MANASQUAN- The season was on the line tonight for the North Plainfield High School boys basketball team. The fifth-seeded Canucks took a long trip down to the shore to match up against a tough fourth-seeded Manasquan High School team in the quarterfinals of the Central Jersey Group 2 tournament. A win would put the team one step closer to a sectional title, while a loss would be the end of the road.

The Canucks (18-7) played a hard-nosed and defensively aggressive game against the Warriors (18-10), and it helped them hold the lead for a time. Eventually though, the size and interior presence of Manasquan became a dominant force in the game, and that combined with an offensively stagnant fourth quarter for the North Plainfield sent the Canucks home with a 67-49 loss.

North Plainfield head coach Reggie Sainte-Rose said that effort-wise, he couldn’t have asked for any more from his players.

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“The ball could have went in but you can’t control that,” the coach said after the game. “The effort was there, everything I asked from them all year they did it. It’s just the shots didn’t fall tonight”.

The game, especially in its later stages, was decided by the play of Manasquan’s inside players. The home team’s standout senior David Jensen scored 20 points in the first half, before ending the game with a double-double with 25 buckets and 12 rebounds. Brian Paturzo also recorded a double-double with 16 rebounds and 12 points.

Even with a size disadvantage, the Canucks kept the game very competitive in the first quarters. North Plainfield bounced back from a 0-7 start, and trailed 15-16 going into the second quarter. Back to back buckets from Tony Godwin gave the Cancuks a 21-18 lead with about five minutes left in the second quarter. Manasquan took back the lead before halftime, but North Plainfield’s defensive intensity kept it close until the mid-point of the third quarter.

Manasquan’s zone defensive strategy and size kept North Plainfield shooting from the outside for much of the game, and to put simply, the shots just stopped falling late in the second half. The Warriors took advantage of that by taking a 49-38 lead into the third quarter, which eventually ballooned to a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter after North Plainfield suffered defensive lapses and committed three technical fouls.

“We rushed it a little bit,” Sainte-Rose said of his team’s shooting. “They went to the zone, and that’s the shots they gave us, and we’re a little bit undersized. Like I said, in a normal game those go in, but not tonight.”

Tony Godwin led the Canucks with 15 points, while Tyler Mixson netted 11,and Ka-Ron Dock finished with four steals and six points.

With the season over, the Canucks will be saying goodbye to many seniors who have been a mainstay on the team for four years. Saint-Rose said he couldn’t be prouder of having coach them, and the rest of this year’s team.

“They played undersized all year and they gave me everything they had,” the coach said. “I couldn’t ask for much better guys to coach. It’s been a pleasure. A lot of them are four year varsity players. It’s a really great group and it’s going to be tough...(without them), but I’m so proud of them.”