Boys Basketball – SCT Quarterfinal Picks
No. 2 Christian Brothers Academy vs. No. 7 Neptune, 11 a.m.
Even though these teams no longer play every year, this might be the best rivalry in the Shore Conference. The fact that they don’t play every year might actually enhance that rivalry. It’s been five years since Neptune and CBA met in the Shore Conference Tournament and the rivalry renews with each team enjoying a bounce-back season. Despite winning the Class B North division last year, Neptune had to scratch and claw just to get over .500, while CBA finished second in A North and lost at home to Matawan in the SCT round of 16. Neptune has a recent SCT title to its credit, having won in 2012, while CBA has not won since 2010 and has not been to the quarters since 2011.
Both teams have some pretty good depth throughout the starting lineup, but what separates CBA from Neptune – and a lot of other teams in the field – is its balanced scoring and front court depth. Neptune can rebound a lot of teams under the table, but it will be hard to pound the glass against this Colts front line. There is also no single player on which to focus because all five CBA starters can and have led the team in scoring in a given game. Neptune, on the other hand, relies heavily on seniors Shakeem Richardson and Myles Mooney for its scoring. Getting Richardson going at some point in the game will be a must in order to open up the offense and once that happens, Neptune can get junior shooter Kerry Kirkwood going and open up the offensive glass a little bit.
If CBA can limit Richardson, Neptune is going to have trouble keeping up and even with a big game from Richardson, CBA will give Neptune a lot of dilemmas on defense. The Pick: CBA, 58-51
No. 3 Lakewood vs. No. 6 Long Branch, 12:45 p.m.
For the second time this season, Lakewood will play Long Branch on a “neutral” court that just happens to be at Long Branch High School. It did not work out well for Lakewood the first time thanks to some great hustle by Deon Williams and questionable clock operation, so the Piners enter Sunday with revenge on their mind.
Lakewood has been the more dominant of the two teams this season and both have played quality schedules, but Long Branch’s win on Jan. 11 was a look into what Long Branch is capable of. The Green Wave have a senior-loaded lineup that has bought in on the defensive end. The offense has not been quite as consistent, but Terrel Cox is a threat to go for 25 points on any night and there are some legitimate offensive threats elsewhere on the floor.
Against Lakewood, however, points will be harder to come by and Lakewood also has the capability to go off offensively. The keys for Lakewood are sophomores Naquese Joshua and Amir Tyler. If one of those two has a big game, Long Branch will have problems, as it did once sophomore Sean Barksdale came off the bench and got hot from behind the three-point arc in the first meeting. The Pick: Lakewood, 55-49
No. 1 Point Beach vs. No. 9 Jackson Memorial, 2:30 p.m.
The second of two rematches from the Boardwalk Showcase features the most talented team in the Shore Conference against, arguably, the most imposing front line in the Shore Conference. Point Beach handled Jackson Memorial, 57-37, at the Jan. 11 showcase at Long Branch on the back of its guard play. There is not a team on Point Beach’s schedule that has been able to slow down Matt Farrell and if Jackson Memorial has any designs on winning on Sunday, it has to figure out a way to limit Farrell’s options. Everything runs through the senior point guard and Jaguars’ best bet will be to resist helping off Dom Uhl and Noah Yates and hope no one else beats them. That’s way easier said than done considering 6’8” center Jeff Bryant just went for 20 points and 10 rebounds against a Southern team with a big front line in its own right.
Eric Carter and Jesse Hill had relatively quiet games against Point Beach in the first meeting and that will have to change for Jackson to have a chance. The Jaguars’ size should be a legitimate concern for Point Beach, but the Garnet Gulls should be able to adequately deal with the size while exploiting a big advantage in the back court. The Pick: Point Beach, 60-44
No. 4 Matawan vs. No. 5 Manasquan, 4:15 p.m.
One could make a case that Manasquan is playing the best basketball of any team in the Shore Conference other than Point Beach. In order to reach a third straight SCT semifinal round, the Warriors will have to go through a program having its best season in a half-century. Matawan is playing in its second straight SCT quarterfinals with the same core of players after a team of mostly sophomores and juniors lost to eventual champion Lakewood at Brookdale last year. There is also an element of revenge to this game after Manasquan blew Matawan out in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II first round last year.
Matawan returns more players and more scoring from last year’s team, but Manasquan does have three of its top five players back, along with a host of new role players. Manasquan came into the season as a team with some question marks around returnees Jack Fay, Tommy Toole and Ryan Jensen and has answered those questions with one of the deepest, most balanced rotations in the Shore Conference. Matawan, meanwhile, will counter with a rotation that is not as deep, but has more shooting and might be a little more dangerous on offense.
Dangerous or not, Manasquan has played suffocating defense for most of the year and Matawan will find it difficult to get good looks against the Warriors defense. Experience is also on Manasquan’s side because not only have the Warriors been here before, but they have won here before. Matawan should get another crack at a championship in the Central Jersey Group II tournament, but their SCT hopes are on thin ice starting on Sunday. The Pick: Manasquan, 53-45
Round 1 Picks Record: 7-5
Round of 16 Picks Record: 7-1
Overall Record: 14-6