Hoopsters gain states

The Howell High School boys basketball team has earned a spot in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state tournament for the first time since 2000. The Rebels have won eight of their last nine games to get to 11-9 and earn the postseason berth.

“That was great after being here for four years,” senior Tom Callahan said of Howell’s playoff spot.

Callahan, who is one of five seniors on the team, said he and his fellow seniors were pleased that the Rebels finally cleared the state playoff hurdle on their watch.

“This is big for us,” he said.

Howell started the season 3-8, but Callahan credited an improved effort with making the difference.

“It was teamwork and practice,” he said. “We stepped it up in practice.”

Coach Brian Quick, whose patience and steady hand brought the team back from the cellar to a postseason bid, said the playoff berth is a reward.

“We’re exhilarated,” he said. “I feel great for the seniors. They have worked hard for four years. It’s great to have something to show for it.”

The seniors celebrated Senior Night on Feb. 6 with a 61-39 win over Middletown North. Callahan scored a career-high 36 points, including six three-point field goals.

“I was feeling it in practice and it carried over,” he said.

In past seasons, Senior Night at Howell signaled that it would soon be time to turn in the uniforms. Not so this year.

“It’s a lot better than last year,” said Callahan. “We don’t know about playoff experience, but it’s going to be fun.”