For each of the past two seasons, Rumson-Fair Haven enjoyed a comfortable run to consecutive division championships and enters the season with 34 straight division wins to prove it. It just so happens that rival Manasquan moved out of the division for these past two seasons, which eliminated a built-in, two-game rivalry from the schedule of both teams.

Thanks to Shore Conference realignment, Manasquan is back in A Central this year and the Warriors will resume their division rivalry with Rumson after both teams won division championships each of the past two seasons in separate division. Red Bank Catholic, St. Rose and Monmouth join Manasquan as new A Central teams, with Matawan, St. John Vianney and Red Bank heading to Class B North. The shift changes A Central from a seven-team league with one overwhelming favorite to an eight-team division that has at least seven teams that look built to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament.

Logic would dictate only five or six teams from a division can get into the tournament, which will make the A Central race a compelling one from the top of the division on down.

 

In predicted order of finish

Manasquan

Head Coach: Andrew Bilodeau, 11th season
2017-18 Record: 20-7 (12-2, first in B North)
Key Returners: Brad McCabe (Sr., 6-5, Guard), Xander Korolik (Sr., 6-6, Forward), Alex Galvan (Jr., 6-6, Forward)
Key Losses: Ryan Flanagan (6-1, Guard), Justin Gladden (6-3, Forward), Emilio Stevenson (6-2, Guard), Dylan Finn (6-0, Guard), Jimmy Thompson (6-4, Forward)
Newcomers: Ben Roy (Fr., 6-0, Guard), Kieran Flanagan (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Tim Wheat (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Tim McEneny (Jr., 6-7, Forward), Jack Heenan (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Max O’Shaughnessy (Jr., 6-5, Forward), Quinn Galvin (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Casey Mulligan (So., 5-10, Guard), Connor Walsh (So., 6-3, Forward), Jack Collins (So., 6-3, Guard)

Manasquan senior Brad McCabe. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

As is always the case, last year was another strong season for Manasquan boys basketball. Since 2011-12, the Warriors have won at least 18 games every year and have reached 20 wins in five out of seven seasons. Last year was one of those 20-win campaigns and it ended with losses in the quarterfinal round of both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Tournaments. In both tournaments, Manasquan lost tough games to very tough opponents, getting nipped by Mater Dei Prep, 46-43, in the SCT quarters and 49-46 by Lincoln in the CJ II Playoffs. Despite losing three starters to graduation, Manasquan brings back plenty of production and will welcome in some legitimate talent as well.

Senior Brad McCabe leads the list of returning contributors after an all-division selection during his second varsity season. The 6-5 swingman is one of the Shore’s top shooters and has plenty of athleticism to boot, making him a weapon all over the floor. McCabe’s size on the wing pairs nicely with the Warriors interior combo of 6-6 senior Xander Korolik and 6-6 junior Alex Galvan – the latter of whom just began pitching over the summer and immediately picked up and verbally accepted an offer to play baseball at Louisville. The duo leads another tall front court across the board for Manasquan, with juniors Tim McEneny (6-7) and Max O’Shaughnessy (6-5) contributing to that size as well.

Junior Kieran Flanagan and freshman point guard Ben Roy line up as Manasquan’s new back court. Flanagan’s older brother, Ryan, was an All-Shore point guard for the Warriors last year and that spot will be occupied by the younger Flanagan sibling and Roy, who is widely regarded as one of the top five-to-10 freshmen in the state coming into high school. While the rookie will have a lot on his plate considering his age, he won’t have to carry the team, which should smooth out the development process. With some experience in the front court, size and a high-ceiling back court, Manasquan has the look of the top public-school team at the Shore and potentially the conference’s second-best team.

 

Rumson-Fair Haven

Head Coach: Chris Champeau, 10th season
2017-18 Record: 25-3 (12-0, first in A Central)
Key Returners: Ian O’Connor (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Jackson McCarthy (Sr., 6-5, Guard/Forward)
Key Losses: Elijah McAllister (6-7, Center), Jack Solano (6-0, Guard), Teddy Sourlis (6-1, Guard), Devin Cooper (5-11, Guard); Phil Wheeler (Jr., 6-7, Forward) – transferred to Ranney
Newcomers: Ryan McCann (Sr., 6-5, Forward/Center), Drew Frankel (Jr., 6-3, Guard), John Baker (So., 6-5, Forward/Center), Tim Quill (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Cole Stasil (Sr., 6-2), Tim Kelly (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Dutch Donlon (Jr., 5-11, Guard), Jack Carroll (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Hunter Reid (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Jackson Patton (So., 5-9, Guard), Ryan Ruane (So., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Geoff Schroeder (Fr., 5-11, Guard)

Rumson senior Ian O'Connor drives on Middletown North senior Rob Higgins. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

Last year’s Rumson team might have been the most talented roster the Bulldogs have ever had, which showed in its 25-3 record and second straight NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship. Rumson appeared poised to challenge for the program’s first ever overall Group II title but stumbled in the Group II semifinal in a 43-39 loss to Haddonfield. The Bulldogs were due to return their three top scorers from last year until 6-7 wing Phillip Wheeler – who has an offer from Seton Hall University – transferred out of Rumson and wound up at the Ranney School.

Wheeler’s loss takes some ceiling away from Rumson heading into this year, but the Bulldogs still have plenty of bite left with returning starters Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy back in the fold. O’Connor (14.9 points per game) and McCarthy (9.4) were the team’s top two scorers and most consistent players on both ends of the floor as juniors last season and will be one of the Shore’s most formidable duos now that both are seniors. The two returning starters were part of an especially athletic rotation last year that also included the high-flying Wheeler and Vanderbilt football freshman Elijah McAllister – a level of athleticism Rumson will not be able to match this season. Instead, the Bulldogs will feature a lineup more geared toward shooting and scrapping on both ends, which lines up with the personality of most of the teams Chris Champeau has coached in his 10 years as head coach.

Senior Ryan McCann and Drew Frankel both step into larger roles this year, with McCann playing down low and Frankel on the perimeter. McCann is committed to play football at Yale and will bring plenty of toughness to the paint, while Frankel is one of the program’s more improved players heading into his junior year. The Bulldogs will stay big in their lineup with 6-5 sophomore John Baker, who brings a polished postgame for an underclassman. Led by three football standouts in O’Connor, McCarthy and McCann, Rumson is sure to be a tough team and if the shooting around those three seniors clicks, the Bulldogs will be as dangerous as ever in the Shore Conference and in Group II.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: Tyler Schmelz, third season
2017-18 Record: 18-11 (9-5, second in B North)
Key Returners: Charlie Gordinier (Jr., 6-5, Guard/Forward), Kevin Bauman (Jr., 6-5, Forward), Steve Lubischer (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Matt Conley (Sr., 5-10, Guard), John Duffy (Sr., 5-11, Guard), M.J. Wright (Sr., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: Matt Ansell (6-1, Guard), John Kelly (6-6, Center), Pat Brady (5-11, Guard)
Newcomers: Ryan Belforti (Sr., 6-7, Forward), Joe Hill (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Evan Mottola (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Kevin Degnan (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Eric Hierl (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Brian Kowalski (Jr., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Alex Bauman (Fr., 6-3, Guard/Forward)

Red Bank Catholic junior Charlie Gordinier vs. CBA during last year's Shore Conference Tournament. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

An 18-win season is already a good year at Red Bank Catholic, but a one-win season would have been fine with a lot of the Caseys faithful as long as it was the win RBC picked up on March 2 of this year. For the first time since 1989, Red Bank Catholic defeated local rival CBA and did so on the road in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B Tournament. CBA had already defeated RBC twice during the season, including in the Shore Conference Tournament, so the Caseys win marked a major step forward for the program. RBC will look to keep heading in the right direction this season behind three returning starters - headlined by a pair of standout, multi-sport juniors.

Swingman Charlie Gordinier comes into his junior season with a very good shot at reaching the 1,000-point milestone before his senior year and will once again be the centerpiece of Red Bank Catholic’s offense after averaging a team-best 13.8 points per game as a sophomore. Fellow junior Kevin Bauman – a Notre Dame football commit – came on strong at the end of last year and was particularly effective during postseason play for the Caseys. Returning starting guard Steve Lubischer and fellow senior guard M.J. Wright are two more players from RBC’s undefeated, state-championship football team who will be major contributors on the basketball court as well. Lubischer is committed to play football at Boston College next year while Wright is headed to Fordham.

Guards Matt Conley and John Duffy also return with experience, with Conley working his way into the starting lineup as a junior sharp-shooter last year. Joe Hill will provide some depth in the front court as part of a junior class that will provide the lion’s share of RBC’s depth. Freshman Alex Bauman, Kevin's younger brother, could also get a chance to contribute as a freshman like his brother did two years earlier. With so many football players in key roles, RBC might have to collectively work its way into basketball shape but, as the Caseys showed last year, they can be a handful come the second half of the season.

 

Raritan

Head Coach: Denis Caruano, 14th season
2017-18 Record: 14-11 (5-7, tied fourth in A Central)
Key Returners: Tim Hayes (Sr., 6-3, Forward/Center), Rob LaVilla (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Tyrese Bryant (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Pat Bowles (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Chris Marten (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Jaylen Smith (Jr., 6-2, Forward/Center), Connor Smith (Jr., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: Zach Mojica (6-3, Forward), John Diahy (6-0, Forward), Chris VanDermark (5-10, Guard)
Newcomers: Isaiah Reyes (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Shawn O’Hea (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Luke Davies (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Gerry Callahan (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Liam Callahan (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Danny Foire (Jr., 5-10, Forward), Jason Trotta (Fr., 6-4, Center), Justin Rivera (Fr., 5-8, Guard)

In the Class B North or B South divisions of the Shore Conference, Raritan might stack up as the favorite to win the division. Even in Class A Central, no one should be writing off the Rockets, who return six of their top seven players from last year’s 14-win squad and will have a senior-heavy core leading the way. Although it must replace leading scorer Zach Mojica, Raritan’s 2017-18 back court remains intact, led by seniors Rob LaVilla and Tyrese Bryant. LaVilla averaged 8.4 points, 3.8 assists and buried 39 three-pointers as a junior point guard in 2017-18 while Bryant jumped right into the rotation after transferring from Matawan and put up 10 points per game.

Senior forward Tim Hayes has battled injuries since lettering as a freshman but when he has been on the floor, he has been a consistent double-double threat. He will pair in the front court with junior Jaylen Smith, who is the younger brother of Ranney star and University of Florida commit Scottie Lewis. Smith brings an element of athleticism to the Rockets lineup on both ends that will complement the physicality of Hayes and fellow senior Chris Marten at the forward spots. In a guard-heavy look, Raritan can turn to senior Pat Bowles or junior Connor Smith, both of whom saw time last year.

With most of last year’s rotation back, coach Denis Caruano will not have to lean too heavily on this year’s host of varsity newcomers but there will be options nonetheless. The junior class, in particular, will provide some depth on the bench while 6-4 freshman Jason Trotta could be of service in spelling Hayes or Smith. If the Rockets can stay healthy, that depth will be a luxury more than a necessity for a team that hopes to surprise the division favorites and become a factor come postseason time.

Correction: This post originally stated that Jaylen Smith is Scottie Lewis's half-brother and has been updated with the correct information.

 

Holmdel

Head Coach: Sean Devaney, 13th season
2017-18 Record: 12-11 (5-7, tied fourth in A Central)
Key Returners: Doug Chan (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Derek Chan (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Jack Giamanco (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Pete Cannizzo (Jr., 6-0, Guard)
Key Losses: Tim Zhou (6-1, Guard/Forward), Connor LaMountain (6-1, Center), Johnny Christian (5-11, Guard), Sean Dolan (Sr., 5-11, Forward), Eric Celenti (6-0, Forward)
Newcomers: Aidan Flanagan (Sr., 6-0), John Curreri (Jr., 6-2), Mike Hendrickson (Jr., 5-9), Cam LaMountain (Jr., 6-0), Eric Hinds (Jr., 5-10), John Tomasulo (Jr., 5-11), Samir Williams (Jr., 5-11), Alex Baker (So., 6-3)

Holmdel comes off a 12-11 season in which it surrounded its top scorer and all-around player with a sophomore-loaded roster that experienced its share of ups and downs. That top scorer, Tim Zhou, has graduated, but the core of junior talent that remains carries some real promise for the Hornets over these next two seasons. As for this year, Holmdel will rely on returning guards Doug and Derek Chan to lead the scoring effort after stepping up in that department as sophomores at just under 10 points per game each. The Chans are Holmdel personified in that the Hornets are guard-heavy, scrappy and can shoot it.

Juniors Jack Giamanco and Pete Cannizzo return with experience as sophomores and will slot into the lineup with Doug and Derek Chan. Giamanco was a breakout performer (23 goals) for Holmdel’s boys soccer team that finished No. 1 in the state this season and would love to turn in a comparable performance on the hardwood as part of an underdog story. All four returning players are guards and that will typically be the look Holmdel chooses to feature: no fewer than four players on the perimeter on offense and five guys with a pit bull mentality on the defensive end.

With coach Sean Devaney looking for at least a little bit of size to feature in the lineup, junior John Curreri (6-2), junior Cam LaMountain (6-0) and sophomore Alex Baker (6-3) become key players on the Holmdel roster in their first varsity seasons. Senior Aidan Flanagan will also provide some intangibles as the lone senior on the team, while juniors Mike Hendrickson, Eric Hinds, John Tomasulo and Samir Williams give the Hornets plenty of depth in the back court. The early reviews on Holmdel during the first week of December have been positive and with its depth and shooting, the Hornets will be a very tough out in a very tough division.

 

Shore

Head Coach: Erik Mazur, second season
2017-18 Record: 9-17 (3-9, sixth in A Central)
Key Returners: Kyle Koob (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Chris Panduri (Sr., 6-3, Guard), Ryan Flanagan (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Max Miller (Sr., 6-3, Guard), Ryan Paglia (Jr., 6-5, Forward)
Key Losses: Devin Chartier (6-4, Forward), Kevin DuBois (5-9, Guard), Jack DuBois (5-8, Guard), Leo Montesinos (Sr., 5-10, Guard) – transferred to Ocean
Newcomers: Noah Caroll (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Gil Goldsmith (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Chris Kessler (So., 6-4, Guard), Jake Turner (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Kyle O’Scanlon (Sr., 5-10, Guard)

Three seasons have passed since Shore won the Central Jersey Group I championship and the Blue Devils hope that the rebuilding process that started the year after that title will reach its crescendo this season. Seniors Kyle Koob and Chris Panduri entered the program in the year following that senior-led championship run and immediately became the young foundation of the program. Four years later, both are approaching the 1,000-point plateau and, statistically speaking, are up there with some of the best duos in the Shore Conference not named Antoine-and-Lewis.

Joining the 1,000-point club will be a memorable moment for both Koob and Panduri but this season is all about winning for the two seniors, who lost their first ever state playoff game last year in a 36-34 defeat at New Egypt in the Central Jersey Group I opening round and have not had the chance to experience a winning season. Shore moves back up to Group II this season so if the Blue Devils are hoping to make noise in the state tournament, they will have to compete with the likes of Manasquan, Rumson-Fair Haven, Holmdel, Raritan, Lincoln and Bordentown, among others. Fortunately for Shore, the Devils play in a relentless division that will prepare them for the gauntlet.

For Shore to put it all together this year, Koob and Panduri will need help. Returning seniors Ryan Flanagan and Max Miller will answer that call and have some size to bring to the lineup. Junior Ryan Paglia also returns and at 6-5, he will be Shore’s size in the paint. Sophomore Chris Kessler and seniors Noah Caroll and Jake Turner also give coach Erik Mazur some more front-court options at 6-4, 6-3 and 6-2, respectively, while senior Gil Goldsmith and Kyle O’Scanlon round out the back-court depth. They will have to sort out the roles, but this is a Shore team that can do damage as long as Koob and Panduri continue to develop as proven scorers and turn in the best seasons of their already-stellar careers.

 

St. Rose

Head Coach: Frank Carmody, first season
2017-18 Record: 11-15 (7-7, tied fourth in B Central)
Key Returners: Matt Forlenza (Sr., 6-2, Guard), John Beattie (Jr., 6-3, Guard), Kevin Caswell (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Kevin Tombs (Jr., 6-2, Guard/Forward), Will Murphy (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Rob Rothery (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Casey Ballou (Jr., 6-0, Forward)
Key Losses: Dave Calloway (6-1, Guard), John Crowley (5-10, Guard), Ethan Tombs (6-3, Forward), Sean Culley (6-2, Forward), Bobby Mahon (6-0, Guard)
Newcomers: Fredrik Bang-Andreasen (Jr., 6-4, Guard/Forward), Trevor Donnelly (So., 6-4, Forward), Morgan Fahy (So., 5-10, Guard), Chris Kretzmer (Jr., 5-11, Guard)

After multiple decades playing in Class B Central and winning division titles throughout most of that run, St. Rose begins a new era in a new division. Frank Carmody, a former player at St. Rose and a former coach at several stops at the high school and college level – most recently at Shore Regional – takes over the program after longtime coach Dennis Devaney stepped down before last season. Carmody takes over a roster that will have some holes to plug from a year ago, when then-seniors Dave Calloway, John Crowley and Sean Culley played key roles for the Purple Roses.

The Roses bring back two experienced contributors in senior Matt Forlenza and junior John Beattie. Forlenza is heading into his third year as a regular contributor while Beattie is coming off a strong sophomore season and subsequent summer. Beattie is at the top of a wave of juniors and sophomores that will join the rotation, notably juniors Kevin Caswell, Kevin Tombs, Frank Bang-Andreasen and Casey Balou, as well as 6-4 sophomore Trevor Donnelly. Senior forwards Will Murphy (6-3) and Rob Rothery (6-4) will also give the Roses some size up front.

The move to Class A Central might be an ill-timed one for St. Rose, depending on how you look at it. The Purple Roses had to play the two best teams in the Shore Conference (Ranney and Mater Dei Prep) as well as the Central Jersey Group I champion (Point Beach) two times apiece last year but this year, the division looks a lot more manageable beyond Ranney. Meanwhile, Class A Central shapes up as the deepest division in the Shore Conference. The good news for St. Rose is after seeing Ranney and Mater Dei a combined four times last year and with a coaching staff firmly in place to open the season, the conditions may still favor the Purple Roses in the long run.

 

Monmouth

Head Coach: Jeff Sfraga, second season
2017-18 Record: 1-22 (0-14, eighth in B North)
Key Returners: Dayshawn Porter (Sr., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Kerron Holley (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Dan Forsman (Sr., 6-4, Center), Shane Bacho (Sr., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: Ian Fitzgerald (5-10, Guard), Steve Wagner (5-11, Guard), Mark Deroski (6-4, Center), Sean Gades (6-3 Forward), Ryan Cronin (6-2, Forward)
Newcomers: Aaron Po (So., 6-3, Forward), Jake Marcincak (So., 5-10, Guard), Jason Thompson (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Will Posadas (Sr., 6-0, Forward), Nayson Brown (Sr., 5-11, Guard/Forward)

Monmouth’s streak of difficult seasons continued last year with a 1-22 campaign that went off the rails with a knee injury to big man Dan Forsman. The Falcons enter this season more optimistic and hoping that Forsman, now a senior, can stay on the floor and produce like he did over a small sample (averaged 17.1 points and nine rebounds in only three games) in 2017-18. Monmouth will also return a pair of quality guards in senior Dayshawn Porter – the dual-threat quarterback of Monmouth’s football team – and senior Kerron Holley. Porter put up a well-rounded line of 8.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game while Holley emerged as a reliable scorer for the Falcons last season with 12.3 points per game last year.

Senior Shane Bacho also returns to the back court after earning significant time last year and will have company in the back court with senior newcomers Jason Thompson and Nayson Brown. Guard Jake Marcincak and 6-3 forward Aaron Po will be a sophomores to watch for the Falcons and senior Will Posadas will help out at one of the forward spots when he is on the floor. With a healthier roster, Monmouth should be a significantly-improved team but getting a chance to prove it in their division won-loss record will be a tall order in the loaded Class A Central.

 

Players to Watch

Brad McCabe, Manasquan – A third-year starter who is within 300 points of 1,000 for his career, McCabe averaged 15.7 points and 5.2 rebounds as a junior and with a deadly three-point stroke, length at 6-5 and bounce, there is little he can’t do on the court.

Ian O’Connor, Rumson-Fair Haven – Rumson’s back-to-back sectional championships have absolutely been the result of a team effort, but if one player stands out over the two runs, it has been O’Connor. The 6-4 bruiser enters his senior year within 200 points of 1,000 for his career after putting up a team-high 14.9 per game last year.

Charlie Gordinier, Red Bank Catholic – Speaking of 1,000 points, Gordinier is on the fast track after just two years of high school ball. The 6-5 swingman and standout defensive end on the football field averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore and is only 419 away from 1,000 after scoring 400 last year.

Jackson McCarthy, Rumson-Fair Haven – While the numbers to date don’t jump off the page, McCarthy was an indispensable member of Rumson’s two sectional championship teams. He excels on both ends of the floor and with only O’Connor returning to the starting lineup with him, the numbers are sure to jump up significantly this season.

Kevin Bauman, Red Bank Catholic – The Notre Dame football commit caught fire at the end of this sophomore season on the hardwood after missing the first part of the season with a foot injury. On top of being nearly impossible to move in the paint, Bauman has proven to be a good finisher and a decent shooter as well.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

John Beattie, St. Rose – After averaging double-figures as a newcomer, Beattie could well be one of the top scorers in the Shore Conference, as well as one of its best juniors.

Alex Galvan, Manasquan – After a breakout summer pitching on the baseball diamond, Galvan should keep it going on the court as one of Manasquan’s bulls in the paint.

John Baker, Rumson-Fair Haven – The sophomore showed he belonged going head-to-head with CBA’s Josh Cohen during a scrimmage and his skills should translate for a Rumson team looking for production in the paint.

Ben Roy, Manasquan – The Warriors will run with Roy at the point, with the freshman offering a combination of shooting, vision and feel at an early age.

Doug and Derek Chan, Holmdel – The Chan brothers offered nearly identical scoring production as sophomores last year and will be a difficult scoring duo for other teams in A Central to handle now that they are juniors.

 

Burning Questions

Can Rumson ride O’Connor and McCarthy to another title?

Although Rumson lost some significant pieces from last year’s 25-3 squad that won the Central Jersey Group II title, the Bulldogs return their top two scorers and all-around players from that team in Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy. This year’s team will not be as athletic as last year’s and won’t have the kind of rim protection that Elijah McAllister and Phillip Wheeler provided, but the new regulars will come with a chip on their collective shoulder and could offer some more efficient shooting – which turned out to be an Achilles Heel for last year’s squad.

Will Ben Roy be the x-factor for Manasquan in its push for No. 2 in the Shore?

As previously mentioned, Roy does not have to carry his team as a freshman and probably won’t have to do much more than protect the ball, find the open man, work hard on defense and hit the occasional shot to fit in on Manasquan squad with some very capable returning talent. Roy does, however, represent a wild card in that he fills an opening after the graduation of point guard Ryan Flanagan and if he lives up to his reputation as one of the state’s top freshmen, Manasquan could wind up the front-runner to finish right behind Ranney at the Shore before making a run in Group II.

Was RBC’s upset of CBA a sign of things to come?

Red Bank Catholic played CBA three times in three weeks during the last month of the season and the first two games did not go the way the Caseys wanted them to go. Then, on the third try, RBC made a bit of history. The Caseys scored their first program win over CBA in 29 years, which is significant within the context of this season considering both teams return a fair amount of talent and two of RBC’s top players are juniors while CBA rosters eight seniors. Of course, RBC lost its next game by a 27-point margin to St. Joseph Metuchen, so maybe the carry-over phenomenon is limited. Ultimately, though, it shows that, at their best, the Caseys can run with just about any team in the conference.

Which under-the-radar team has the best shot to challenge for the division title?

Raritan returns six of its top seven players, Holmdel sports a strong junior class, Shore boasts one of the best scoring duos at the Shore and St. Rose is battle-tested after facing Ranney and Mater Dei a combined four times last year. None of those four teams was banging on the top-10 door at the end of last season but all four could have a chance to do so this year. Considering RBC has to work off some football rust and Rumson lost five of its seven players from last year’s rotation, the door is open for one of those four teams to jump into the top three spots and the competition for it is sure to be intense.

What does a new division and a new coach mean for St. Rose?

The obvious benefit of St. Rose’s move out of B Central is it won’t have two losses to Ranney built into the schedule. The downside is, in this year’s B Central, St. Rose might have won every other division game – which would have been a far cry from last year, when the Purple Roses went 7-7 in B Central play. In Class A Central, St. Rose will have a tough game every night which will lead to some losses, but that grind could also speed up new coach Frank Carmody’s process in building up a team that can compete for a spot in the Top 10 and, eventually, for division titles.

 

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