Boys Basketball – Final Top 10 Rankings
The 2012-13 Shore Conference boys basketball season is in the books, and it marked a resurgence of one of the conference’s traditional heavyweights, the best season ever for a rising power, and plenty of parity outside the top six teams.
Here is the final All Shore Media Top 10 for this season with a look at how the teams may fare going into the 2013-14 season.
- Lakewood (26-3)
The Piners marked their return to the top of the heap in the Shore Conference for the first time in more than 20 years. They won their first Shore Conference Tournament title since 1991, captured the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship for their second sectional title in four years and also won the Class B South crown. They did not lose to a Shore Conference team all season with their full lineup and only one of their losses came with their full team on the floor. They beat No. 2 Point Beach twice, including the SCT final, and beat No. 3 Manasquan in the CJ Group II final. They left no doubt. It will be a challenge to stay at this lofty height next season after losing star guard Tyrice Beverette, standout forward Jared Craddox and starting guard Malik Mendez as part of a tight-knit, unselfish senior class that set the tone for the whole program. They do return some good pieces in junior guard Maurice Diowara and 6-foot-7 center Ben Watson to try to keep the wins coming.
2. Point Beach (27-4)
The Garnet Gulls enjoyed the greatest season in their long history, setting a school record for wins, capturing their first Central Jersey Group I title and overall Group I title and reaching the SCT final for the first time since 1963. The Class B Central champions also pushed Group IV power Atlantic City to the brink in a double-overtime loss in Point Beach’s first appearance ever in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. The Garnet Gulls look like the prime candidate to be the preseason No. 1 team in the Shore Conference heading into next year, as they return standout point guard Matt Farrell, 6-foot-6 Division I prospect Dom Uhl, and versatile starting forward Noah Yates. They also will get back sophomore forward Chris Schifano, who was a starter before tearing his ACL in the regular season.
3. Manasquan (23-4)
The Warriors won the Class A Central title, reached the SCT semifinals and made the Central Jersey Group II final behind senior stars Jimmy Walsh and J.R. Hobbie. They lost twice to Point Beach and once to Lakewood in addition to an early loss to Rumson-Fair Haven, so they were one of the more consistent teams in the Shore Conference. Walsh finished with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career and was the Kerwin Award winner as the Shore Conference’s top player this season. Hobbie also finished with more than 1,000 points and will continue his career in the Ivy League at Brown University, while Walsh is headed to Division II Stonehill College on a scholarship. Losing that tandem will be a lot for Manasquan to overcome next season, but it does return the starting backcourt of juniors Tommy Toole and Jack Fay as well as freshman forward Ryan Jensen.
4. Toms River North (25-4)
The Mariners had one of their best seasons ever, setting a school record for wins, capturing the Class A South title and reaching the SCT semifinals for the first time since 1998. They also reached the South Jersey Group IV semifinals before falling to eventual Group IV champion Atlantic City. Their best win was a 58-57 victory over fourth-seeded Colts Neck in the SCT quarterfinals to help them become the rare Class A South team in recent years to break into the top four. They will be almost wiped out by graduation and transfers, so it will be almost a clean slate next season. They lose standout center Solly Stansbury, starting point guard Damien Singleton, guards Karl Blum and Ron Marinaccio, and big men Tyler Bernath and Jared Rankins to graduation. Plus, junior guard Kyle Carrington, their lone returning starter, has transferred to Monsignor Donovan. Sophomore guard Evan Martin is essentially the only returner with significant experience.
5. Colts Neck (22-6)
The Cougars fought valiantly despite being without their top player, injured senior guard Brandon Federici, before falling in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. After graduating a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Hunter Wysocki and Sean O’Reilly, the Cougars registered another 20-win season, captured the Class A North title and reached the SCT quarterfinals. They lose some top talent to graduation, led by Federici along with center James Sobieski, swingman Tim Vangelas and point guard Luke LaLima. Sophomore guard Chris O’Reilly looks to be the primary returner for the Cougars next season.
6. Jackson Memorial (22-6)
The Jaguars just keep churning out 20-win seasons under coach Joe Fagan. Three of their losses came to No. 4 Toms River North as they finished second in Class A South, but they returned to Brookdale as an SCT quarterfinalist after graduating a stellar group of seniors from last season’s team. They lose their entire backcourt to graduation, including the Specht twins and Salam Simon, but do return a significant piece in 6-foot-9 junior center Eric Carter, a Division I prospect. He should be one of the Shore’s top big men next season.
7. Manalapan (14-10)
You can start arguing a million different teams at this point. Manalapan was a top eight team in reaching the SCT quarterfinals with a win over Shore before falling to No. 2 Point Beach. They split with No. 8 Middletown North during the regular season and tied the Lions for third place in Class A North. They lost to Hunterdon Central in the first round of the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. They were one of only four teams all season, and one of only three Shore Conference teams, to beat No. 4 Toms River North. They graduate one of the best players in school history, Harvard-bound guard Anthony Firkser, along with guards Mike Busto and Mike Pyzik as well as center Dennis Girolamo, so it will be almost a whole new team next season.
8. Middletown North (16-12)
The Lions played one of the toughest schedules in the Shore Conference, reaching the SCT Round of 16 before losing to eventual champion Lakewood, while also making a run to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals that included knocking off No. 2 seed Woodbridge as well as Class B North champion Neptune. They finished tied for third in Class A North with Manalapan. They graduate much of their starting lineup, including top guards Cody Thompson and Will Boman along with forward Mike Barber and big man John Dini, so it will be up to returners like junior guards Ian Wyckoff and Brian Esser to keep the Lions in the hunt.
9. Long Branch (13-10)
The Green Wave had an up-and-down season that included some puzzling losses and some very good wins, including one over No. 2 Point Beach in the regular season, as they finished tied for second in Class B North. They reached the Round of 16 in the SCT before falling in the final seconds to No. 3 Manasquan, and they also lost another tight game to the Warriors in the Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals. They split with Wall, Ocean and Neptune in Class B North and were right there for a piece of the title to the end of the regular season. They also had losses to tough teams like Seton Hall Prep, Paterson Eastside and Colts Neck in addition to a regular-season setback against Southern. They pushed Manasquan to the brink twice, but could not close it out. Still, it was another positive step in rebuilding the program back into a perennial contender by coach Don Covin. They lose standout point guard Dwight Clark and forward D’Andre Wilford to graduation, but return a core of talent led by junior long-range bomber Terrel Cox and forward Hassan Foster to be a factor in the top 10 again next season.
10. Shore Regional (20-7)
The Blue Devils turned in a rare 20-win season in the first year at the helm for new coach Dave Emery, finishing second behind Manasquan in Class A Central, reaching the SCT Round of 16 before falling to Manalapan, and making it to the Central Jersey Group I semifinals before bowing to eventual Group I champion Point Beach in a hard-fought game. Shore has a chance to be a factor in the upper echelon of the conference next year, returning nearly its entire lineup. Junior point guard Dan Pillari, sophomore guards Kevin Bloodgood and Jack Byrne, and junior forward Matt Cosentino all return next season.