After winning WOBM Christmas Classic championships a year ago the Manasquan boys and Manchester girls rate the role of favorites in the 35th edition of the annual holiday basketball tournament which tips off on the weekend of December 22-23 at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena at Toms River North.

The Warriors and Hawks were unanimously chosen by opposing coaches as the top seeds during a meeting Sunday at The Villa/Office Restaurant in Toms River.

BOYS

Manasquan gets the #1 seed in large part due to the return of senior Brad McCabe who was the tournament MVP last year when the Warriors beat Toms River North in the final.  Manasquan will begin defense of its title on Sunday, December 23 against #16 Toms River South (9 pm) in the last of the eight first-round games played that day.

Despite losing their top scorers to graduation the Mariners are seeded second and will meet #15 Manchester on the opening Sunday.  North is big inside with 6’6 football standout Najae Hallenbeck expected to provide scoring and rebounding.

With all their starters back and two of their top reserves Freehold Township collects the #3 seed and an opening round matchup with 14th seeded Brick Memorial.

Rounding out the top four seeds is Central Regional who brings back four starters and some very promising newcomers.  The Golden Eagles will face #13 Donovan Catholic in their first-round matchup.

Other opening round games on Sunday, 12/23:

#5      Marlboro                       vs.     #12    Jackson Memorial

#6      Red Bank Catholic          vs.     #11    Point Boro

#7      Middletown South          vs.     #10    St. Rose

#8      Lacey                            vs.     #9      Toms River East

GIRLS

There was little question that Manchester would be the top seed. The Hawks return reigning MVP Destiny Adams among four starters and add in transfer Leilani Correa, who signed with West Virginia last month.  The Hawks take on #16 Wall on Saturday, December 22 at 9 pm.

After a rare losing season, Middletown South brings back basically everyone on their roster including guard Isla Brennan and lands the #2 seed and a first-round date with 15th seeded Central Regional.

Toms River North lost in the finals last year after winning it all in 2016.  The Mariners return three starters including leading scorer Jenna Paul and are the #3 seeds and will face #14 Brick Memorial in the first round.

Ewing went 26-5 last season and brings back loads of talent so it’s no surprise they received the 4th seed.  Jaycee Lowe and the Blue Devils will go up against 13th ranked Sayreville in the first round.

Other opening round games on Saturday, 12/22:

#5      Red Bank Regional         vs.     #12    Point Boro

#6      Colts Neck                     vs.     #11    Toms River South

#7      Marlboro                       vs.     #10    Neptune

#8      Toms River East            vs.     #9      Donovan Catholic