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Senior-led CB East survives Upper Dublin as stellar start continues

01/04/2024, 1:30am EST
By Mike Livingston & Owen McCue

By Mike Livingston (@liv_twts22) & Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

FORT WASHINGTON — Most of the seniors on the Central Bucks East boys basketball team have been together since the eighth grade, doing the same thing year in and year out; finding ways to win. 

During Wednesday night’s nail biter 61-60 win over the Flying Cardinals of Upper Dublin, the Patriots did it once again. 

Senior guard Jake Cummiskey led the way with 17 points for the Pats while Justin DiRoberto followed close behind with 12 of his own. Cummiskey’s free throw iced the game with only five seconds to go, fending off the pending Upper Dublin comeback.

CB East senior Jake Cummiskey hit the game winning free throw Wednesday against Upper Dublin. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL File)

Despite having to replace a couple key pieces from last season’s 24-win team, the Patriots are out to an 11-1 start 12 games into their 2023-24 campaign.

“I think we just replaced our seniors really well,” DiRoberto said. “We’ve got five seniors that are just playing great together. We’re brothers. We’re just playing great together, and I think that’s what we brought from last year’s team, that brotherhood that we all have.”

Leading by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, it looked as though the Pats would have yet another easy road victory – as they had nearly every time out entering Wednesday, going 10-1 through their first eleven games while holding a +71 point differential. 

However, Upper Dublin’s Ryan Mulroy (20) and Idris Rines (13)  led a comeback charge to tie the game with a little more than three minutes left and all of a sudden the Patriots were in a ball game. CB East went back up by four before Cardinals’ sophomore Kobe Bazemore converted an and-one and drilled a three to tie the game 60-60 with 40 seconds left.

In response, CB East coach Erik Henrysen handed the ball to Cummiskey, his four-year starter who has made clutch buckets since his freshman year. Cummiskey drove left and got to the line with 5.6 seconds to play, splitting a pair of free throws to give the Patriots a lead. With Mulroy fouled out, Bazemore drove Upper Dublin (9-2)  down the court in the final seconds and set up Brady Fogle for a decent look at the game-winner that didn’t go.  

“I mean any game where it is a last shot at CB East the ball has probably been in my hands,” Cummiskey said. “But I love being in that position because all I do is play basketball, so I work hard to be in that position.”

Justin DiRoberto is one of the senior leading the charge for an 11-1 CB East squad. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL File)

Last season was another successful one for Henrysen’s club, as his Patriots went 24-6, claimed a third straight SOL Colonial Division title and racked in a few playoff runs in the SOL, district and state brackets. 

The 2022-23 squad started the season 9-0 before taking its first loss during a holiday tournament in Arizona. They started out 14-1, not suffering a loss to a District 1 team until Jan. 17. This year’s squad is on a similar pace, reeling off 10 straight wins to start the season before a loss to Charles Herbert Flowers (Md.) on Dec. 27. 

Cummiskey, DiRoberto, and Tyler Dandrea (10 points) are the headliners back from last year’s group, while several other seniors are filling the holes left by last year’s departures, notably Kyle Berndt and Joey Giordano.

Senior Nolan Behm had nine points off the bench Wednesday, sparking the Patriots with seven in the first half. Classmates Dhruv Mukund, Miles Demby and Bryce Lolas have all had their moments as well.

“This team is really unique from the past teams because last year we had Joey (Giordano) and Kyle (Berndt) who were huge leaders for us,” Cummiskey said. “They really ran the show for us. They’re gone now, so we’ve had guys who need to step up and I feel like they’ve done real well.”

Cummiskey, Dandrea, Mukund, Lolas, Behm and Ryan McDonald were all on the Holicong Middle School team together back in 2020. They reached the middle school championship game, but didn’t have a chance to claim a title due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cummiskey was on a District 1-6A semifinal team as a freshman in 2021. Last season, the Patriots played in the Suburban One League Tournament championship before falling in the District 1-6A quarters and the first round of the PIAA tournament.

The goal is to play deep into March in 2024, and maybe claim an elusive championship or two along the way.

“We want to make a state run,” DiRoberto said. “I thought we got a little bit hosed last year, so we’re coming back. We’re coming hungry. We’re trying to get that state run.”

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