Boys Basketball – 2017-18 Preview: Class B South
For most of the last decade, the discussion about Class B South in boys basketball begins with Lakewood, which has not only won seven consecutive outright division championships – nine straight including B South public division titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The only break B South got from Lakewood was when the Piners were part of Class C Central for two years during the run, but when Lakewood has been in the division, the road to the title goes through the Piner Palace.
That invincibility has worn off of Lakewood over the last two years, with Manchester ending Lakewood’s 43-game divisional winning streak in 2015-16 and Point Boro coming within a game of winning the division a year ago. This year, the three teams that challenged Lakewood over the course of the season all bring back a significant amount of production while the Piners have to replace a top-10 scorer in the Shore, as well as the team’s second-best starter. It has become hard to even envision another team winning B South, but if there is a year for it to happen, it is probably this one.
In predicted order of finish
Point Pleasant Boro
Head Coach: Kevin Hynes, 23rd season
2016-17 Record: 16-8 (11-3, second in B South)
Key Returnees: John Duda (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Connor Strickland (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Connor Costigan (Sr., 6-2, Forward), John Chipak (Sr., 6-0, Forward), Ryan Henn (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Caleb Kasper (Sr., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: John Venturi (5-11, Guard), Jack Waddleton (6-5, Center), Pat Feehan (5-10, Guard), Alex Lembo (6-4, Center),
Key Newcomers: Sam Young (So., 6-5, Center), Cole Young (So., 6-4, Forward), Brian Hawthorne (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Alex Drucquer (So., 5-10, Guard), Nick Tuzzolino (Fr., 5-9, Guard), Matt Marinelli (Sr., 6-2, Forward)
Of the four teams that appear positioned to win the B South title, Point Boro looks on paper to be the most likely one to finish the job, albeit by a slim margin over the other candidates. That would be a big deal, because it would mean ending Lakewood’s run of seven consecutive outright division titles and quite possibly the nine straight division titles in one form or another. Point Boro is not without its questions, having lost three players who started last year to graduation, including 6-5 center Jack Waddleton and four-year starter and leader John Venturi. The silver lining to those losses is the Panthers have some size to make up for Waddleton’s departure and Venturi played last year while still working back from a torn ACL he suffered during his junior season, which limited his impact.
Point Boro brings back mostly forwards to this year’s team, headlined by 6-4 senior John Duda and leading returning scorer Connor Costigan. Costigan and fellow senior John Chipak can also work in at guard in the right lineup, which will help get sophomores Sam Young and Cole Young as well as senior Ryan Henn into the lineup in the front court. While the back court does not return as much experience, senior guard Connor Strickland is back after an all-division campaign in his first year at Point Boro.
The Point Boro guards outside of Strickland and fellow senior Caleb Kasper will be young. Junior Brian Hawthorne, sophomore Alex Drucquer and freshman Nick Tuzzolino could also help out Strickland in the backcourt. With those pieces in place, Point Boro has a chance to improve on last year’s team, which finally beat Lakewood and finished just one game behind the Piners. There will be plenty of competition to win an up-for-grabs B South, but Point Boro has the players and the pedigree to get it done this year.
Head Coach: Randy Holmes, 12th season
2016-17 Record: 16-11 (12-2, first in B South)
Key Returnees: Zyheir Jones (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Jyheir Jones (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Kevin Dent (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Khari Jenkins (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Ryan Savoy (So., 6-3, Forward), Omari Barksdale (So., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: Adi Palmer (6-4, Guard/Forward), Dorian Vaughn (6-3, Guard/Forward), Cameron Mader (5-8, Guard), Ahmir Burton (6-6, Forward)
Key Newcomers: Drayton Bonaparte (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Julian Zingler (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Zyemere Calhoun (Jr., 6-3, Forward)
Regardless of what Lakewood has back or lost from the previous year, the Piners are always a contender in B South and a candidate to be top 10 in the Shore Conference. The players will appreciate just having the opportunity to defend their title run after the district needed the township to fund the athletic department in light of budget issues. With that squared away for now, the road to a top 10 spot in the Shore Conference and an eighth consecutive outright division title will be a little more treacherous this season with three B South teams seemingly loaded for big seasons while Lakewood tries to find a way to replace its two top scorers from a year ago. Adi Palmer is the toughest void to fill after he scored 18 points per game during an All-Shore season for the Piners, but Lakewood has some candidates to step up, just as Palmer did last year.
The Jones twins, Jyheir and Zyheir, will be at the heart of what Lakewood does this year, which is defend and run. Both Jones brothers can handle the ball, hound the ball and get on hot streaks shooting the ball as well. Senior Kevin Dent is the top shooter returning for the Piners after having some strong scoring outings a year ago – his first at Lakewood after moving from Delaware. Senior Khari Jenkins also played heavy minutes for Lakewood and will run the point at times to give the Jones twins a chance to work off the ball. Those four guards saw the most time last year and will make Lakewood a guard-oriented team that will try to press and run the court.
The Piners do have three 6-3 players, led by sophomore Ryan Savoy. As a freshman, Savoy showed glimpses of a standout career for the tradition-rich Piners and will take a step in that direction this year. Classmate and 5-10 guard Omari Barksdale has the same opportunity as part of Lakewood’s crowded back court. Senior Julian Zingler and junior Zymere Calhoun – both 6-3 – round out the front court and senior guard Drayton Bonaparte returns the program this year after sitting out last season to give the Piners yet another athletic guard with a football pedigree. Lakewood is not exactly down, but the Piners have come back to the pack a little bit over the last couple of years. While that could mean the end of the streak, this group does not want to be the one to see it end on its watch.
Head Coach: Mike Puorro, fourth season
2016-17 Record: 18-11 (8-6, fourth in B South)
Key Returnees: Mike Revello (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Carson Francisco (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Sean Morris (Jr., 6-4, Forward), Alex Grogan (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Parth Patel (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Brian Finucan (Jr., 6-2, Forward)
Key Losses: David Orozco (Guard)
Key Newcomers: Tommy Kray (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Dave Ciani (Jr., 5-8, Guard), Brendan Revello (So., 5-10, Guard), Nick Revello (So., 5-10, Guard), Devyn DeFilipo (So., 6-2, Forward), Matt White (So., 5-6, Guard), Laurence Davis (Fr., 5-10, Guard)
Not only did the Bengals have their best season ever in 2016-17, but they had their best season ever without starting a senior. Coach Mike Puorro has been building toward this season since he took over four years ago and now that his team has three senior starters, a strong group of newcomers and the taste of winning left over from a year ago, the Bengals should be primed to be even better this year. In order to get to the top of the division, Barnegat will have to find a way to beat Lakewood and Point Boro and avoid slip-ups like the ones it had against Pinelands and Manchester last year.
With experience should come consistency and Barnegat has plenty of experience, led by senior guard Mike Revello. A four-year starter, Revello is only 52 points away from 1,000 at the start of his senior year and once he reaches the milestone, he will be the first player in program history to do so. Classmate Carson Francisco joins Revello in the back court and the two will look to be even more productive than last year, when they combined to average 29.6 points and 7.2 assists. Alex Grogan is the other senior in the starting lineup and he will provide both shooting and rebounding for the Bengals as a versatile player who can swing from guard to forward.
Barnegat’s starting front court will be the returning junior duo of Sean Morris and Parth Patel. Morris is a standout two-sport athlete who also thrives on the football field and will be a handful inside for Barnegat’s opponents. Junior Brian Finucan also returns and will come off the bench as a forward, while the rest of Barnegat’s depth will come from a bench heavy on sophomore talent. Nick and Brendan Revello join the varsity program this year, while sophomore classmates Matt White and Devyn DeFilipo are also in the mix for time. Freshman Laurence Davis is also getting a varsity shot for a Barnegat team that is looking to make the jump from upstart to contender in 2018.
Head Coach: Mike Kearney, 20th season
2016-17 Record: 12-13 (10-4, third in B South)
Key Returnees: Joe San Fillipo (Sr., 6-2, Guard/Forward), Anthony Silvestrone (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Jethro Moll (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Matt Melon (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Nik Ferraro (Sr., 6-6, Forward), Glenn Swenson (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Chris Conroy (Sr., 6-0, Guard)
Key Losses: Jared Small (5-11, Guard), Pete Schlendorf (6-0, Guard), Garrett Carter (6-1, Guard/Forward)
Key Newcomers: Phil Mylod (Jr., 6-6, Forward), Braedan Kunzman (Jr., 6-3, Guard/Forward), Neithan Ramos (So., 5-9, Guard), Andy Schlendorf (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Will Lindsey (Sr., 5-8, Guard), Connor Maguire (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Rola Popoola (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Eian Gilroy (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Nick Ramos (Jr., 5-9, Guard)
While Barnegat is the buzzworthy team in B South to open the season, Donovan Catholic returns almost as much of its team as the Bengals do and the Griffins actually finished ahead of Barnegat in the standings a year ago despite losing both regular-season meetings between the two teams. Along with Point Boro, Lakewood and Barnegat, Donovan Catholic is squarely in the mix for a division title this year after making a strong push a year ago.
Outside of guard Jared Small, every starter from last year’s Donovan Catholic team is back and the starting lineup once again has the look of a balanced threat. Last season, each of Donovan Catholic’s five starters averaged between 6.8 and 10.5 points per game and the top three scorers – seniors Anthony Silvestrone, Joe San Fillipo and Jethro Moll – are all back this season. Silvestrone is a perimeter scoring threat, while San Fillipo and Moll offer some size and, therefore, versatility on both ends of the floor.
Junior Matt Melon is the other returning starter and is coming off a strong sophomore showing, during which he averaged 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and two assists. Seniors Nik Ferraro and Chris Conroy and junior Glenn Swenson also return to the varsity roster, with Ferraro a candidate to play more down low at 6-6. Junior Phil Mylod is a 6-6 newcomer that gives Griffins coach Mike Kearney plenty of size with which to work – part of a junior-heavy crop of newcomers. As long as it can get solid contributions from that group, Donovan Catholic has the returning experience in the starting lineup to make a serious run at a division title.
Head Coach: Mike Antenucci, first season
2016-17 Record: 5-19 (3-11, tied sixth in B South)
Key Returnees: Daniel Sofield (Jr., 6-6, Guard/Forward), Takai Anderson (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Kyle White (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Nico Montano (5-10, Guard), Alonzo Aponte (6-1, Forward), Anthony Kaminski (5-8, Guard), Steven Schuster (Forward), Ugonna Emanuga (Forward), Meshaun Williams-Jones (Guard)
Key Newcomers: Jack Lilienkamp (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Jake Bosco (So., 5-6, Guard), James Celentano (So., 6-0, Guard/Forward), Manny Clay (So., 5-5, Guard), Tim Gjonballa (So., 6-4, Forward), Anthony Bruschi (Sr., Forward), Freddy Skamangas (Sr., Forward), Antonio Foaussier (Sr., Guard), Miles Neal (Jr., 6-0, Guard) – Transfer from Trenton Catholic
Jackson Liberty has had only sparse success during its short time in existence and the last couple of years have been especially difficult. The Lions won just nine combined games during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons while sporting young rosters and Jackson Liberty will once again be young this season. On the bright side, the Lions have a pair of returning juniors to build around and the group around them is starting to resemble a team closer to contention than they have been in recent years.
Junior swingman Daniel Sofield will once again be the go-to guy for Jackson Liberty after racking up 773 points in his first two varsity seasons. At 6-6 with a good jumper, Sofield is on the radar of a number of college programs and has offers from Stony Brook, Hofstra, Loyola, New Hampshire and Delaware, according to first-year Lions head coach Mike Antenucci. After 12 years between head-coaching jobs – the last of which was at Jackson Memorial from 2002 to 2005 – Antenucci is back on the sidelines to try and find the mix around Sofield that will yield a contender in B South. Junior guard Takai Anderson is another proven varsity starter who will run the offense and complement Sofield.
Forward Kyle White and guard Jack Lilienkamp will be the most prominent seniors in the rotation and both are lined up to start while sophomores Manny Clay, Tim Gjonballa, Jake Bosco and James Celentano will figure into the mix as well. Jackson Liberty is also set to welcome back junior Miles Neal, who played as a freshman at Jackson Liberty, spent last year at Trenton Catholic as a junior varsity player and began this year at Ocean before recently moving back into the Jackson Liberty district. Anderson and Neal will be solid options alongside an All-Shore caliber player in Sofield, meaning Jackson Liberty should be set to take a significant step this year.
Head Coach: Fred Johnson, second season
2016-17 Record: 3-21 (2-12, eighth in B South)
Key Returnees: Anthony Diaz (Jr., 5-8, Guard), Andrew Schultz (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Caden Sundermann (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Chris Lewis (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Devin Kidd (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Garrett Brown (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Luke Wiatroski (Jr., 5-9, Guard)
Key Losses: Chris Burke (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Steven Skeie (Sr., 6-5, Forward), Gennaro Belleta (Sr., 5-10, Forward), John Garris (Sr., 6-1, Forward)
Key Newcomers: Travis Spagnola (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Dylan Breese (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Matt Ingold (Sr., 5-7, Guard), Matt Muller (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Kevin Cameron (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Arpit Gainder (Jr., 5-10, Forward), Kieran Sundermann (Jr., 5-6, Guard), Aniello Lubrano (Jr., 5-6, Guard), Ryan Skeie (So., 6-2, Forward), Andrew Bartlett (Sr., 6-0, Forward)
With a team full of sophomores, Pinelands labored to 3-21 season last year and a last-place finish in Class B South, which might suggest the Wildcats are a ways away from getting anywhere near the top of the B South standings. There is, however, reason to believe Pinelands is not so far away from making an impact on the Class B South race. With a young team last year, the Wildcats suffered 11 of their 21 losses by a margin of six points or fewer, so with another offseason to develop together, they should be tougher in those down-to-the-wire games.
As far as the personnel goes, Pinelands has enough in place to continue its climb back toward contention. Junior guard Anthony Diaz led the team in scoring last year and has proven he is a winner on the soccer and baseball fields, where Pinelands has enjoyed success with Diaz being a big part of both teams. Fellow junior Andrew Schulz is also a proven scorer and the two backcourt mates will continue to drive the offense this year. Chris Burke and his 10 points per game graduated, but junior Luke Wiatroski is primed to have a strong season after contributing last year. Devin Kidd and Garrett Brown also return from the Class of 2019, while forward Chris Lewis and Cade Sundermann look to contribute more as a seniors after getting some time last year.
The junior class will provide even more talent this year coming up from the lower levels, so the Wildcats will have some depth on top of what they return and the players coming onto the varsity team have had success at the lower levels. They might be one year away from being a serious B South contender, but Pinelands will be a team to watch grow during 2017-18.
Head Coach: Ryan Ramsay, 13th season
2016-17 Record: 10-15 (7-7, fifth in B South)
Key Returnees: Jerry Ward (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Jesse Devero (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Josh Hayes (So., 5-11, Guard), Mike Richardson (Sr., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: L.J. Robinson (6-6, Guard/Forward), Alex Lunn (6-2, Forward), Gavin Pabst (6-4, Forward), Zion Mununga (Forward), Markese Davis (Sr., 6-0, Guard) – Transferred to Toms River North; Jakari Spence (So., 5-10, Guard) – Transferred to Toms River North
Key Newcomers: Anthony Carrea (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Tyler Brockmeyer (So., 6-2, Guard), Dorian Russo (So., 6-1, Guard), Trevor Pruitt (Fr., 6-2, Guard), Josh Glenn (Fr., 5-10, Guard), Sean Snead (Fr., 6-0, Guard), Kendal Vandergrift (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Keigan Kelusak (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Justin Merz (Fr., 6-2, Forward), Allen Mitchell (Fr., 6-0, Guard)
Over the last several years, Manchester has been home to some of the Shore’s top talent – players like Mason Jones, KaShaun Barnes, Shavar Reynolds, Jordan Torney and L.J. Robinson – and one of those players accounted for a large chunk of Manchester’s offense last year. Robinson finished fifth in the Shore Conference with 19.5 points per game and also pitched in six rebounds and three assists per game while carrying the team on most nights. Replacing Robinson was already going to be a challenge and now Manchester will also have to replace potential returning starters in senior Markese Davis and sophomore Jakari Spence, both of whom transferred to Toms River North.
While losing Robinson and some key supporting players throws Manchester into uncertain times, that recent history of talent coming through the pipeline is reason for hope. Even the players back this year offer some promise, led by senior Jerry Ward and sophomore Josh Hayes. Ward was a glue-guy last year and will battle on both ends of the floor while offering some scoring and rebounding production. Hayes averaged double-figure points as a freshman and is a strong candidate to lead Manchester in scoring. Senior forward Jesse Devero will also be an impact returning player as a defending and rebounder.
Manchester depth fills out with senior Mike Richardson, junior Anthony Carrea, sophomores Tyler Brockmeyer and Dorian Russo, and freshmen Josh Glenn, Trevor Pruitt and Sean Snead. Richardson contributed off the bench last year and is in position to start as a senior, while Carrea is a shooter who will provide offense off the bench. Brockmeyer will be combine with Hayes to form dynamic duo from the same class and Russo will also be part of that promising sophomore group. Coach Ryan Ramsay also likes the upside of the freshman group, which will start to make an impact this year with a need to replace some impact talent that left. This will likely be a developmental year for Manchester, but the young talent means the future is still promising with a wide range of possibilities for this year.
Head Coach: Sean McAndrew, first season
2016-17 Record: 4-18 (3-11, tied seventh in B South)
Key Returnees: Kevin O’Rourke (Jr., 6-1, Forward), Kalvin Kuhn (So., 6-2, Forward), Cory Gudzak (Jr., 6-1, Forward), Kyle Priebe (Sr., 6-3, Forward)
Key Losses: Geoff Fairclough (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Newcomers: Tanner Miick (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Ryan Kilmurray (Sr., 6-3, Forward) D.J. Grisard (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Jordan Cohen (So., 6-4, Center), Carl Swenson (Jr., 6-1, Guard)
Lacey has embarked on a youth movement over the last two years and although the Lions do lose a productive senior from last year, the movement continues with a team that will require a lot of production from juniors and sophomores. Former Lacey standout Sean McAndrew takes over the program and will have a solid talent base with which to work over his first two years on the job.
Junior Kevin O’Rourke joined graduated forward Geoff Faiclough as one of Lacey’s top two scoring options last year and as the season wore on, Kalvin Kuhn emerged as a freshman who proved he belonged on the varsity team. O’Rourke and Kuhn will lead the scoring effort this year, with both players capable of scoring inside and outside. Junior Cory Gudzak and senior Kyle Priebe are also back from last year, with Gudzak offering some athleticism at either guard or forward and Priebe providing some size inside at 6-3.
Seniors Tanner Miick and Ryan Kilmurray are two other 6-3 forwards who will also help fortify the front court and sophomore center Jordan Cohen is a potential contributor at center. Senior D.J. Grisard and junior Carl Swenson will help out in the back court. Lacey made some progress toward the end of last year and heads into 2017-18 optimistic that, under a new coach and with so much returning talent, it can make a move toward the top half of the standings.
Players to Watch
Daniel Sofield, Jackson Liberty – Sofield was a top-10 scorer in the Shore Conference as a sophomore and also snatched 5.8 rebounds per game while further boosting his stock as a Division I prospect. The next step is carrying Jackson Liberty to a winning season after a combined 9-34 record over his first two high school seasons.
Mike Revello, Barnegat – Revello led Barnegat to its best season in school history last year by putting up 16.2 points and 3.5 assists per game as a junior.
Jyheir Jones, Lakewood – Lakewood will need a number of players to step forward as scorers and not only can Jones do that, but he can also continue to cause havoc on the defensive end for an athletic Piners team.
Connor Strickland, Point Boro – An all-division point guard in his first season at Point Boro, Strickland is an ideal facilitator for a team that will boast multiple scoring options.
John Duda, Point Boro – In addition to being a reliable source of scoring, Duda is also a workhorse on the glass, averaging eight points and six rebounds for a balanced Panthers team a year ago.
Breakout Players to Watch
Ryan Savoy, Lakewood – Showing off good size, length and skill, Savoy flashed potential in small doses of playing time last year and will get a chance to shine with more time this year.
Sam Young, Point Boro – After getting a taste of the varsity level as a freshman, Young is in position to help Point Boro get over the hump and win an elusive division championship.
Kalvin Kuhn, Lacey – Kuhn emerged over the course of his freshman season as one of Lacey’s go-to offensive players and will have a full season alongside Kevin O’Rourke as one of the team’s top two scoring threats.
Matt Melon, Donovan Catholic – Melon is the only non-senior among the four returning Donovan Catholic starters and he is coming off a promising sophomore season – his second as a varsity player.
Takai Anderson, Jackson Liberty – For Jackson Liberty to better compete, the Lions will need continued growth from Anderson, who will look to play off of Sofield to form one of the division’s best one-two punches on offense.
Is this finally the year Lakewood’s run of B South dominance ends?
Lakewood’s run of seven consecutive outright division titles – five coming in B South – will be put to the test this year. The Piners have some holes to plug in the lineup and are coming off a two-loss season in the division a year ago, so teams like Point Boro, Donovan Catholic and Barnegat – all of which bring a lot back from last year – are in great position to close the gap. Point Boro looks the closest to getting it done, but Donovan Catholic has a lot of potential for growth, while Barnegat returns an entire starting five to go with a nice injection of youth from the lower levels.
If not, what is the winning formula for the Piners?
Coach Randy Holmes has always been able to find ways to replace starters and will use whatever skillset is at his disposal. Where Lakewood could stand out is defensively thanks to a team full of good athletes who could cause a lot of havoc. The Piners leaned a lot on Adi Palmer to score last year, while this year will likely have to be more of a defensive effort that results in some transition while hoping that players like Kevin Dent can become steady shooting threats.
Has Barnegat laid the foundation for a division championship season?
The Bengals hit a number of milestones and came close to hitting a few more along the way in 2016-17. They stayed in the B South race until the final two games, they had Central on the ropes in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament, and they hung around at Camden in the South Jersey Group II semifinals. With all five starters back and Lakewood looking more vulnerable than usual, Barnegat has a chance to take the next step and make a play for a B South crown in what should be a crowded race.
Who is the under-the-radar team with a legitimate chance to win the division?
Point Boro, Donovan Catholic and Barnegat were all in the hunt last year and all three return most of their production, so those three teams should be considered contenders who are very much “on the radar.” That leaves Manchester, Jackson Liberty, Lacey and Pinelands as potential surprise contenders. While Jackson Liberty might make sense based on the ability of James Sofield, Pinelands seems more the part. It’s a team that is probably still a year away, but Barnegat had the same feel to it last year and the Bengals wound up having the best year in program history.
Can Daniel Sofield lead Jackson Liberty to the postseason?
In a division with a number of solid teams but no apparent dominant one, the conditions may be right for Daniel Sofield to carry Jackson Liberty to some big wins this year and get the Lions into the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments. Although Sofield has done enough over the last two years to pick up multiple Division I offers, he has not been able to lead the Lions anywhere near a winning record. With another year of development, his effort should make more of a difference.