SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP

WHO: 1-Christian Brothers Academy (16-0) vs. 2-Manasquan (15-2)

WHEN: Saturday, May 12, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Hesse Field on the Great Lawn at Monmouth University

MANASQUAN’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: defeated Lacey, 21-4, in the first round; defeated Freehold Township, 16-2, in the quarterfinals; defeated Southern, 12-0, in the semifinals.

CBA’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: defeated Middletown North, 17-0, in the first round; defeated Shore, 15-2, in the quarterfinals; defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 14-8, in the semifinals.

MANASQUAN’S TOP WINS: 11-10 over Bridgewater-Raritan; 18-8 over Wall; 11-5 and 16-2 over Freehold Township; 12-0 over Southern.

CBA’S TOP WINS: 8-7 over Don Bosco Prep; 14-2 over Middletown South; 10-3 over Freehold Township; 6-4 over Manasquan; 15-2 over Shore; 14-8 over Rumson-Fair Haven.

SCT HISTORY: CBA is second all-time in Shore Conference history with four SCT titles, the last of which came in 2009, and the Colts are a perfect 4-0 in the championship game. Manasquan appeared in the first-ever SCT championship game where it lost to CBA, 15-5, in 2005. The Warriors reached the final in 2016 and last season won the program’s first SCT title.

MANASQUAN’S PLAYERS TO WATCH: Canyon Birch, Jr., attack (98 goals, 40 assists), Jack Fabean, Jr., defenseman (6 goals, 1 assist); James Pendergist, Jr., midfield (14 goals, 2 assists); Mike Page, Jr., LSM (2 goals, 3 assists); Mike LaPoint, Jr., goalie (95 saves, .704 save percentage); Ryan Anderson, Jr., attack (33 goals, 45 assists); Casey Mulligan, Fr., Attack (25 goals, 18 assists); Evan Hilla, Sr., midfield; Reilly Callahan, Jr., midfield; James McElduff, Sr., midfield; Sean Anderson, Sr., F/O-midfield; Casey Campbell, Jr., midfield; James Mele, Sr., midfield; Matt Franzoni, So., midfield.

CBA’S PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chris Downey, Sr., goalie (93 saves, .795 save percentage); Ryan Tierney, Sr., defenseman; Thomas Gray, Jr., defenseman; Mike Carroll, Sr., attack (30 goals, 21 assists); Connor Macrae, Jr., attack (35 goals, 13 assists); Luke Valentino, Sr., midfield (25 goals, 15 assist); Dan Martin, Fr., attack (25 goals, 14 assists); Robbie Hermansen, Sr., attack (16 goals, 18 assists); Kyle Aldridge, Fr., midfield (17 goals, 18 assists); Nick Robertson, Sr., F/O-midfield; Max D’Andrea, Jr., defenseman; Luke Grover, Sr., midfield; Thomas Convery, Sr., midfield; Chris Junquet, Sr., midfield; Kevin Junquet, Sr., midfield; Chris Romano, Jr., attack.

CBA senior goalie Chris Downey. (Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images).

As CBA and Manasquan started to assert themselves early in the season it became evident they were the class of the Shore Conference in 2018. An eventual meeting in the Shore Conference Tournament final was assumed, and after three rounds of SCT play the Colts and Warriors will indeed meet for conference supremacy.

Top-seeded CBA is in the midst of one of the program’s best seasons and enters with a 16-0 record, the No. 1 ranking in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and the No. 5 ranking in the state according to NJ.com.

Led by a dynamic junior class, Manasquan, the defending SCT champion, began the season as the top team in the Shore until CBA won the regular-season battle, 6-4. The Warriors are ranked No. 9 in the state by NJ.com.

Manasquan has an explosive offense led by junior attackman Canyon Birch, who holds the Shore Conference single-season record with 98 goals this season to go along with 40 assists. The Army recruit is dangerous from anywhere on the field and when he gets on a roll can take over a game. Junior attackman Ryan Anderson has had a great debut season as a starter with 33 goals and 45 assists and freshman Casey Mulligan has acquainted himself well up top with 25 goals and 18 assists.

Manasquan junior attackman Canyon Birch. (Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images).

Junior midfielder James Pendergist, a Rutgers recruit, has been slowed by a knee injury but has continued to provide offense, defense and everything else head coach Sean Cunningham asks of him. Senior Evan Hilla is light on lacrosse experience but has emerged as an invaluable asset as a defensive midfielder and as a wing player on face-offs. Casey Campbell, Reilly Callahan, James McElduff, Matt Franzoni and James Mele give the Warriors the ability to roll two solid midfield lines with a variety of options.

Manasquan’s back end is stout, as well, with Richmond recruit Jack Fabean leading the defensemen, Syracuse recruit Mike Page at LSM and Siena recruit Mike LaPoint in goal, plus defensemen Tommy Shaughnessy and Tyler Callahan.

The Warriors’ face-off unit has come alive of late with senior Sean Anderson on the draw and Page, Hilla and Reilly Callahan coming off the wings.

CBA has a dangerous offense as well, and balance is the name of the game for the Colts. Six starters have at least 40 points, including four with 25 or more goals and eight players with 10 or more goals. Senior attackman Mike Carroll, a Bucknell recruit, is the leading point-scorer with 30 goals and 21 assists while junior attackman Connor Macrae leads in goals with 35. CBA isn’t afraid to share the ball and each player has confidence in one another to get the job done in crunch time. That makes the Colts extremely hard to defend.

The Colts have a pair of reliable and consistent defensive midfielders in seniors Luke Grover and Thomas Convery, as well. Senior Nick Robertson is one of the better face-off specialists in the Shore and the play of the face-off unit, in general, helped CBA rally past Rumson in the semifinals.

Defensively, CBA has allowed a scant 2.94 goals per game and recorded four shutouts. Senior goalie Chris Downey has been fantastic with a sparkling .795 save percentage and has risen to the occasion in CBA’s biggest games. Senior defenseman Ryan Tierney captains the back end along with standout junior Thomas Gray and junior Max D’Andrea.

CBA senior attackman Mike Carroll. (Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images).

The regular-season meeting between the two teams was a low-scoring game won by CBA, 6-4. So, what needs to change or stay the same for each team to produce the desired outcome Saturday?

The major storyline from the April 27 game was CBA’s defense holding Birch to only one goal and one assist. Gray was assigned to shadow Birch the entire game and even though Birch got his touches he was never able to find a rhythm. Backing up the defensive effort was an outstanding game in goal by Downey, who made 11 saves.

Obviously, Manasquan wants to find a way to get Birch going, so it will be interesting to see what the Warriors do if CBA once again decides to lock him off. The Colts are daring someone else to beat them, and unless someone else can take the lead offensively if a similar strategy is employed it could be another tough afternoon.

Manasquan’s defense and LaPoint (11 saves) were both very good in the first meeting and the unit is playing great of late. Fabean is one of the top defensemen in New Jersey and Page is a major weapon in the middle of the field and in six-on-six sets who has been getting better and better each game since making his season debut in the first CBA-Manasquan meeting.

Manasquan junior defenseman Jack Fabean. (Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images).

Face-offs are crucial in every game but are certainly magnified in championship games. Robertson, a Class A North all-division selection as a junior, is having another solid year for CBA. Manasquan senior Sean Anderson has played well of late with his two best games of the season coming in the SCT quarterfinals and semifinals. Face-offs are won and lost as a unit, however, so look for plenty of 50-50 battles by the wing players.

Just four of the 13 SCT finals have been determined by two goals or less but this matchup certainly has the feel of a classic waiting to happen. Will Birch get loose? Will both goalies stand on their heads? Will someone else play the hero? There are lots of questions to be answered on Saturday and it’s going to be fun watching it play out.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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