Over the years, Class A North has always been in the conversation as the toughest division in the Shore Conference and one of the reasons is that when one team takes a year to reload or rebuild, another fills the void as a challenger to perennial power Christian Brothers Academy and a team that can do damage in the postseason. This will be one of those years that puts the depth of the division to the test, because not only did the top public school teams from a year ago lose top scorers, but every single A North public school team lost its top two scorers from last year.

That’s right: the only team in the division that returns a top scorer is the team that won the division by three games over the next closest team last year. Lehigh recruit Pat Andree and fellow senior Jack McGuire lead CBA into the season against an A North field that is comprised entirely of teams with at least two significant sources of points to replace from last year, which paints a bleak picture for the field of challengers to the Colts’ title. While winning the division is always the first goal for any team – particularly CBA – that goal seems almost a foregone conclusion considering the inexperience throughout the rest of the field.

Regardless of how close any of the public school teams get to CBA, there is still a public division title to decide, while there is still plenty of unfinished business to keep the Colts focused.

Pat Andree will try to lead his CBA squad to a third straight SCT final and a second straight Non-Public A final, with the hope of winning at least one in the final year of his standout four-year career. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

 

In Predicted Order of Finish

Christian Brothers Academy

Head Coach: Geoff Billet, ninth season
2014-15 Record: 24-6 (13-1, first in A North)
Returning: Pat Andree (Sr., 6-8, Forward), Jack McGuire (Sr., 6-7, Forward), John Salcedo (Sr., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: Jack Laffey (6-4, Forward), Shaun Belbey (5-10, Guard), Connor Aldridge (6-1, Forward), Derek Loehner (6-2, Guard), Matt Dean (6-8, Forward; transferred to Marlboro)
Key Newcomers: Sam Houston (Sr., 6-3, Guard), Jack Boyan (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Robert Mahala (So., 6-4), Lucas Waraksa (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Nick Mugavero (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Connor Strickland (So., 5-11, Guard)

The Colts do indeed return far more offensive firepower than anyone else in Class A North, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enter the season with some questions yet to be answered. CBA reached both the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA Non-Public A Finals behind the trio of Pat Andree, Jack Laffey and Jack McGuire, as well as the steady play of point guard Shaun Belbey. The Colts return half of that foursome with Andree and McGuire set to embark on their senior season after combining to average more than 32 points last year, but the rest of roles remain somewhat up in the air. For a CBA team bent on atoning for a 26-point loss to Rumson-Fair Haven in the SCT final and a 36-point loss to Pope John in the Non-Public A championship game, answering those questions over the course of the season will be paramount.

Andree and McGuire will likely account for even more of the CBA scoring this season, with Andree rolling into the his senior year within striking distance of the all-time CBA scoring mark after becoming the youngest Colt to reach the 1,000-point plateau last year. Andree has yet to average 20 points in a season and while that is a magic number he could very easily surpass this season, he will also have to take on more of the ball-handling and defensive responsibility as a senior leader. McGuire, meanwhile, averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in his first season as a varsity regular, a major contribution for a team that needed a quality two-way player to step up after the graduation of three starters from the previous season. The question for the Colts is, ‘Who will replace the missing pieces from a year ago?’ There probably is not a player on the roster ready to make the same impact that McGuire did last season, which will make replacing Laffey’s 18 points per game difficult for even two players.

While Andree and McGuire got the majority of the headlines among the returnees, senior guard John Salcedo is also a returning starter who was reliable on both sides of the ball and showed an ability to hit open threes when his teammates kicked him the ball. Among the newcomers to the rotation, sophomore Robert Mahala appears ready to make a contribution and if CBA was getting him a year later in his development, he might be a strong candidate for a McGuire-like breakout season. Instead, he will look to play solid defense and knock down some open shots when the opportunity comes while trying to grow into a third option as quickly as possible. Fellow newcomers Sam Houston, Jack Boyan, Luke Waraksa and Connor Strickland will attempt to do the same – sliding into defensive assignments and working within the offense to pick up some easy shot opportunities created by the attention Andree and McGuire will draw. A North probably won’t present the Colts with much resistance, but a loaded non-conference schedule that includes St. Anthony, Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic, St. Augustine, East Orange and Iona Prep will certainly prepare the Colts to end a six-year drought without an SCT title.

 

Marlboro

Head Coach: Michael Nausedus, fourth season
2014-15 Record: 14-11 (8-6, fourth in A North)
Returning: P.J. Ringel (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Dan Weiss (Jr., 6-6, Forward), Michael Jastrzebski (Sr., 6-3, Guard), Brian Reilly (Sr., 6-3, Forward/Center), Nick Valenti (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Ryan LaRocca (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Noah Kiczales (Sr., 6-1, Guard)
Key Losses: Matt Ringel (6-5, Center), George Elghoul (5-10, Guard), Kenny LaRocca (6-1, Guard), Steven Johnson (6-0, Guard), Emir Anda (Sr., 6-4, Guard/Forward)
Key Newcomers: Matt Dean (Sr., 6-8, Center; transfer from CBA), Brian Levin (So., 5-9, Guard), Chris Carlone (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Elia Malera (So., 6-2, Guard/Forward), Dylan Kaufmann (Fr., 6-4, Forward/Center)

If Marlboro emerges as the A North team that challenges CBA for the outright Class A North crown, a former CBA prospect will be a big reason why. The Mustangs made a run to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals behind the senior duo of Matt Ringel and George Elghoul, with fellow senior Kenny LaRocca providing some shooting. That’s a lot of senior production to make up and while juniors P.J. Ringel and Dan Weiss will help to replace that senior trio, the key to the season will likely be 6-8 senior center Matt Dean. After beginning the season as CBA’s sixth man, Dean opted to transfer to Marlboro in early February to begin serving his required 30-day stint on the sideline as required by the NJSIAA and enters this season with only about a week to sit before he becomes eligible for Marlboro.

With Dean in the fold, Marlboro has an interior scorer who has a chance to at least resemble what Ringel gave the Mustangs, which amounted to 12.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. With Dean drawing attention from the defense, the floor should open up to give Marlboro’s guards chances to create perimeter offense. Two of the Mustangs guards are juniors P.J. Ringel and Ryan LaRocca, younger brothers of two of the members of the senior trio that graduated. Ringel averaged seven points, three rebounds and two assists as a sophomore and will be a third-year varsity player this upcoming season. Fellow junior Dan Weiss also returns to the lineup and will give the Mustangs some more size in the front court at 6-6.

Seniors Mike Jastrzebski and Brian Reilly will see more time this year and classmates Nick Valenti and Noah Kiczales will provide depth to the rotation after earning letters last year. Fourth-year coach Mike Nausedes will also have some young talent to put to the test with sophomore guards Elia Malera and Brian Levin, as well as 6-4 freshman Dylan Kaufmann. In a division full of teams that lost talent, Marlboro owns an edge by welcoming in an impact transfer like Dean and if the rest of the roster all develops into the new roles, Marlboro is likely to be CBA’s greatest A North threat.

 

Middletown North

Head Coach: Mike Iasparro, ninth season
2014-15 Record: 8-19 (4-10, tied sixth in A North)
Returning: Colin Frawley (Sr., 6-3, Guard), Marc Cerbo (Jr., 5-10, Guard), John Tomassetti (Jr., 5-10, Guard), David Campbell (So., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: Dylan Frawley (6-7, Forward), Troy Thompson (6-2, Guard), Vincent Youncofski (5-9, Guard), Jules Calhoun (Jr., 6-2, Forward; transferred to Neptune)
Key Newcomers: John Swift (Jr., 6-4, Forward), Mitt Pinckney (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Isaiah McDowell (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Tyler Ras (So., 6-3, Forward), Rob Higgins (Fr., 5-11, Guard)

Like Marlboro, the Lions will make up for the fact that they lost their three top scorers from a year ago by welcoming a player that did not play with the team in 2014-15. In Middletown North’s case, it is 6-3 senior guard Colin Frawley, who missed all of last season while recovering from surgery on a torn ACL after averaging seven points per game as a sophomore for the Lions. Frawley’s older brother, Dylan, led the Lions in scoring and was an all-division player as a senior last year and is one of the three top scorers the Lions will have to replace, along with Vincent Youncofski and Jules Calhoun.

Middletown North took a hit to the lineup when Calhoun transferred to Neptune for his junior year, but the Lions still have backcourt talent left over from its young 2014-15 lineup. Juniors Marc Cerbo and John Tomasetti, as well as sophomore David Campbell, all contributed to a balanced backcourt on offense and are primed for a step forward after taking their lumps while simultaneously working to improve. With the return of Frawley, Middletown North will sport a guard-heavy lineup with some slashing and shooting ability.

Guards Matt Pinckney and freshman Rob Higgins are newcomers to the varsity roster and will add depth to the backcourt, while coach Mike Iasparro hopes a few of his newcomers can add a frontcourt element to the roster. Juniors John Swift and Isaiah McDowell will both play forward, as will 6-3 sophomore Tyler Ras. A lack of size and some inexperience in the frontcourt might be an obstacle against CBA and perhaps even Marlboro, but it’s also possible that Middletown North’s guards will present problems for bigger, slower lineups, particularly a CBA team that struggled in some instances against quality guard play. While Marlboro might have the big man to lead the public division pack, Middletown North might have the best chance to create a matchup problem for CBA, especially with Frawley returning to what appears to be a deep collection of guards. In the end, Middletown North showed that even in a down year, they are a lock to win at least one state tournament game and with more experience this year, it’s hard to expect anything less.

Matt Dean (right) defends former Freehold Township guard Tyree Wilson while playing for CBA last year. Dean will suit up for Marlboro in his senior season. (Photo by Larry Murphy, SportsPixNJ)

Freehold Township

Head Coach: Brian Golub, 21st season
2014-15 Record: 21-7 (10-4, second in A North)
Returning: Nick Facendo (Sr., 5-10, Guard), John Carroll (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Jason Czajkowski (5-10, Guard), Kyle Czajkowski (5-10, Guard), Dan Saunders (6-1, Forward), Tyree Wilson (6-2, Guard), Mike Staklinski (6-2, Forward), C.J. Stenftennagel (Forward), Terrence Burdge (6-5, Center), A.J. Hardy (Sr., Forward), Brandon Tajfel (6-1, Forward), Austin Ramos (5-10, Guard)
Key Newcomers: Steve Staklinski (Jr., 6-4, Forward), Jazeem Foster (So., 6-0, Guard), Bobby Wiese (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Tyler Von Nessen (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Ryan Cardone (Jr., 6-2, Guard), Stefan Williams (Sr., 5-6, Guard), Ryan Zyskowski (Jr., 6-4, Forward)

If any team showed last year that a lineup of guards can work if everyone buys into their roles, it was Freehold Township – which rarely played a player over 6-2 and still manage to win 21 games, reach the SCT quarterfinals and play in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final. Unfortunately for coach Brian Golub and his Patriots, most of those guards are gone this year and it’s going to take some time to integrate the new crop of potential starters, many of whom are bigger than the players they are replacing. On a team that has been known to defend the length of the court and play an up-tempo style, that will require adjustments for some players and perhaps some creativity from the coaching staff.

One of the few Patriots over 6-2 to crack the postseason rotation was returning senior John Carroll, a 6-4 forward who came into his own late in the season with multiple double-double performances. Along with third-year starting point guard Nick Facendo, Carroll will help form a quality inside-outside scoring tandem that will make Freehold Township dangerous once the rest of the lineup gets settled. Among the new crop of varsity rotation members, three more in addition to Carroll – junior Steve Staklinski, senior Tyler Von Nessen and junior Ryan Zyskowski – check in above 6-2, but there will also be some backcourt influence as well. Sophomore Jazeem Foster and juniors Bobby Weise and Ryan Cardone will slide into the guard rotation, as will senior Stefan Williams.

Last year, Freehold Township was the lone team to beat CBA during division play and the Patriots did it on their home floor to snap CBA’s 20-game winning streak within Class A North. If they are going to repeat that feat, the Patriots will have to do so right out of the gate, as they host CBA on Friday to open the season in front of what will likely be a loud and crowded gym. That is a tough draw for Freehold Township to open the season, but over the long haul – especially with Facendo back running the point and Carroll returning with some experience under his belt – the Patriots should put it together in time to sneak into the postseason.

 

Freehold Boro

Head Coach: Jesse Ryan, third season
2014-15 Record: 4-16 (2-12, eighth in A North)
Returning: Chris Hannigan (Sr., 6-5, Forward), Jake Curry (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Chris Cassandra (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Ashante Worthy (So., 5-9, Guard), Justice Jubilee (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Markee Gill (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Dan Mastrianni (Jr., 6-1, Forward)
Key Losses: Josh Dixon (5-9, Guard), Dan Gewirtz (6-3, Forward), Ky Watts (5-11, Guard)
Key Newcomers: Rich Hurler (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Jermaine Moore (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Jadakiss Thompson (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Joe Elias (Jr., 6-5, Forward), Kani Anderson (So., 6-2, Guard)

Freehold Boro moved from Class B North to Class A North last season and after an opening-night win over Middletown North, it seemed like the move would lead to prosperity for the Colonials. Instead, it was one of the few highlights of the season for Freehold Boro, which finished 4-16 overall while winning only a pair of divisional games – both against Middletown North. Now, the Colonials will have to make the move up the standings without two top scorers from a year ago – Josh Dixon and Dan Gewirtz.

For the second straight year, Freehold will be relying on a team heavy on football players to compete with the A North field, led by senior Jake Curry, junior Markee Gill and sophomore Ashante Worthy – all of whom played key minutes last year. Curry, an All-Shore performer for the Colonials on the football field, will be a key piece in the backcourt and is a bulldog on both ends. Gill is a candidate to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding thanks to his quickness off the ground, while Worthy brings an element of quickness with the ball in his hands. Senior Chris Hannigan and juniors Chris Cassandra and Justice Jubilee also bring some skill back to the team, with the 6-5 Hannigan providing versatility in the frontcourt and six-footers Cassandra and Jubilee offering some shooting and athleticism.

If third-year coach Jesse Ryan wants to dig into his bench, junior forwards Dan Mastrianni, Jadakiss Thompson and 6-5 Joe Elias are all ready to see increased varsity roles. Junior Rich Hurler and sophomore Kani Anderson are also ready to help out in the backcourt for a Freehold team that should have a chance to compete on athleticism alone. In order to have a breakout year, thought, the Colonials will need to find some scoring, which will likely come in the form of a balanced offense in which a lot of different players become threats. Gill, Curry, Hannigan, Cassandra and Jubilee have all flashed enough scoring ability for Ryan to hold out hope that the breakthrough moment is coming this season, especially in a Class A North division that is relatively up for grabs among the public schools.

 

Manalapan

Head Coach: Rick Garretson, 22nd season
2014-15 Record: 14-8 (9-5, third in A North)
Returning: Anthony Schimbeno (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Scott Scherer (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Kyle Mullen (6-5, Forward), Gerard Hodge-Rocourt (6-0, Guard), Zach Misischia (6-3, Forward), Mike Venezia (6-0, Guard), Brian Conforth (6-2, Guard)
Key Newcomers: Justin Seeman (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Tim Broderick (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Nick Carrolli (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Rocky Garretson (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Cody Wiener (Jr., 5-10, Guard), John Lugo (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Sean Kinniburgh (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Kyle Trinidad (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Brian Broderick (So., 6-4, Forward), Zack Crockett (So., 6-3, Guard), Tyrel Horne (So., 6-3, Forward), Justin Lynch (So., 6-3, Guard), Naim Mayfield (So., 5-9, Guard), Matan Zucker (So., 6-3, Forward)

All the buzz around Manalapan to start last season was around Division-I-level combo guard NyRhique Smith joining the team in mid-January to make the Braves a contender in A North and the Shore Conference Tournament. As it turned out, Smith never became eligible to play, but it did not deter the Braves from winning the Husky Holiday Classic at Matawan in December, competing for the A North public division title to the last game and going into the Shore Conference Tournament as a No. 7 seed. The Braves established a steadfast defensive identity and blended an ability to stretch the floor on offense, making them a difficult matchup for opposing teams.

That team-first, defense-first mentality will be critical again this season considering Manalapan will have to replace its five top scorers from a year ago, which included an athletic defensive stopper in Gerard Hodge-Rocourt and bruising forward Kyle Mullen. Throw in a skilled, versatile wing in Zach Misischia and a knock-down shooter in Mike Venezia and Manalapan is losing a number of dimensions with the departure of last year’s lineup. The Braves do, however, return senior guard Anthony Schimbeno – another adept shooter – and 6-4 forward and four-year letter-winner Scott Scherer.

Manalapan also has a host of letter-winners from a year ago that will likely see more time, including seniors Justin Seeman, Tim Broderick and Nick Carrolli, as well as junior guards Rocky Garretson, Cody Wiener, John Lugo and Sean Kinniburgh. The Braves will also have plenty of sophomore help to begin laying a new foundation, with guards Zach Crockett, Justin Lynch and Naim Mayfield and forwards Brian Broderick, Tyrel Horne and Matan Zucker all getting varsity looks. The Braves will likely need the youth to make an impact right away, but as is the theme in this division, if things break right just a little bit, it can open the door for Manalapan to contend for the public title once again.

 

Howell

Head Coach: Patrick Ramsay, third season
2014-15 Record: 12-13 (6-8, fifth in A North)
Returning: Matt Morton (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Alex Morton (So., 5-11, Guard), Steve Palumbo (Sr., 5-11, Forward)
Key Losses: Aaron Trimble (6-3, Guard), Will Kocsis (6-4, Forward), Gino Palummo (6-0, Guard), Zack Rovner (5-9, Guard), Greg McManus (6-4, Forward)
Key Newcomers: Connor McCleod (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Bobby Cavallero (Jr., 6-0, Forward), Dan Cacciatore (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Tyler Hoops (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Kyle Ferraro (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Jordan Jones (Jr., 5-8, Guard), Alex Bahjor (So., 5-8, Guard), Ryan Mazik (So., 6-3, Forward), Eddie Morales (So., 5-9, Guard), Brandon Wilson (So., 6-2, Forward), A.J. Yagel (So., 6-1, Forward)

Howell’s senior-laden team from 2014-15 was an example of how difficult life in Class A North can be, even for a team with some talent and experience. The Rebels had scoring in the paint, from the three-point line and an athletic wing in Aaron Trimble who could get to the rim, but the end result was a 12-13 season. Most of the scoring and rebounding from that team is gone and Howell will now have to turn to last year’s lower levels to build around three returning players who each had a helping of varsity experience.

Senior Matt Morton returns after serving as a point guard and shooter for the Rebels and the emphasis will be more as the point guard this season as Howell tries to work in some new pieces. Sophomore Alex Morton came off the bench as a freshman and Steve Palumbo earned some minutes here and there as a junior. Coach Patrick Ramsay will look to a host of players from last year’s 19-5 junior varsity team to help fill some of the scoring void, which is likely to be accounted for through a more balanced distribution on offense. Senior Connor McCleod, juniors Dan Cacciatore, Tyler Hoops, Bobby Cavallero, and Jordan Jones, and sophomores Brandon Wilson, Eddie Morales, and Alex Bahjor are all in the mix for playing time and all have the potential to contribute to a quality team.

One x-factor for Howell will be senior transfer Nasiem Brantley, who attended middle school in Howell and is due to move back into town within the next several days. Ramsay said he sees Brantley as an impact player whenever he becomes eligible to play, although his transfer is still not official. With little separating most of the teams in A North, an impact player could be enough to keep Howell competitive, even as the Rebels essentially hand the keys to the program too last year’s jayvee squad and hope for a rapid acclimation to the varsity game.

 

Middletown South

Head Coach: Nick Georgiou, first season
2014-15 Record: 8-19 (4-10, tied sixth in A North)
Returning: Luke Benigno (Sr., 6-1, Center), Andrew Roesch (Sr., 6-0, Forward), Tom Gannon (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Tom Marron (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Kyle Drumm (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Brian Higgins (Jr., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: Dan Roibal (6-2, Guard/Forward), Kevin Naughton (6-1, Guard), J.J. Larkins (6-0, Forward), Nick Wiley (5-7, Guard), Kevin Higgins (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Alex Mrusek (Sr., 6-6, Center; transferred to Point Beach)
Key Newcomers: Nick Unrath (So., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Ryan Purcell (So., 6-2, Guard/Forward), Jack Anderson (So., 6-2, Forward), Scott Kirschner (Jr., 6-3, Forward/Center), John Zega (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Joe Rutkowski (Sr., 6-4, Center), Matt Mosquera (Sr., 5-10, Guard/Forward)

Once then-senior Dan Roibal made his way back into the lineup after missing several games to open the season, the Eagles put together a solid team that suffered some tough losses in a fairly deep Class A North field. Building on that, however, will be a challenge, as new coach Nick Georgiou takes over the program in place of Kevin Cullen, who led Middletown South to a sectional championship and an appearance in the Shore Conference Tournament final during his tenure.

In addition to a new head coach, Middletown South lost its top four scorers from a year ago, only two of which were seniors. On top of Roibal, guard Kevin Naughton and his eight points and five rebounds also graduated, but the Eagles also lost 6-6 senior center Alex Mrusek (8.9 points, 7.9 rebounds) to Point Beach and junior guard Kevin Higgins (7.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, two assists) is not playing coming off of football season. The open spots in the lineup mean senior returnees Luke Benigno, Tom Gannon and Andrew Roesch and Tom Marron will be forced into bigger roles, while junior Brian Higgins and sophomore Nick Unrath will both have a chance to earn more time in the backcourt.

While Middletown South loses a good deal of talent, Georgiou is hoping a returning cavalry of players will help. Senior John Zega – a Monmouth University baseball recruit – returns to the program after a hiatus last year and 6-4 senior center Joe Rutkowski is looking to rebound from a shoulder injury that cost him his junior season. Senior Matt Mosquera – the quarterback and kicker for the undefeated Eagles football team that finished No. 1 in the Shore Conference and is in the running for No. 1 in the state – will also play basketball this year, so two of the more successful boys programs at the school are lending out their athletes to help Middletown South basketball get back into contention. The Eagles have a long way to climb, but during a preseason of uncertainty for a lot of A North teams, it might not take much to spark a resurgence.

 

Players to Watch

Pat Andree, CBA – Not only is Andree arguably the best all-around player in the Shore Conference, but the Lehigh recruit also has a legitimate chance to become CBA’s all-time leading scorer with one more big season.

Jack McGuire, CBA – A breakout junior season was a key to CBA’s success last year and the Colts will need McGuire to be even better as a senior as they attempt to finish off SCT and Non-Public A titles.

Matt Dean, Marlboro – Once part of the plans for this year’s CBA team, Dean left for Marlboro in the middle of last season and will be eligible to bring his 6-8 frame and double-double potential to the Mustangs after about a week-long wait.

Nick Facendo, Freehold Twp. – The Patriots were a team of two-guards last year, but Facendo often did not get enough recognition for operating as the true point guard of the bunch. With an inexperienced group returning, he is the unquestioned leader.

Colin Frawley, Middletown North – After missing last year due to a serious knee injury, Frawley brings good size and shooting ability to Middletown North’s already-deep stable of guards.

P.J. Ringel, Marlboro – After handling more of the dirty work on the perimeter last year, Ringel will be called upon to do more of the scoring and ball-handling this year and has the varsity experience to handle the call.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

John Carroll, Freehold Twp. – While he did not get a whole lot of time over the course of the year, Carroll forced his way into big games with his energy on the glass and the defensive end. He should be a factor scoring, rebounding and blocking shots for the Patriots.

Marc Cerbo, Middletown North – With Cerbo, classmate John Tomasetti and sophomore David Campbell, the Lions have a young backcourt trio of similar players who have already shown they can all do a little bit of everything.

Markee Gill, Freehold Boro – The Colonials will most likely feature a pretty balanced attack, but Gill’s athleticism will be an important weapon on both ends of the floor and should also get him some easy baskets on putbacks.

 

Burning Questions

With graduations throughout the public division, will CBA run the A North table?

The expectation seems to be that CBA will indeed roll through Class A North without a hitch, but it only takes one slip-up to ruin that chase. On the other hand, it did take a red-hot start and a great shooting night for Freehold Township to edge CBA at home last year and while the Colts had some other tough games on the A South slate over the course of the schedule, that one standout performance was the only one good enough to beat the Colts.

While CBA would love to navigate through the A North season unbeaten, the performance within the division is a very minor part of the CBA story this season. Winning A North has not been a problem for the Colts and regardless of whether or not they go unbeaten during divisional play is essentially irrelevant to the seniors. They have not experienced a Shore Conference Tournament championship and after turning in one of the worst offensive outputs in the history of the conference championship game last year and later getting blown out by a loaded Pope John squad in the NJSIAA Non-Public A final, the main focus for CBA – as displayed by a grueling non-conference schedule – is to prepare to compete with the best teams in the state.

 

Can Marlboro and Freehold Township get past some key losses and build on sectional deep playoff runs?

The biggest difference between Marlboro and Freehold Township is that the Mustangs will get some help in the form of a transfer, while Freehold Township’s rebuild will be more in-house. Matt Dean’s transfer out of CBA and to Marlboro will help the Mustangs overcome the loss of center Matt Ringel and possibly put together a season close to the one they had last year, when they reached the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals before losing at home to eventual champion Hillsborough.

Freehold Township also lost to Hillsborough in a heartbreaking sectional final on the Patriots’ home floor and in order to get back, they will need an inexperienced group to come in and complement returning varsity players Nick Facendo and John Carroll. They will have some size that should help the process along, but making that same run will be difficult. While it’s hard to say the Patriots have less of a chance than Marlboro to get back to a sectional semifinal, they will have a few more questions to answer first.

 

Despite coming off an eight-win season and the loss of a standout player, is Middletown North due for a bounceback season?

The Lions have had success in both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments under Mike Iasparro over the last five years, and the Lions’ most recent run was likely their most improbable. After entering the NJSIAA Tournament 6-18, Middletown North won two games in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs and before falling at Hamilton West in the sectional semifinals. That was the fifth straight season that the Lions won at least one state tournament game and the fourth time in five years that they reached at least the sectional semifinal round.

So even in what was otherwise a forgettable year, Middletown North ended the season on a relatively high note heading into 2015-16. While the Lions did lose their top three scorers – including all-division performer Dylan Frawley – a young backcourt of Tomasetti, Cerbo and Campbell was a big part of the equation and the addition of Colin Frawley to that trio could very well set Middletown North up for another successful state tournament showing, only this time preceded by a competitive regular season.