Shore Conference Tournament Championship

Saturday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m.

At the Multipurpose Activities Center, Monmouth University

No. 1 Mater Dei Prep (23-1, 14-0) vs. No. 2 Christian Brothers Academy (21-4, 13-1)

Note: Listen to the game live on 1160/1310 AM or streaming on Shore Sports Network

 

Features

Mater Dei: Seraphs’ resurrection is a feel-good story for many, but not everyone

CBA: Andree looks to add to legacy by ending CBA SCT drought

 

Lineups, Scouting Reports and History

Mater Dei Prep

Starting Lineup

Position No. Player Year Height SSN Scouting Report
PG 2 NyQuan McCombs Sr. 5-10 Gamer. Tough as nails with easy quickness. Above average shooter and passer.
SG 15 Kenny Jones So. 6-1 Long, athletic and smooth. All over the passing lanes. Good shooter.
SG 21 Kyle Elliot Sr. 6-1 Most athletic player on the team. Big-shot maker.
C 31 Elijah Barnes Jr. 6-7 Exceptional athleticism at 6-7. Menacing shot-blocker with 3-pt range.
SF 15 Elijah Mitchell Jr. 6-2 Close to Elliot in athleticism. All-around game. Inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound the best rebounder on the team.

 

Key Bench Players

Position No. Player Year Height SSN Scouting Report
Guard 3 Bryan Harris Sr. 6-2 Great length and leaping ability. Capable 3-pt threat.
Guard 22 Josh Green Sr. 6-3 Physically mature for a HS player. Left-hander, can spot up or slash.
Forward 1 Marvin Pierre Jr. 6-2 Excellent strength and toughness. Football mentality on a team on basketball players.

 

Head Coach: Ben Gamble, first season

Prior SCT Final Appearances: 1 (Runner-up in 1984)

SCT Championships: 0

Road to the Final: Defeated No. 16 Marlboro 60-42, No. 8 Ranney 47-39 and No. 4 Toms River North 62-50

Mater Dei Prep senior Kyle Elliot. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

CBA

Starting Lineup

Position No. Player Year Height SSN Scouting Report
PG 3 John Salcedo Sr. 5-10 Consumate floor general. Gets teammates the ball in ideal spots.
SG 2 Jack Boyan Sr. 6-1 Spot-up shooter with good grasp of offense and roles in it.
SG 22 Sam Houston Sr. 6-2 Much-improved player from Dec. Does everything well.
PF 41 Pat Andree Sr. 6-8 Possibly the best shooter and pure scorer in N.J. Range out to 30 ft.
SF 24 Jack McGuire Sr. 6-7 Best athlete on the team who also has slashing prowess and underrated passing ability. Long reach, streaky shooter.

 

Key Bench Players

Position No. Player Year Height SSN Scouting Report
Guard 25 Nick Mugavero Sr. 6-0 Emerged as third scorer during second half of the season. Good finisher.
Forward 15 Robert Mahala So. 6-4 Developing talent who plays is a year away from taking off, but can compete in this game.

 

Head Coach: Geoff Billet, 10th season

Prior SCT Final Appearances: 24 (Runner-up in 1983, 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2007, 2014, 2015)

SCT Championships: 16 (1984-85, 1987-88, 1990, 1993-1996, 2000-01, 2003, 2005-06, 2009-10)

Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Middletown North 73-40, No. 7 Lakewood 63-42 and No. 3 Manasquan 53-41

CBA senior Pat Andree. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Breakdown

The most pressing question in Shore Conference basketball from the preseason up until Saturday night has remained the same: CBA or Mater Dei? All of the speculation and analysis finally ends at 7 p.m. Saturday at the MAC, but allow me some last-minute speculation and analysis.

While there remains some level of resentment among other Shore coaches for how Mater Dei put its 2015-16 squad together, there is unanimous respect among the community for the quality of their team and the players. The Seraphs have won 20 straight games, which is the third-longest winning streak in the state behind St. Anthony (24-0) and Seton Hall Prep (21 straight), and have basically breezed through a pretty solid schedule. The only teams to come within 10 points or fewer of Mater Dei during this run have been St. Joseph of Montvale and Ranney, and Mater Dei had double-digit fourth-quarter leads in both of those games.

CBA, meanwhile, has also played a challenging schedule and its pre-tournament losses are to three teams – No. 8 Don Bosco, No. 6 St. Augustine and No. 1 St. Anthony – currently ranked among the top eight teams in N.J., according to NJ.com. Outside of the lopsided St. Anthony loss, CBA has either won or been in every game it’s played, with the exception of Thursday’s Middletown North loss in which the Colts starters did not play.

The matchup comes down to Mater Dei’s depth, balance and athleticism vs. Pat Andree and CBA’s overall cohesion as a team loaded with seniors. There is little debate that Andree – the all-time leading scorer in CBA history – is the best player on either roster and even less doubt that CBA will have to have the best player on the floor to win.

A month ago, CBA might have needed to have the two best players on the floor to win this game. Jack McGuire is another potential mismatch for CBA to throw at the Seraphs and the senior as had some noteworthy performances against top teams this season. He has not scored as much lately and CBA has still played well, but an efficient all-around effort from McGuire to go along with a typical Andree game would be a lot for Mater Dei to overcome.

Even though McGuire has not scored 20 points since a Feb. 10 win at Freehold Borough and is averaging just under seven points per game in the SCT, the Colts have still played some of their best basketball during that stretch thanks to the emergence of both Sam Houston and Nick Mugavero. Houston had a big performance in the quarterfinal win over Lakewood with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Mugavero scored 13 points off the bench in Tuesday’s win over Manasquan and is averaging just under 10 points per game off the bench during the tournament. With those two picking up some of the scoring, it has allowed Andree and McGuire to let the game come to them, which both have done a good job of all season anyway.

The way Mater Dei coach Ben Gamble and his players describe what they do to opposing offensive players is that they “get up in their legs.” It’s just another way of saying they work teams hard and wear them down with their conditioning and depth. In CBA, Mater Dei could possibly meet its match in that regard, because the Colts are built for those types of challenges with the way they move without the ball. Another minor issue for Mater Dei is the Seraphs are not quite as deep now as they might have projected at the beginning of the year. There was a point at which Mater Dei was going 11 deep, but that number has been eight in the SCT with the possibility of going to nine if need be.

On the bright side, Mater Dei has more backcourt scoring than CBA and if the Seraphs are shooting the ball well from three-point range, they will be hard to beat. Even without the shooting, Mater Dei has proven time and time again that it can compete with its defense alone and this game will just be a matter of making that defense play up against one of the better offensive teams the Seraphs have played.

Ultimately, this game will come down to a number of factors. Does Mater Dei have an answer for Andree like it has had an answer for most of the other top scorers it has faced? Who wins the match-up between Elijah Barnes and McGuire? Can Houston or Mugavero continue to make an impact against athletic, defensive-minded players like Elijah Mitchell and Kyle Elliot? Can NyQuan McCombs make the same impact defensively if he is matched up on the point guard (Salcedo) of a CBA team that is not as reliant on its point guard for offensive production?

 

Quotable

"CBA is just legendary. All these years, I've always watched CBA and it's a great team. I really don't care who it is, though. I'm just really excited to be in the championship game." – Mater Dei coach Ben Gamble

“I know all those guys. I knew them all before they went to Mater Dei and I know them all now. It’s going to be a great game. They are a hard-working group of kids and so are we. We’re one and two in the Shore Conference, both ranked in the top 10 of state, and we want to prove we’re the best.” CBA senior Pat Andree

 

Prediction

CBA was the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 from opening day all the way until the final day before the SCT cutoff, when Mater Dei finally jumped the Colts. There was a surprising amount of agreement among coaches at the Shore that Mater Dei should be the No. 1 seed and a poll of all 45 Shore coaches not in this game might favor Mater Dei as well. But CBA has proven over the course of the year that it can hang and beat some of the state’s best and over the last two weeks, the Colts have done so with more balance and more defense than at any point this year. If those two factors remain the same, then this game becomes about what Mater Dei can do to slow down Andree. He is a match-up nightmare because players with the size and athleticism to guard him typically are needed around the basket and are too indispensable to throw at Andree and risk foul trouble.

Gamble probably tipped his hand with regard to Andree when he ran five different players at Scottie Lewis of Ranney, noting after the game that he watched how Lakewood defended Andree with just one player (Adiam Palmer) and he looked tired by the second half. Expect to see Mater Dei use its depth by rotating its many long, athletic guards onto CBA’s top scorer and hoping that fresher legs are enough to bother him.

It’s a good plan to counter Andree and potentially a winning formula, but it’s still probably not enough to silence him and it is still contingent upon dominating the other matchups on the court. The formula for Mater Dei has to be that if it concedes that CBA has the two best players on the floor, they will have Nos. 3 through 9. With the way CBA has played, it doesn’t look like the 3-through-9 mismatch that it might did a month ago.

This is a toss-up game, a great matchup and a potential championship game for the record books. I’m not certain about the pick but I’m certain it will be worth the $6 ticket.

The Pick: CBA, 54-52