets down the stretch.”
A huge three-pointer by Rich Lee started the Colts Neck rally, which was followed up by back-to-back buckets from Sean Tice that cut the St. John Vianney lead to 50-46 with 2:33 left to play.
Lee knocked in three shots from behind the arch in the contest for the Cougars.
Abujawdeh helped fuel the Colts Neck rally in the final two and half minutes.
Rising up towards the basket while getting fouled, Abujawdeh sinked in the layup and then went on to knock in the free throw to complete the three-point play, making it a one-point game with 2:10 left to play.
On the next possession at the other end of the floor, Jahmal Garraway went one-for-two at the free throw line to extend the St. John Vianney to two.
Abujawdeh had a chance to tie the game for Colts Neck on the next trip, but missed his second free throw attempt, keeping the Lancers still in the lead up one with a minute left to play.
The senior, though, didn’t miss on his next chance to put the Cougars ahead.
Great ball movement started by Ryan Thaler, led to Tice giving a nice pass to Abujawdeh cutting to the basket, where the senior rose up over St. John Vianney’s Kevin Greene for a lay up to put Colts Neck up 52-51 with 28 seconds left to play.
“Sean (Tice) gave me a nice pass and I saw a chance to score,” Abujawdeh said. “I didn’t even see it go in at first. I was just trying not to get a charge. It felt great to make a big play to help us get the lead.”
Colts Neck came up with a big defensive stand on St. John Vianney’s next possession, forcing the Lancers to have to foul with 10 seconds left, sending Brian Hill to the free throw line.
With ice water in his veins, Hill knocked in both free throw to extend the Colts Neck lead to three.
“It was my time to seal the deal for the team,” Hill said. “Andrew (Abujawdeh) and the rest of the team helped carry us to get us into that position to close it out. Feels great being able to come through for my team.”
Hill finished with seven points in the win for Colts Neck.
St. John Vianney had one more shot to tie the game and force overtime, but Greene’s three-point attempt rolled out right to Abujawdeh for the defensive rebound, and the senior was able to run out the clock for Colts Neck’s third straight win.
“Our kids stayed the course and played hard all game,” Piccola said. “The effort our kids put out on the floor was terrific.”
Tice finished with 11 points in the win for Colts Neck.
Nate Williams scored a team-high 13 points for St. John Vianney, knocking in three shots from downtown.
James Rapley had 11 points for the Lancers, who drop to 5-4 on the season in the loss.
St. John Vianney held a 25-20 lead at halftime that was fueled by a 19-0 run after Colts Neck began the game on a 7-0 run.
Colts Neck will look to make it four wins in a row when they host Wall on Thursday. St. John Vianney will also be back in action on Thursday evening when they will host Neptune.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports.