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STAFFORD TWP. – Southern Regional junior Peyton Wejnert leads the Shore Conference in free-throw attempts and makes, and in a five-point loss to rival and Shore Conference Class A South division leader Toms River North on Jan. 6, he left eight points on the line that he knows better than any other player in the conference.

Friday night against those same Mariners, with his team needing a win to keep any hopes of a Class A South title alive, Wejnert made himself and his team a much better memory at the free-throw line.

Wejnert buried the last of his 22 free-throw attempts to cap a 33-point night and officially push him into the 1,000-point club while also putting the exclamation point on a 73-62 win over the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.

Southern junior Peyton Wejnert (right) joined the 1,000-point club Friday behind a 33-point effort in a Rams win over No. 1 Toms River North (Photo by Matt Manley)

The win pulls the Rams (10-4, 6-3) within a game of both the Mariners (13-2, 8-2) and Toms River South (9-4, 7-2) in the division standings.

“The mentality over the last week has changed,” Wejnert said. “Everything is positive, whether someone just hit a shot or turned it over. That’s been the focus over the last week: getting back to playing together and focusing on winning together. That was my main focus tonight, and I really didn’t think about getting to a thousand until I went to the free-throw line and I heard our section counting it down.”

Wejnert is the second Southern player to join the 1,000-point club within the last two weeks, following senior Jake Logue into the club after Logue scored his 1,000th point in a Jan. 17 win at Millville. The current tandem of 1,000-point scorers follows the program’s all-time leading scorer Mike Gesicki, who graduated in 2014 with 1,867 points and, like Wejnert, hit the 1,000-point mark as a junior.

“I don’t put limits on myself,” Wejnert said. “Getting to one thousand as a junior is a special feeling, but it’s not really a goal I put out there. I don’t go out expecting anything because I don’t want to feel like I’m putting a limit on what I can do. I just play hard and try to win and I think when I’m focused, I feel like the sky is the limit.”

After spending his first two varsity seasons playing at Point Pleasant Boro, Wejnert transferred to Southern for this season and is enjoying career-best averages in points (24.9) and rebounds (9.2) with the Rams after finishing third in the Shore Conference in scoring average as a sophomore with 21.2 points per game.

“This season has been a process for everyone, including Peyton,” Southern coach Eric Fierro said. “I know a lot of people expected this was going to happen quickly for us because we had Logue and Wejnert and that meant we were going to roll through everybody. It doesn’t work that way. We needed to learn what we’re good at, what we need to fix and how our role players were going to complement our returning starters.

“To Peyton’s credit, he has come in and worked really hard to be part of this team. He’s let us coach him and he’s been all you could ask for as a teammate, which has made it that much easier to make an impact with his ability on the court, which was never a question.”

Wejnert’s 8-for-16 showing at the free-throw line in early January played a role in helping Toms River North win the early-season battle with the Rams for control of the division, and his 15 free throws in 22 attempts turned out to the be the difference in the game on Friday. Toms River North made one more field goal than Southern and knocked down six three-pointers to Southern’s four, but Wejnert’s march to the free-throw line alone accounted for nine more points than the entire Toms River North team had from the foul line.

“I put that loss on me,” Wejnert said. “You can’t go 8-for-16 and expect your team to be able to beat a good team. But I put it behind me and learned from it. I don’t like looking back on the good or the bad. I just look forward to the next game and the next play.”

In addition to his busy night at the free-throw line, Wejnert shot 9-for-18 from the field, and four of his nine field goals were baskets he scored as he was fouled. He also pulled in 13 rebounds and blocked four shots.

“It’s been great for our team and our program to have him (Wejnert) here,” said junior point guard Ethan DuBois, who handed out 10 assists to go with three steals and three points. “I started playing with Peyton in seventh grade, and I think he’s really great to play with. He plays hard on both ends, he’s a great teammate and he’s a great scorer as well. We felt like we had a pretty good team to begin with, so bringing in a player like him just made us that much more dangerous.”

Logue scored all 13 of his points in the second half as he helped key an 18-2 run that pushed a four-point lead to 49-29 with a minute left in the third quarter. Logue led Southern with seven points during that burst, while Wejnert added six.

Senior forward Eric Ray poured in 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks of his own. He also stepped out for two three-pointers and was instrumental in limiting Toms River North senior Jordan Craig to four points. Craig had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in the first meeting between the teams, his best statistical game of the season.

“The first time we played them, we were too concerned about what (Mike) Nyisztor was doing when we should have just been worried about what we were doing,” DuBois said. “Tonight, our plan was to play the way we wanted to play and make North adjust instead of letting them dictate how we play.”

Southern geared its defensive gameplan more toward taking the middle away from Craig without focusing as much attention to sophomore Mike Nyisztor as the Rams did in the first meeting. Nyisztor finished with nine points on Friday night.

“Scouting them at the WOBM (Christmas Classic), you see Nyisztor running around making big shot after big shot and that worried us in the first game,” Fierro said. “We did a good job on him, but then Craig killed us in the middle. We just made sure we had someone out there to challenge him. We had Mike Adragna in the lineup today for his athleticism and size, and he was the guy we had getting back on Nyisztor in transition, which is where he can really hurt you.”

“I think we did a good job of changing looks against them and making them adjust to something different each time,” Wejnert said. “We mixed in some 1-3-1 (zone) and 2-3, and we never ran the same defense on back-to-back possessions, and I think that threw them off during that stretch of the second and third quarter.”

Senior Evan Martin scored 24 points to lead Toms River North, including 22 in the second half and 15 in the fourth quarter. The Mariners played Friday’s game without junior forward and second-leading scorer Pat Marinaccio, who sprained his ankle Wednesday against Toms River East and is considered day-to-day, according to coach Rory Caswell.

Southern has now split with both Toms River North and Toms River South in the Class A South schedule and – after a Saturday afternoon showdown with Bridgeton at the Battle by the Bay in Atlantic City – will look to even its season series against Brick Memorial on Tuesday after the Mustangs won the first meeting at Brick Memorial. Southern is currently unbeaten (8-0) on its home floor with an average margin of victory of better than 17.

“The atmosphere in our gym has been incredible,” Fierro said. “We have a really likeable group of guys who the rest of the school has really embraced, and those guys in the student section do a great job of organizing everything up there to create a great atmosphere. There’s a reason we’re 8-0 at home and now, we’re working towards getting those same results when we travel.”

 

Box Score

Southern 73, Toms River North 62

1

2

3

4

F

Toms River North (13-2, 8-2)

10

13

11

28

62

Southern (10-4, 6-3)

13

16

20

24

73

 

Toms River North (62): Darrion Carrington 4 0-0 8, Evan Martin 10 4-5 24, Jordan Craig 2 0-1 4, Kevin Blum 1 1-2 3, Mike Nyisztor 3 1-1 9, Hunter Petrick 2 0-0 4, Ted Thelemaque 2 0-0 6, Anthony Sterino 1 0-0 2, Brian Brannagan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 6-9 62

Three-pointers: Martin 2, Nyisztor 2, Thelemaque 2

Fouled Out: Petrick

Southern (73): Ethan DuBois 0 3-4 3, Jake Logue 5 2-2 13, Eric Ray 6 1-2 15, Peyton Wejnert 9 15-22 33, Mike Adragna 2 0-0 4, Dylan Clark 1 0-0 2, Mark Valeriani 1 0-0 3, Julian Leone 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 21-30 73

Three-pointers: Logue, Ray 2, Valeriani