Toms River North's showdown against Cherokee at Saturday's Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase at Central Regional High School started 10 minutes early and judging by the way they started the game, the Mariners players might not have realized it.

Cherokee hit its first four three-point shots, stormed out to a 16-2 lead and led 18-3 by the end of the first quarter.

Just like it has come on strong over the last two weeks, this fast-developing Toms River North squad had another gear and the Mariners found it over the final three quarters against a Chiefs team ranked No. 16 in the state by NJ.com entering the game.

Toms River North rallied from the early 15-point hole and a seven-point deficit with under four minutes to go to knock off Cherokee, 44-43, for the Mariners' seventh straight win. The victory capped a 3-0 week that earned Toms River North the fourth Jersey Mike's Team of the Week award in 2019.

Prior to beating Cherokee, Toms River North extended its multi-year Class-A-South winning streak to 54 games by hammering both Jackson Memorial and Toms River East by double-figures. Jackson Memorial has since gone on to beat Wall - the No. 9 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - and Brick Memorial - the second-place team in the Class A South standings.

Junior Jakari Spence was the key cog in the wins over Toms River East and Cherokee, with the 6-foot-2 guard pumping in 25 points against the crosstown-rival Raiders and 23 in the win over Cherokee. All of Spence's points in Saturday's big win came after a scoreless first quarter.

Junior Najae Hallenbeck was his usual steady source of scoring and rebounding, putting up 11 points and nine boards against Jackson, 23 and 18 against Toms River East and 10 and 12 against Cherokee.

Junior Colin Baker proved to be last week's wild card by scoring 11 points in the win over Jackson and hitting the game-winning shot with 30 seconds left against Cherokee. Baker has battled tendinitis in his knee throughout the season, even missing five straight games due to the ailment before returning to contribute in his team's recent surge.

Toms River North's A South winning streak dates back to February of 2015 and currently stands at 55 after a win over Brick on Tuesday. The Mariners are hoping to make it 60 in a row by completing their fourth straight unbeaten campaign within the division, which would mark a fifth straight division title and sixth in seven years.

 

2019 Team of the Week Winners

Week 1: Matawan

Week 2: Wall

Week 3: Red Bank Catholic

 

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