SOUTH RIVER — Laz Rodriguez scored his 1,000th point Friday night, but by the time he did, South River’s raucous student section was all but celebrated.
The Rams enjoyed a 22-point lead at the time of Rodriguez’s key performance midway through the fourth quarter en route to a 72-50 dismantling of Metuchen.
South River turned the game around by opening the second half with 11 unanswered points to build a nine-point halftime lead to 43-23. Metuchen never recovered.
“It felt like we were a little too aggressive, we didn’t play pressure defense with no fouls in the first half,” suggested South River coach Brandon Walsh. “We wanted to make sure we got clear turnovers when they pushed the ball through the half court. In the beginning, we sometimes had two or three guys. I think once we settled into the game, we had a couple of layoffs and that got us going.”
Jeremy Grospe had 18 points for the Rams, making five of 10 3-pointers, while Rodriguez added 15, a pair behind big, high-low looks from sophomore forward Roman Santos.
“It’s a tribute to all the hard work I’ve put in,” Rodriguez said. “It’s also a team award. It’s a credit to my teammates for being unselfish and just playing our game.”
The Bulldogs used an early 10-0 run to build a 10-3 cushion as South River failed to make a field goal in the first five minutes. But the Rams got the bonus early, scoring 10 of their 16 points in the first quarter from the foul line. Grospe scored the remaining six points with two treys, one of which put the hosts ahead and kept the score at 13-12.
Santos and Isaac Linares each scored four points in the second quarter as South River outscored Metuchen 16-9 to take a 32-23 halftime lead.
“We came out slow in the first half, I think it was all because of the excitement,” Rodriguez said of the frenzied atmosphere in the opener. “In the second half, we picked our heads up and just kept going forward.”
Much of Metuchen’s woes were self-inflicted, as the Bulldogs missed eight of 11 free throws in the first half before committing seven turnovers in the decisive third period.
Ben Santos led Metuchen with 12 points and Marcus Malamug added 10.
“I’m really happy for Laz,” added Walsh. “He’s a great guy and it shows with all the hard work he’s put in, thousands of hours in that gym, thousands of hours with his teammates. We are happy that this milestone has been reached. Now, as far as our team is concerned, we want tomorrow to be better.”
Leaderboards: Points: (M) Santos 12; (SR) J. Grospe 18. Selections: (M) Cohn, Santos 5; (SR) Santos 6. Helps: (M) Kune 4; (SR) A. Grospe 6.