Basketball – WOBM Christmas Classic Field
The 33rd Annual WOBM Christmas Classic will tip off this coming weekend, beginning with the girls on Saturday and the boys on Sunday. The annual Tip-off Brunch in Toms River Wednesday brought together all 32 teams in the tournament with a handful of speakers that included Rutgers Wrestling head coach and former Jackson Memorial coach Scott Goodale, but by Saturday afternoon, the tournament will be all about the players. Here is quick breakdown of the two tournaments.
Mariners headline boys field
Toms River North finished second in last year’s Christmas Classic and enters this year’s tournament the No. 1 seed. The Mariners return their top two scorers from last year – Jaden Rhoden and Mike Nyisztor – as well as point guard Darrion Carrington, who just announced his verbal commitment to play football at Yale on Monday night. Carrington injured his knee in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V football championship game on Dec. 3, but will be ready for the WOBM opener against No. 16 Middletown South on Sunday, according to coach Rory Caswell.
Manasquan is the defending champion and the No. 2 seed in the tournament despite losing four starters, including three members of last year’s all-tournament first and second teams. The lone returning starter is 6-foot-4 senior guard Devin Jensen, who has opened eyes during the preseason and over the summer as the Warriors’ go-to player on offense. The Warriors will take on a young No. 15 Lacey team in the first round.
Shore Conference Class A North divisional rivals Freehold Township and Marlboro come in at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Freehold Township reached the tournament semifinals last year and returns three starters from that team – seniors Steve Staklinski, Bobby Weise and Ryan Zyskowski. Weise but on a show in a WOBM quarterfinal win over Manchester last year, when he drilled eight three-pointers in the first half and finished with nine total in a 30-point performance. No. 14 Brick Memorial awaits Freehold Township in round one.
Marlboro will be without senior guard P.J. Ringel, the team’s leading scorer from last year, due to a broken bone in his left hand suffered during a scrimmage at Mater Dei Prep on Dec. 6. The Mustangs remain a dangerous team even without Ringel because of a senior-heavy roster led by 6-7 forward Daniel Weiss.
A new-look team from Donovan Catholic – the No. 13 seed that returns just one starter from last year’s WOBM semifinalist squad – will challenge Marlboro in the first round of the tournament.
The Mustangs could meet No. 5 St. Rose if both teams advance to the quarterfinals. The Purple Roses return three senior starters – Brendan Hueth, Nick Paterno and Billy Frost - and a trio of juniors who all contributed in the scoring department off the bench as sophomores. A senior-laden and No. 12 seed Toms River South will try to knock off St. Rose in Sunday’s first round.
Wall is the No. 6 seed and will look to overcome the challenge of catching a team full of football players up to speed after the football team played all the way until Dec. 3. Seniors Mike Andrejco, Gene Scott, R.J. Janeczek and Darryin Valme are just a few of the key Crimson Knights transitioning from the gridiron to the hardwood and hope to iron out the wrinkles in time to make a deep WOBM run.
No. 11 Toms River East stands between Wall and a trip to the quarterfinals. The Raiders might have been a top-five seed if healthy, but senior guard and Shore Sports Network All-Shore Third-Teamer Phil Lingat suffered a torn ACL in June and is likely to miss the season.
Manchester won the tournament in 2013 and checks in as the No. 7 seed after losing three key starters to graduation. The Hawks do, however, still have senior L.J. Robinson, a 6-6 swingman who finished second on the team with 16 points per game as a junior last year. Manchester will take on No. 10 Red Bank Catholic, led by first-year head coach Tyler Schmelz, in the first round.
No. 8 Jackson Memorial and No. 9 Point Boro will square off in the first round as teams looking to jump back into division title contention this year, beginning with a WOBM statement. Jackson Memorial finished last season strong and has a roster loaded with size, starting with 6-6 forward Andrew Trent. Point Boro is still waiting on senior guard John Venturi to fully heal from a torn ACL he suffered last year, but senior Jack Waddleton and juniors John Duda and Connor Strickland will help lead the way for the Panthers in the meantime.
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Scarlet Fliers plant flag as No. 1 girls team
In its first year in the WOBM Christmas Classic, the Neptune girls basketball team is the No. 1 seed in a girls field that is much different that it has been in recent years. Manasquan won the past three WOBM Classic titles and four out of the last five, but is not in the field this year. Rumson-Fair Haven won three straight championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010, which capped a run of six WOBM titles in eight years, but is also not in the field this year.
Neptune, meanwhile, has its own recent history of program success which the Scarlet Fliers bring to the WOBM Tournament. The Fliers reached the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals in each of the past three seasons and reached back-to-back Tournament of Champions finals in 2010 and 2011, winning the tournament in 2010. They will be led by senior Desiree Allen, who reached the 1,000-point mark for her career during last year’s Shore Conference Tournament.
The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds are non-Shore teams, including one newcomer to the tournament. No. 2 Sayreville reached the semifinals of last year’s tournament and returns with a group led by seniors Isa Enahoro and Patrice Harding. Ewing is the No. 3 seed and a newcomer to the tournament. The Blue Devils return Maya Grimes, who averaged 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last year.
No. 14 Wall will try to knock off Ewing on Saturday, while No. 15 Central is tasked with taking on Sayreville in the opening round of the tournament.
Manchester climbs to the No. 4 seed despite losing some scoring from last year’s 18-8 team. A’Liah Moore, Dakota Adams and Dejah Adams do, however, return as starters for the Hawks, who will oppose No. 13 Freehold Township in the first round on Saturday.
No. 5 seed Point Boro was the last team to win the tournament before Manasquan’s run of three straight titles, which the Panthers did back in 2012. The Panthers return top scorers Megan Hughes (17.7 points per game in 2015-16) and Ally Lassen (14.6 points and 11.2 rebounds) and will face No. 12 Toms River South in Saturday’s opening round.
No. 6 Donovan Catholic will take on No. 11 Toms River East Saturday in an all-Toms River matchup in the first round. Melissa Buxton, Molly Collins and Alyssa Hirschy each averaged 13 points per game last year to lead the Griffins’ balanced offense.
Class A South rivals Toms River North and Brick Memorial square off in the 7-vs.-10 game in the first round. The host Mariners are the No. 7 seed and return senior Ashley Tutzauer and sophomore Jenna Paul after both averaged better than 13 points last year.
No. 9 Red Bank is the fourth and final newcomer to the WOBM field and will take on No. 8 Colts Neck in the opening round.
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