By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — The Cape-Atlantic League is hereby on notice: Ocean City is coming after ya.
The Red Raiders, not expected to be much of a contender in the league this season after graduating Conner Laverty, took down rival Mainland 58-48 on Wednesday night to move into a tie for first place with the Mustangs in the CAL National Conference — and also picked up their 11th win in 15 games to start the season.
Mainland trailed just 44-43 with 4:33 left after Brandon Savitch nailed a 3-pointer, but the Red Raiders got a three from Luciano Keyes and a big bank shot from the left baseline by Luciano Lubrano to build a 49-45 lead. Another three from Savitch — who finished with five 3-pointers and a team-high 17 points — pulled the Mustangs to within 55-48 in the final minute, but Ocean City sealed the win from the free-throw line in the final 37 seconds.
“There’s nothing like playing Mainland, in any sport. Raider Nation came out and did a great job, whatever Mainland calls their fans, they were great. They were in our ear the whole time. It was just a great environment,” said Ocean City senior forward Andrew Donoghue, who finished with just seven points but made a huge impact on defense and the boards.
Lubrano helped Ocean City build a 32-27 halftime lead by scoring 19 first-half points, but Mainland (11-3, 5-1), which was without star center Osun Osunniyi for much of the first half because of foul trouble, clawed back into the game in the third quarter. John Mairone sank a 3-pointer on the Mustangs’ first possession of the second half, and Sahmir Jones added a runner in the lane to tie the game at 32.
Later in the third, Jones tied the game again, 36-36, on a basket inside, but Ocean City (11-4, 5-1) went on a 6-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter to take a 42-38 lead. The Red Raiders got 14 points from Luciano Keyes to go along with Lubrano’s 25, and sophomore Luke Varallo added 10.
“As a senior, I’m just trying to help out, do a little bit of scoring — a little bit of everything,” Keyes said. “We were focused and fired up. This is a big rivalry and it was a big atmosphere. It’s awesome.”
“The game could have gotten away from us when we were down (38-36). At halftime, I told the guys we had to get the loose balls and the 50-50 balls. In the second half, I thought we did a lot of that. Andrew Donoghue was all over the place. And we made free throws when we had to,” said Ocean City coach John Bruno. “(Keyes) has been coming on, and it’s nice to see that. The guys are just trying to do what’s best for our team to succeed. Nobody is trying to do anymore more than that. We can’t rely on one guy. You know you’re going to get points out of (Lubrano), but Donoghue stepped up. And Varallo has been playing well. When he goes to the line, for a sophomore, that’s two games in a row now he’s been 6-for-7 in crunch time.”
Donoghue said getting Osunniyi in foul trouble helped Ocean City get into a rhythm offensively in the first half.
“That helped us, getting them in foul trouble early. They had to put some different guys on the floor and we took advantage of it. We’ve been in close games all year, so we know how to play, we know how to calm ourselves down and we know how to keep the (opposing) crowd from getting in our head. We composed ourselves. Luc Keyes played great, and, obviously, Luc Lubrano played great and hit some big foul shots for us down the stretch,” Donoghue said. “(Jimmy) Flukey did great against Osun. He played like he was 6-foot-7, too. He got into a little bit of foul trouble early, but came back and played great in the second half.”
Lubrano showed off his impressive offensive repertoire, nailing threes, hitting step-back jumpers and scoring in the lane.
“He’s incredible. He’s carrying us, and the rest of us are just trying to do our part,” Keyes said of Lubrano, who is second in the CAL in scoring average.
“What impressed me the most is we never lost our composure,” Bruno said. “If you looked at our faces, you wouldn’t know if we were up five or down five. You just don’t see their faces change, and I love it. It’s something you can’t teach, you just hope your kids have it.”
Bruno said he loved the atmosphere. It was a packed crowd, and each school’s student section was boisterous throughout the game.
“The bottom line is, that’s a Mainland vs. Ocean City game. It usually has some physicality to it, some great plays. We took (Osun) out (with foul trouble) and made a little bit of a run, but, to their credit, they cut it to five without him out there. Overall, for as long as I’ve been here at Ocean City, that’s as typical an Ocean City-Mainland game as it gets. The ebb and flow back and forth, you take the lead, I’ll take the lead, big plays either way. Little plays that turn into big plays. And that’s what I like about high school basketball. And I’d be saying the same thing if we lost,” Bruno said. “You always see the crowds come out for this kind of game, and that’s great. That’s what high school basketball is all about. This is what gets you ready for the playoffs.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN