Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase

Saturday, Jan. 7

At Collins Arena at Brookdale Community College

Game 5: No. 5 Point Beach vs. No. 6 Manasquan, 6:40 p.m.

The 2016-17 season could not have started much different for Point Pleasant Beach than it did for Manasquan – the two teams that will square off against one another in Tuesday’s Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase at Brookdale Community College. While Manasquan dismantled its first three opponents by an average margin of 28 points, Point Beach swallowed a 35-point loss to Ranney on opening night.

Fast-forward to the end of the first week of 2017 and the tone of the two seasons has changed quite a bit for the two opponents. Manasquan has gone 3-2 since its hot start with a pair of hard-fought wins over Red Bank Catholic and St. Rose, as well as a recent 19-point win over Middletown South.

The change in results can be attributed to the loss of senior guard Brian Paturzo to an ankle injury, which he suffered during the first quarter of Manasquan’s 66-63 loss to Long Branch on Dec. 22 – the Warriors’ first loss of the season. Paturzo is not only of the team’s most reliable secondary scoring options to leading scorer Devin Jensen, but he is its defensive heart – a role he began to embrace coming off the bench as a junior a year ago.

The Warriors have begun to see a number of players fill the void in Paturzo’s absence – sophomore Brad McCabe has stepped up as a second scorer, senior forward Seamus Hogan has established himself in the front court, and junior Ryan Flanagan has stepped up on the defensive end while taking on the ball-handling responsibilities.

Ultimately, however, the Warriors have gone as Jensen goes. The 6-4 senior sharpshooter began the season on a tear, scoring 125 points in Manasquan’s first four games – including three 30-plus-point performances. He scored 37 points in just three quarters in a rout of Lacey and 38 in a little more than three in a 34-point regular-season win over Red Bank Catholic. Jensen also scored 31 points in the loss to Long Branch.

Since that first Manasquan loss, Jensen has cooled off considerably, perhaps in part because his play over the first four games was not sustainable. After averaging 31.2 points over the first four games, he averaged 17.2 in Manasquan’s next four while his scoring average dipped to 24.2. After a 27-point night against Wall on Monday, he is up to 24.5 per game - still No. 1 in the Shore Conference so far this year.

On the positive end, the Warriors are 4-1 during their last five and Jensen has scored at least 17 points in each win. His lone game under 17 points was a 10-point outing against an unbeaten Freehold Township team that has allowed 40 points once all year (42 against Neptune).

While losing to a team with the talent that Ranney has is no reason to be ashamed, Point Beach could not compete with the Panthers in the season-opener. Point Beach played Ranney to one possession on the road last year, so there was some precedent for the Garnet Gulls when it comes to giving the No. 2 team in the Shore all it could handle.

The blowout loss to open the season did not, however, weigh the Gulls down and they got right to work on constructing a winning streak that sits at seven games heading into play on Tuesday. Point Beach picked up its first win of the season by beating St. Rose on the road in a game in which the Garnet Gulls scored the final 17 points to win 80-67.

From there, Point Beach went on to win the Monsignor Kelly Classic at Immaculata by beating Irvington and St. Peter’s of Staten Island, then defeated Union on the road in a nip-and-tuck, 61-59 game. A 25-point win over Asbury Park on Friday and a 33-point decision over Keansburg on Monday extended the winning streak to seven and the Garnet Gulls will put that on the line against a shorthanded Manasquan team that still boasts the leading scorer in the conference.

A quartet of juniors anchors Point Beach’s lineup, led by point guard Danny Frauenheim, who has been an assist machine for Point Beach. The junior has recorded double-digit assists three times this season, including in the win over Union and the tournament championship game against St. Peter’s.

Fellow juniors Chris Pina and Trevor Covey have also led the Garnet Gulls in scoring at least once, while seven-foot junior Jake Lorenzo has begun to jell with the rest of the group since moving up from the Washington, D.C. area. Throw in senior Steve Flanders, who has also led the Gulls in scoring in a game this year, and Point Beach has sported of the Shore’s more balanced lineups so far this year.

The two beach-town rivals will close up the gym on Saturday night in what should be the capper to one of the better Boardwalk Showcases in a while - albeit one that lasts over the course of two nights because of snow on Saturday. Both the Warriors and the Garnet Gulls will try to be the team that leaves the last good impression.