The basketball clanged off the rim and plummeted toward the girls’ basketball court at Red Bank Catholic High School.
Red Bank Regional High School’s Meghan Murray raced over and wrapped the rebound in both arms. The buzzer sounded as the Buccaneers jumped up and down on the hardwood. Their fans cheered wildly from the bleachers.
Red Bank beat Red Bank Catholic, 65-62, in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament on Feb. 14. The 12th-seeded Bucs upset the fifth-seeded Caseys on their home floor. But that wasn’t all.
The Little Silver public school also triumphed over its private school rival for the first time since…no one could even remember.
“I think it’s the first time ever,” said Red Bank sophomore Caitlyn Decker.
“It’s been awhile,” added Murray, a senior.
“I believe it’s 1996,” said Red Bank coach John Truhan, who was sitting in a chair because he needed a break after standing and shouting all game.
The Buccaneers went on to lose to fourth-seeded Manasquan High School, 61-58, in their next game, a Shore Conference quarterfinal on Feb. 16. Their season, though, is not over.
Red Bank is the No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament. It will play as the host to 13th-seeded Brick Township High School in the first round on Feb. 26.
The 16-8 Bucs can definitely make a run in the state sectional tournament. But even if they don’t, their season will be memorable. They accomplished something unprecedented on Feb. 14.
Truhan’s team didn’t just beat Red Bank Catholic, either. It controlled the game from start to finish.
Red Bank built a lead in the first quarter, held a seven point edge at halftime and stretched the advantage to double digits with a 14-2 third quarter run. After that run, the Caseys started pressing, fouling and forcing the Bucs to make free throws.
Truhan’s standout guards, Decker and Murray, were up to the challenge. They sank 17 free throws in the final quarter.
“We screamed at each other, ‘We just got to push through this!'” Decker said.
“I just let muscle memory take over,” Murray said.
Decker and Murray were just finishing what they started. The duo staked Red Bank to its early lead and sparked its second half run. They darted around Red Bank Catholic’s long defenders for three pointers, floaters and layups.
The sophomore (26) and the senior (20) combined for 46 of Red Bank’s 65 points. But most importantly, they protected the ball against a bigger, longer opponent.
“No different than any other game,” Truhan said. “They had no fear and they wanted to take it to them.”
Both players withstood Red Bank Catholic’s pressure with tremendous body control. Decker developed that skill as a center midfielder on Red Bank’s girls’ soccer team. Murray also cultivated her body control in another sport, girls’ lacrosse.
“I know I just have to keep pushing,” Decker said. “It’s the same thing in soccer.”
“It’s good for keeping calm because it’s experience in pressure situations,” Murray said.
Murray and Decker are collegiate prospects in their other sports. Both athletes face bright futures. But after the biggest victory of their basketball careers, they were just appreciating the moment.
“I saw the clock run out and I was thinking, ‘Thank God,'” Decker said. “All the hard work we did to get there.”
“It was our crosstown rival,” Murray said. “We’ve played them in the past and gotten killed.”