ABERDEEN TWP. – When it comes to winning in the Shore Conference, no public school boys basketball program has the track record that Neptune High School has, certainly not current Shore Conference Class B North rival Matawan.

Junior Jason Dunne scored 12 points in Matawan's historic win over Neptune on Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Prior to Saturday’s meeting between the B North foes, it had been 49 years since Matawan had won a division title, a period during which a Neptune championship and a Matawan winning season have probably happened with similar frequency.

The Huskies will be hanging up a division championship banner after taking out defending division champion and perennial power Neptune Saturday, 65-55, to win the outright Class B North title. The championship is Matawan’s first division title of any kind since 1965.

“This is a group that comes to work every single day, whether it's practice or a game,” Matawan coach Tom Stead. “It makes it fun as a coach when you know your guys are going to give you everything they have on a given day. They knew they had a chance to be a special group and to their credit, they dedicated themselves to the goal, and they went out and earned it.”

Joe Piscopo scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Huskies and his three-point barrage during a stretch of the late first and early second quarters put Matawan in control of the game for good. The junior point guard finished with five 3-pointers and four of them came during a 14-2 run that put the Huskies up 22-11 midway through the second quarter.


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“When things are going well, I want my teammates getting involved, and when things aren’t going well, I want to be the one to pick my team up,” Piscopo said. “It doesn’t even have to be scoring. I don’t ever want to see anyone on our team with their head down and if I sense that, I know I need to step up and pick them up.”

Neptune trailed at the half despite holding Matawan’s top two scorers – junior Jason Dunne and senior Chris Tawiah – scoreless for the first 15 minutes. The Huskies led 22-15 at that point before Tawiah broke the drought with a conventional three-point play before the half to put Matawan ahead, 25-15 at the break.


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Despite the quiet first half from the duo, Dunne (12 points) and Tawiah (10) finished with a combined 22 points. Matawan’s other two starters also contributed to the scoring, with senior Austen Planes scored 10 points and senior Nick Tomkins adding nine.


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“I thought we did a nice job defending them the way we planned and the big thing was we rebounded very well,” Stead said. “Our goal was to get them to force some shots and then to keep them off the offensive glass. If you can frustrate them, sometimes they start jacking up threes, which is what they started doing.”


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Matawan built its lead to as much as 20 points, but Neptune eventually chipped it down to eight with just under two minutes left. The Huskies had taken an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter, but just as Matawan nearly erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit in an earlier, three-point loss at Neptune, the Scarlet Fliers appeared poised to make a push in the final two minutes.

Planes missed two free throws with his team leading 53-45, but Neptune could not corral the rebound. Dunne gathered the ball and took it back up for a basket while also drawing the foul. He converted the free throw to put Matawan ahead 56-45 with 2:09 left.

Neptune would again cut its deficit to eight at 63-55, but by then, there were only 35 seconds left.

“We got beat on the glass at the end and missed some free throws, which made things interesting,” Stead said. “If you miss free throws like we have this year, you’re going to have some tense moments. They scrapped and were able to take advantage of the frenetic pace, which is going to happen sometimes when a team is fighting to come back.”

The Scarlet Fliers won the first meeting between the two teams back on Jan. 27, 48-45, in a game that saw Matawan rally from a 41-27 deficit in the early fourth quarter to cut the Neptune lead to one. Neptune controlled the glass on both ends in that game, but Matawan did not allow Neptune frequent opportunities on the glass until the final minutes of the most recent game.

“They pushed us around at their place for the first three quarters and we didn’t wake up until the fourth quarter, which ended up costing us the game,” Piscopo said. “We had to be physical with them, especially boxing out on the defensive end. If you give them second chances, they are going to kill you, but we knew if we kept them to one shot, we’d be in good shape.”

Matawan had a chance to clinch a share of the division title on Tuesday in what seemed like a winnable game against Freehold, but the Colonials shocked the Huskies, 48-44, to set up a winner-take-all meeting between Neptune and Matawan.

“I’m sure our guys were looking ahead to this game and I told them that they had to learn from it,” Stead said. “A loss like that is either going to make you stronger or it’s going to end the season. The guys came in ready to work on Wednesday and ready to put it behind them.”

The Huskies will look to follow up a successful regular season with another strong showing in the postseason tournaments after a surprising run through the Shore Conference Tournament last year as a No. 24 seed. The Huskies won road games at Red Bank Catholic and Christian Brothers Academy to reach the SCT quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Lakewood.

Matawan was the No. 15 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs and lost to No. 2 Manasquan in the first round. This season, the Huskies are the No. 1 seed in the CJ II bracket and will be home for the duration of their stay in the sectional tournament.

“It’s definitely a different feeling this year,” Piscopo said. “None of us have ever been in this position before, going into a tournament as a favorite. We’re really going to have to listen to our coaches because they’ve been on us from the very beginning about what to expect this year, and that’s been big for us. The big thing now is to just find out who we’re playing and get to work.”

“I’d almost rather play a first-round game than get a bye,” Stead said of the SCT. “I want these guys getting game action in order to tune up. Sometimes you practice and you lose your edge, and I think that’s happened to us at different times this year.

“We’ve had a good season to this point, but I still don’t think we’ve put it all together yet. I still don’t think we’ve played our best basketball, and we’re looking to do that in the next couple of weeks.”


Box Score

Matawan 65, Neptune 55






Neptune (11-7, 9-3)






Matawan (17-3, 10-2)







Neptune (55): Cameron Calderon 0 2-2 2, Shakeem Richardson 4 4-4 13, Diondre Dunn 0 0-0 0, Myles Mooney 6 3-4 16, Kerry Kirkwood 5 0-0 11, Lamar Ford 1 2-2 4, Drew Johnson 2 3-4 7, Sean McMillan 0 0-0 0, Marque Ellington 0 0-0 0, Micah Kerr 0 2-2 2, Oshane Curate 0 0-0 0, Alex Ennis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 16-18 55

Three-pointers: Richardson, Mooney, Kirkwood

Matawan (65): Joe Piscopo 5 7-10 22, Jason Dunne 3 5-9 12, Nick Tomkins 4 1-1 9, Austen Planes 4 2-4 10, Chris Tawiah 3 3-5 10, Dritan Gjyriqi 1 0-1 2, Mike Vella 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 18-30 65

Three-pointers: Piscopo 5, Dunn, Tawiah