Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase

Saturday, Jan. 7

At Collins Arena at Brookdale Community College

Game 2: No. 7 CBA vs. No. 4 Toms River North, 1:40 p.m.

The last time the Toms River North and Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball teams shared the floor of Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College, CBA subjected Toms River North to one of the most humbling losses in the history of the Shore Conference Tournament.

Just two years ago, in the SCT semifinals, CBA held Toms River North without a point for the first quarter-and-a-half and built a 39-5 halftime lead before ultimately burying the Mariners, 65-29. It was a forgettable performance in a memorable season for a Toms River North team that started a pair of sophomores – two of whom will be in uniform Saturday as their team seeks payback.

Seniors Mike Nyisztor and Darrion Carrington were starters on the 2014-15 team that reached the SCT finals before bowing out to CBA and they are now leaders on a Mariner team that has designs of reaching the SCT semifinals for a fourth time in five years and getting beyond the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Toms River North's Mike Nyisztor in last year's WOBM Classic. (Photo by Eric Braun)

The Mariners exorcised some of the demons that remained from the lopsided loss to CBA in the 2015 SCT when they got back to the SCT semifinals last year and battled to a more respectable, 62-50 loss to eventual champion Mater Dei Prep.

Senior Jaden Rhoden joined the team as a junior last year after spending his first two at Central Regional and gave Toms River North a third player in its trio of standouts from the Class of 2018. With Nyisztor, Carrington and Rhoden now all seniors, the Mariners have been impressive in the early part of the season, during which the team has started the year 7-1 – the lone loss a 45-39 defeat at the hands of unbeaten Freehold Township in the WOBM Christmas Classic final.

Toms River North’s challenge heading into the season was working in a new supporting cast around its senior trio and that process has gone rather smoothly for the Mariners. Junior Holden Petrick has emerged as the third scoring threat behind Nyisztor and Rhoden, while 6-foot-5 junior Travis Holland is progressing with each game as a frontcourt player who specializes in rebounding, defense and shot-blocking.

Although Nyisztor and Carrington would like to seize some sort of payback against CBA on Saturday, this will be a much different team than the one that handled the Mariners two years ago. It’s a vastly different team than the one that reached the Shore Conference Tournament final last season as well, with the top six players in the rotation all moving on in graduation.

The result of the mass exodus of seniors from last year’s team has resulted in one of the younger overall lineups that coach Geoff Billet has hosted in his nine years at the helm. The Colts start a pair of sophomores in 6-8 center Josh Cohen and point guard Liam Kennedy, a junior in Rob Mahala and a pair of seniors in Chris Lautato and Matt Lautato. They also rely heavily on sophomore guard Stephen Braunstein, as well as senior guard Lucas Waraksa.

CBA sophomore Josh Cohen (right) against Freehold Township earlier this season. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Cohen and Kennedy have helped steer CBA to a 5-1 start to the season despite losing five starters and a sixth man. Cohen is averaging a near-double-double with 12.4 points and nine rebounds, while Kennedy is posting six assists per game to go with 6.2 points.

Like Toms River North, CBA’s lone loss this season came against Freehold Township, which beat the Colts at CBA for just the second time in program history.

While Toms River North is out to prove it can leave the past in the past and beat CBA, the Colts would like to show that they are still deserving of consideration as one of the Shore’s top teams. In order to do so, they will have to contain a fast-past Toms River North team that is averaging 62.7 points per game. By contrast, CBA has scored 62 points just once this year – on opening night against Manalapan.

The roles are switched this year, with CBA playing the underdog and Toms River North the experienced favorite, but both teams enter Saturday with plenty of motivation to perform at the peak of their powers.