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Feb 16, 2022

RFH Boys’ Basketball Team ‘Playing Hard and Battling’

By Tim Morris

Don’t look for any excuses from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s boys’ basketball coach Chris Champeau – not that the Bulldogs, off to a 4-1 start, need any. Injuries and a COVID-19 shutdown, which could have had a negative impact on the team, have been among the challenges the 2021-22 Bulldogs have faced and overcome. In fact, Champeau believes the adversity will only make his cagers stronger.

“The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel,” he said of Rumson’s resolve.

Among the challenges for RFH has been the absence of the team’s best all-around player, senior guard Geoff Schroeder, who is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the Bulldogs’ 9-2 football season. Champeau said Schroeder is typically good for 20 points a night.

“Geoff is our heart and soul,” Champeau said, noting that Schroeder’s three-point shooting spreads defenses, opening space for his teammates. However, Rumson has taken the next-player-up attitude in the absence of Schroeder.

“We don’t ever discuss [injuries],” said Champeau. “We live with who we have. I’m proud of the guys we’re rolling with. They’ve really come together.”

In Schroeder’s absence, other Bulldogs have stepped up. One constant has been senior forward Scott Gyimesi. The 6-foot-5 Gyimesi averaged a double-double last year (19 points per game and 12 rebounds per game) and has been doing the same this season, leading the team both categories at 18 ppg and 15 rpg.

“He’s a monster,” Champeau said of his forward.

Seniors Cal Famula and Trent Sloan have been averaging double figures in scoring, making up for the loss of Schroeder’s points, and another senior, Owen Sullivan, has increased duties as the team’s point guard.

“We have been led by our four seniors who have really stepped up and are leaders,” said Chambeau. “I trust them.”

Junior guards Luke Mikolajczyk and Mason Yablonski as well as sophomore Nick Rigby have also seen increased playing time and responsibility. Although Champeau said he is still looking to find the right combinations and chemistry, these three players’ increased time on the court is something that has been good for them and the team in the long run.

“Everyone will be better, having picked up the slack and learned from playing together,” Champeau said.

One big difference for the players this winter is the return of fans, which for Rumson means playing in front of large and vocal crowds at home and on the road.

“It has felt like March,” said Champeau of playing in front of fans. “We have players new to varsity who have been in the dog pound cheering and now they’re on the floor playing. It has been an adjustment.”

Champeau is hardly concerned about what may happen in January as his team looks to build its chemistry. What counts is tournament time.

“Banners are won in February and March,” he pointed out.

Champeau has seen enough of the 2021-22 Bulldogs to know that they are carrying on the program’s tradition for doggedness and have been made stronger by the obstacles they’ve had to overcome.

“I love this team,” he said. “What has stood out about Rumson-Fair Haven [basketball] is toughness and grit. I like that we’re playing hard and battling. Come February and March, we’re going to be a tough out.”

No one doubts that.