By Bobby Klatt
Shore Sports Network Correspondent

The Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase has been known to bring in big names from around the state to take on Shore Conference teams, but often forgotten are the marquee matchups between conference rivals. One of those games pits undefeated Manasquan – the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – against Point Pleasant Beach, the third of five games scheduled this Saturday at Long Branch High School.

Manasquan has showed its veteran composure in a come-from-behind win over Toms River North to take the WOBM Christmas Classic title on Dec. 30.

“Our leaders are very important and they set the tempo for the entire team,” said head coach Andrew Bilodeau, who is in his eighth season. “Our senior class has been outstanding. They lead the way for some of the younger guys because they have been through it all.”

Manasquan senior Ryan Jensen attempts a shot against Toms River North defenders Pat Marinaccio (left and Anthony Storino (right). (Photo by Bill Normile)

Two sets of brothers lead the way for the Warriors as Jack Sheehan and Devin Jensen handle most of the guard play while Ryan Jensen and Tom Sheehan handle the work down low.

Manasquan got a bit of a scare on their home floor Wednesday night against non-conference opponent Allentown. The Redbirds hung around by hitting 10 threes and the Warriors didn’t take the lead until the final five minutes of the game before earning a 47-42 victory.

“They were a difficult team to match up with five guards on the floor,” said Bilodeau. “You got to give credit to them. They hit shots.”

The Warriors can’t look too far ahead as they have a date with St. John Vianney on the road Friday night.

“Right now we are just worried about winning the tip against Vianney,” said Bilodeau. “But both teams have outstanding talent and great coaching so both games are going to be tough. We look forward to the challenge.”

After making a run all the way to the Cenrtal Jersey, Group 1 sectional title game, Point Beach has had a rocky road to this point in the season. After opening up on the road at rebuilt Mater Dei Prep, the Garnet Gulls fell to St. Rose in their home opener.

They came back from a split over the Holiday break and had multiple opportunities to seal the game at Ranney Tuesday night from the free throw line, but failed to take advantage. The core four freshmen of Ranney kept their cool and hit shots to pull out a 42-40 victory over Point Beach.

Jimmy Panzini (1) looks for room against Mater Dei Prep junior Elijah Mitchell. (Photo by Rob Samuels)

“We have had a lot of games like this (vs. Ranney),” said Point Beach head coach Nick Catania, who is in his 12th season. “We had to play one of the best teams in the New York Catholic League (Monsignor Scanlan) and lost in similar fashion.”

Point Beach grabbed their first win in the Shore Conference Thursday night by beating Keyport, 61-39, to improve to a hard-luck 2-4 and, the Gulls hope, start the season back on a winning track.

“We set our schedule tough on purpose and we know it doesn’t get any easier with Manasquan coming up on Saturday,” said Catania.

The main question going into this game is can Point Beach start quick and get a lead over a Manasquan team who is playing their second game in 24 hours and will the Gulls be able to put the stingy and never-rattled Manasquan away with a late lead? Manasquan’s balanced attack has been the forte and it doesn’t look like they are changing the game plan any time soon.