NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I Championship

Tuesday, March 6, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Point Pleasant Beach (20-9) at No. 1 Burlington City (24-4)

Point Beach Road to the Final: Defeated No. 13 Stem Civics, 76-52; No. 6 Middlesex, 76-57; No. 2 New Egypt, 63-42.

Burlington City Road to the Final: Defeated No. 16 Foundation Collegiate, 75-48; No. 9 Bound Brook 74-44; No. 4 Florence, 66-39

Four years ago, current seniors Danny Fraeunheim and Trevor Covey entered a Point Pleasant Beach program coming off back-to-back NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championships and two years removed from an appearance in the Tournament of Champions.

For the first time since the two four-year varsity letter-winners and 1,000-point scorers were freshmen, the Garnet Gulls will play in a Central Group I final when they travel to top-seeded Burlington City Tuesday with a chance for this Frauenheim-and-Covey-led group to capture its first championship.

In 2015, Frauenheim and Covey came off the bench for a team that finished the runner-up in the CJ I bracket to Shore Regional and will now get a similar experience Tuesday with two distinct differences: they are now seniors and this time, they will be playing on the road.

Point Beach senior Trevor Covey. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Standing in the Garnet Gulls’ way is the team that ended their season last year. Burlington City edged Point Beach, 59-54, in the sectional quarterfinals last year on the way to winning the sectional championship. What turned out to be the de facto championship game last year is now the actual one this year and Frauenheim, Covey and Co. will have the extra motivation that comes from losing to a team in the postseason.

“We’ve got to be ready for the environment,” Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. “I thought it was a fairly even game when we went there last year. They are tough-minded so we’re going to have to be tough minded. It’s going to be a lot of seniors going at each other for both teams.”

Both Point Beach and Burlington City bring significant pieces back from last year’s team, with Frauenheim and Covey chief among them for Point Beach. On the Blue Devils side, seniors D’Andre Thurmond and Jeremy Young are the answers to Frauenheim and Covey, with Thurmond leading the team at better than 16 points.

Junior Amir Landrum is also back from last year and is Burlington City’s top perimeter threat, while sophomore Deonte Woodbury has taken a step forward after contributing as a freshman on last year’s sectional championship team.

The one player between the two teams that is new to this year’s game is Point Beach senior Mohamed Traore. After moving to the Shore from the Boston area and sitting the first 30 days of the season, all Traore has done is lead the Garnet Gulls in scoring at 18 points per game during his 15 games in the lineup. Between the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments, Traore is averaging 18.7 per game, including 20.8 in his team’s five wins.

Point Beach senior Mohamed Traore. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"He adds so many different things to our team," Catania said of Traore. "He's so versatile. It's hard to pinpoint where he makes the biggest difference, because he's good in so many areas - he rebounds, he defends, he can shoot the three, he takes it to the rim. It's not just one thing, it's his overall game that takes us to another level."

Since last year, Point Beach’s two other starters have become more of a factor as well. Senior Josh Yates is a three-point threat and a valuable defender while sophomore Jake Clark is healthy after missing last year with a hip injury. Traore, Yates and Clark have been so effective that once 6-3 returning starter Chris Pina became eligible to play in early February, he has been coming off the bench as the team’s sixth man.

“Mo has been huge for us and since he has joined the team and we got Chris back, we’ve really come together as a team,” Frauenheim said. “We’re clicking right now and we just need to do it for four more quarters.”

On top of Traore scoring 21 points in Friday's sectional semifinal win over New Egypt, Frauenheim became the program's all-time assists leader with 547, passing current Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell.

Point Beach senior Danny Frauenheim. (Photo by Matt Manley)

After catching Farrell in the record books, Fraunheim would now like to add a championship to his resume, which Farrell did a number of times by leading the Garnet Gulls to two sectional titles, a Group I championship in 2013 and a Shore Conference Tournament title in 2014.

"When I was in eighth grade and he and my brother were seniors, I watched him a lot," Frauenheim said. "I still watch him and I try to emulate his game. He's a great player, so I've just tried to learn from the best."

With Frauenheim, Covey, Traore, Yates and Pina all in their final years of high school, not only is it their last year to leave a mark at Point Beach – it might be Point Beach’s best chance to win a championship for the near future. With the taste of defeat from last year and the desperation to win as seniors, Point Beach will be a dangerous team heading west on Tuesday.

"I think we're playing our best basketball right now," Covey said. "All our guys are confident and excited to play every day. We have the confidence to do it, but it's also win or go home, so there is that urgency too."

 

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