NEPTUNE - Freehold Township junior Ja'zeem Foster was all set to take over a bigger role on the unbeaten Patriots when sophomore starter Greg Billups injured his ankle at the end of a win over Marlboro on Jan. 13.

One game later, Foster joined Billups on the injured list with a left wrist injury.

The setback proved only temporary and when Foster returned from a two-game absence against a surging Neptune squad on Tuesday night, he showed that in addition to playing on the supporting cast, he could also fill a starring role for the Shore's hottest team.

Foster scored a season-high 18 points off the bench and the Patriots - No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - routed No. 6 Neptune for the second time this season. Freehold Township has now won its first 15 games of the season, which is the second best start to a season in program history - now just three games shy of the 2006-07 team that won the Shore Conference Tournament.

Freehold Township senior Bobby Weise handles the ball against Neptune senior Seth Harrington. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"Both teams have had a winning streak going on and we didn't want to lose it to a team we beat before," Foster said. "(Neptune has) been playing better, but the fact that they're playing better caused us to play better."

In that 51-48 win over Marlboro on Jan. 13, Foster delivered eight points after Billups left with the injury to help the Patriots avoid their first loss of the season. The next day, however, Foster injured his left wrist against Hammonton and missed games against Manalapan and Freehold Boro last week.

"Some kids can't take being yelled at, but I can take it," Foster said. "But when (coach Brian Golub) says 'Go out and get the next one,' that keeps my confidence there. If I make a mistake, I like that I have a chance to make up for it."

Freehold Township thrived with several different lineups on Tuesday. Senior guard Bobby Weise matched Foster with 18 points and seniors Steve Staklinski and Ryan Zyskowski also reached double-figure scoring. Staklinski scored all 12 of his points in the first half and Zyskowski added 11 total.

"It's awesome to have this many guys stepping up and playing well," Weise said. "It makes you a more complete team when you have seven, eight guys who can come in and be productive."

Weise opened the scoring Tuesday with a three-pointer, which was the first of four in the first half for the 2-3 guard. Weise and Staklinski each scored 12 points in the first half to help stake the Patriots to a 36-25 halftime lead.

Foster took over the in the second half by scoring 14 of his points and picking off three of his four steals. Freehold Township scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to build a 47-25 lead and effectively bury Neptune.

Freehold Township beat Neptune 66-42 in the first meeting between the teams back on Dec. 22. Neptune junior Jared Kimbrough entered Tuesday averaging a double-double and reached double-figure scoring in all but one game. That one game was against Freehold Township and the Patriots again bottled up the 6-6 junior, who finished with five points and eight rebounds.

"We have our big guys down low and they have (Kimbrough), who is really good," Weise said. "Whenever he got the ball, we sent an extra guy at him to get it out of his hands. We gave up some threes, but we'd rather them take threes than let him beat us down low."

The Scarlet Fliers entered play Tuesday having won eight of their last nine games, with the lone loss coming against Bloomfield. The Scarlet Fliers had won five straight A North games to move into position to challenge Freehold Township if they could win on Tuesday. Instead, the Patriots turned back the Fliers by a margin of greater than 20 points for the second time this year and now lead Neptune by three full games with only five left for both teams.

"We're really just trying to go one day at a time," Weise said. "We're just going to keep working and keep trying to get more wins."

Box Score

Freehold Twp. 67, Neptune 39

1 2 3 4 F
Freehold Twp. (15-0, 9-0) 19 17 17 14 67
Neptune (9-5, 6-3) 10 15 9 5 39

Freehold Twp. (67): Bobby Weise 6 2-2 18, Brian White 2 0-0 4, Steve Staklinski 4 3-5 12, Ryan Zyskowski 4 2-2 11, Ryan Cardone 0 0-0 0, Ja'zeem Foster 6 4-4 18, Brandon Hasner 0 0-0 0, Joe Gargiulo 1 0-0 2, Seth Meisner 1 0-0 2, Mike Pirrotta 0 0-0 0, Zach Barilka 0 0-0 0, Greg Solla 0 0-0 0, Cristian Corcione 0 0-0 0, Doug Kneipher. Totals: 24 11-13 67

Three-pointers: Weise 4, Staklinski, Zyskowski, Foster 2

Neptune (39): Dwaine Jones 2 0-0 5, Seth Harrington 2 0-0 4, Jared Kimbrough 2 1-2 5, Scott Fields 3 0-0 7, Jules Calhoun 1 4-4 6, D.J. Jones 4 0-0 12, Kobe Blake 0 0-0 0, Juwan Crenshaw 0 0-0 0, S. Young 0 0-0 0, Mekhi Moore 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 5-6 39

Three-pointers: Dw. Jones, Fields, D.J. Jones 4

 

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