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MIDDLETOWN -- Brian Golub has led his Freehold Township boys basketball team into many a battle at Christian Brothers Academy, where the opportunities to win a game have been few and far between for Colts opponents during his 28 seasons as the head coach of the Patriots.

One of those opportunities came last season, but the home team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by erasing an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes to send Freehold Township home with a demoralizing loss.

Thursday night, it was Golub's team that turned what looked like a certain loss into an early season-defining win.

Freehold Township senior Jayden Holmes-Cotter. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Freehold Township senior Jayden Holmes-Cotter. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Freehold Township -- ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- erased a nine-point deficit with under 10 minutes left, a six-point deficit with under a minute to go in regulation and two three-point deficits during the double-overtime session in completing a thrilling, 71-70, road win over No. 9 CBA Thursday.

"We always tell our guys when we come here (CBA), this is an opportunity to measure where we are," Golub said. "I don't care what people say, it's CBA and they have really good basketball players. They're going to be around at the end of February and into March. I don't want to be cliché but that's our staple: we're going to play hard and we're going to play until the final horn and they just kept playing."

Senior Jayden Holmes-Cotter led Freehold Township with 24 points and 18 rebounds, including a game-tying layup as time expired in regulation and the go-ahead putback with 11 seconds left in double-overtime.

Sophomore Nick Cardone added 20 points and found Cotter for the game-tying finish at the regulation buzzer, while Patriots senior Malachi Harris chipped in 12 points and scored the tying layup to beat the buzzer in the first overtime.

"They executed what I asked all night," Golub said. "Malachi and Jayden made plays, Cardone shot it early, James McCarthy played through four fouls and had significant close-outs all night long."

Freehold Township trailed, 45-36, with under two minutes to go in the third quarter and rallied to take a 52-50 lead with 5:30 left. The Patriots again faced a steep challenge when CBA went up, 59-53, with a minute left, but Freehold Township scored the final six points of regulation.

Senior James McCarthy hit two free throws and sophomore Jordan Conover converted a reverse layup off a turnover with 30 seconds left to cut the CBA lead to two. The Colts missed two free throws with 19 seconds left and with time winding down, senior Malachi Harris got the ball to sophomore Nick Cardone, who slipped a pass to Holmes-Cotter underneath the basket. The 6-foot-5 senior went right up with it and scored as the fourth-quarter clock expired, tying the game at 59-59.

"I think, between the five of us, we all have that switch in our head to make that run," Harris said. "They were making threes in the beginning, so we had to limit their open looks. Later on, when it was time to pick up the pressure, we were ready."

CBA again put itself in position to close out the game in overtime with a 63-60 lead with 1:15 left, but Holmes-Cotter found McCarthy for a layup and CBA junior Peter Noble hit one of two free throws with 26 seconds left to give the Patriots another chance.

Holmes-Cotter hit a long three right after the whistle blew for a Freehold Township timeout with 4.6 seconds left, taking away a potential game-winning shot and forcing the Patriots to come up with a winning inbounds play. Golub came through with a sideline-out-of-bounds play call, with Cardone finding Harris on the opposite side of the court, where the senior drove to the rim for the tying layup as the clock ran out.

"They (CBA) called timeout after we came out of the first timeout and I saw they were going to put two guys on Jayden," Golub said. "I switched our side inbounds play because they were cheating off Malachi, so we flare-picked for him and threw it over the top to him. It was going to be for the three, but the whole gym opened up because they chased Jayden to the corner."

"I know they are going to be focused on me, Jayden and Nick, so they can't send help on all three of us," Harris said. "Once I got the ball, I knew either someone was going to be open or I was going to have a one-on-one matchup. The first time, we were able to move the ball to Jayden for a layup and that second time, I was able to beat my man."

Harris delivered another big driving basket to cut CBA's lead to 68-67 in the second overtime and Cardone hit a pair of free throws to give the Patriots a 69-68 lead with 1:26 left. CBA responded with a go-ahead jumper by sophomore Justin Fuerbacher, only for Holmes-Cotter to scored on a putback with 11 seconds left to give the Patriots a 71-70 lead.

On the final possession, CBA got the ball to leading scorer Will Bradley, but McCarthy blocked Bradley's three-point attempt to end the game.

"I rolled the dice on the last play," Golub said. "We went 2-2-1 (press) back to a 2-3 (zone) and the 2-2-1 caused them to lose a little bit of time and they had been using the sideline to break our press all night, so we had a 2-3 set up to counter that and it worked out better than good because (McCarthy) deflected the shot."

Bradley led CBA with 19 points, while Fuerbacher put up 17 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Connor Andree also contributed 15 points off the bench in the loss.

Freehold Township senior Malachi Harris defended by CBA senior Joe White. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Freehold Township senior Malachi Harris defended by CBA senior Joe White. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Thursday marked just the fourth time Freehold Township has won at CBA in Golub's tenure, and three of those wins have come in the last seven seasons. Each of those wins has been a sign of good things to come for Freehold Township, which went on to play in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final in 2016-17 and won the Central Group IV title in 2018-19 before reaching the Group IV championship game at Rutgers.

This year's Patriots team suffered its first and only loss to Jackson Memorial in the WOBM Christmas Classic bracket championship game on Dec. 30 and bounced back with a win over CBA that positions the Patriots as the front-runners to win the outright Class A North championship for the first time since 2016-17.

"It's a great feeling, we know we haven't beaten CBA at their gym many times," Harris said. "It's a great feeling, but it's on to the next one."