Boys Basketball: Shore Conference Tournament Championship Preview
Shore Conference boys basketball fans are guaranteed to see something on Saturday at Monmouth University that hasn’t been seen in 22 years.
For the first time since 1991, an Ocean County team will be crowned as the Shore Conference Tournament champion after top-seeded Lakewood (21-2) and second-seeded Point Beach (22-2) square off in the final at 3 p.m. The game follows the girls SCT championship at 1 p.m. between Red Bank Catholic and Point Boro. Tickets are $5, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The boys game also will be live on the Shore Sports Network on 1160/1310 a.m. and streamed online at shoresportsnetwork.com.
The last time two Ocean County teams squared off in the SCT final, Lakewood beat Lacey 86-67 in 1991 when current Piners head coach Randy Holmes was a star guard on the team. Point Beach has never won the SCT, and its only appearance in the final came way back in 1963, when former long-time Monmouth University men’s basketball assistant Ron Krayl was a star for the Garnet Gulls.
“It’s a big accomplishment to get there, but we have to finish it,’’ said Point Beach senior center Riley Calzonetti, who had a team-high 17 points in a 50-47 semifinal win over Manasquan.
“It’s been great for us as a small school to show how good we are, but we want to win the whole thing.’’
While a victory for Lakewood would be a return to glory for the Piners, the most accomplished program in Ocean County history, it would mark the latest chapter in the ascendance of Point Beach from a cellar-dweller to a perennial championship contender in the last five seasons. Point Beach is the first Group I program to reach the SCT final since Asbury Park in 1987, and the Garnet Gulls are bidding to be the first Group I team to win the SCT since Asbury Park took it home in 1986.
“This has been one of our goals all along,’’ said head coach Nick Catania.
As for Lakewood, the Piners reached the semifinals for the second time in three seasons and finally got over the hump by beating Toms River North 55-47 to reach their first SCT final since 1995. Lakewood has won seven SCT titles in the 76-year history of the SCT, with its first coming in 1944. Senior guard Tyrice Beverette is a Player of the Year candidate for the Piners who had 19 points in the semifinals, and he leads a balanced team that beat Point Beach 55-47 in a regular-season game on Feb. 2.
“Point Beach has very good shooters and they move well without the ball," Beverette said. "I feel like it's going to be the same type of game. Neither one of these teams have to change anything. Just go out, play hard and may the best team win."
Something will have to give on Saturday, as Lakewood has not lost to a Shore Conference opponent all season with its full lineup. A regular-season loss to Central in January came with Beverette on a recruiting visit to the University of Delaware. Meanwhile, Point Beach also has not lost to a Shore Conference opponent with its full lineup intact for a whole game. Six-foot-six junior forward Dom Uhl left the earlier loss to Lakewood four minutes into the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return, and he also missed a regular-season loss to Long Branch along with starting junior forward Noah Yates in the week before the SCT started.
"When we have our full team, no one in the Shore Conference can play with us,'' senior guard P.J. Kineavy said after a 30-point win over defending SCT champion Neptune in the Round of 16.
Here are some keys to Saturday’s game along with predictions, starting lineups, key reserves, and the history of the SCT.
- Exploit mismatches on offense. This is one of Point Beach’s strengths because it has a point guard, junior Matt Farrell, who makes sure the right people get the ball in the right spot. All five starters are capable scorers, and when the Garnet Gulls see a mismatch, they will go to it repeatedly. If Lakewood’s 6-foot-7, 315-pound center Ben Watson has to come out and cover a quicker player, Point Beach must take advantages like that to open up the paint. Or if 6-6 junior Dominique Uhl has a shorter defender on him, he needs to slash to the rim and use his length to cause problems.
- Be patient. Point Beach has a lot of weapons offensively and sometimes fall in love with the 3-pointer a little too much. If they are patient, particularly if Lakewood tries to sit in a zone at all, they will get open looks because they share the ball so well and move without the ball. They will want to acclimate quickly to the rims and depth perception at Monmouth University, as jumpshooting teams have struggled mightily in the two previous seasons that the final has been held there. If they execute their pick-and-roll, cut hard off backscreens and quickly move the ball around the perimeter, the shots will be there. Lakewood likes to speed teams up and get them playing faster than they want to, which is when sloppy turnovers occur. Speaking of which…
- Limit turnovers. Lakewood, particularly Tyrice Beverette, is so fast that a turnover can be converted into a layup on the other end in an instant. Force Lakewood to earn its points by scoring in halfcourt sets, not getting easy buckets off steals on the perimeter or in transition off long rebounds.
- Box out. Lakewood feasts on the offensive boards, particularly Jared Craddox. The Piners’ outside shooting is inconsistent, but they stay in games when they are struggling from the perimeter by creating second shots and putbacks on the offensive boards. All five of them will hit the glass, so even Point Beach’s guards have to make sure to put a body on someone. If Point Beach can limit Lakewood to one-and-done possessions on jumpers from the perimeter, that gives the Garnet Gulls a huge advantage.
- Try to get Tyrice Beverette in early foul trouble. Rotate to take charges on his drives to the basket and try to at least attack him off the dribble early on offense because when he comes out of the game, there is no clear No. 2 scorer for Lakewood to carry the offense.
- Execute its bread-and-butter: scoring off turnovers from a full-court pressure defense, marauding the offensive boards, and grabbing every defensive rebound. That is what Lakewood does best, so if Point Beach has 18-plus turnovers and the likes of Jared Craddox and Ben Watson have 10-plus offensive rebounds between them, the Piners should be in a good spot.
- Don’t settle for jumpers. Lakewood is at its best when it attacks off the dribble, particularly Tyrice Beverette and Mo Diawara. While Beverette has shown he can knock down the three by nailing four in the semifinals against Toms River North, that’s what Point Beach wants. The Garnet Gulls want to bait Lakewood into taking a bunch of threes and then limiting them to one shot. There is certainly the chance they will sit in a zone for long stretches. The more Lakewood gets in the lane off the dribble, the more dangerous they become because then Watson, Craddox and others are free for putbacks or layups when their defender has to rotate to stop the incoming penetrator. Lakewood had four different players in double figures in the regular-season win over Point Beach, so the Piners have shown that when they are patient and share the ball, they don’t need Beverette to have a huge game to beat a good team.
- Beat Point Beach down the floor. This goes not just for transition, where Beverette is a blur in the open court, but also in establishing post position. Watson is so big that once he roots himself on the block, it’s hard to move him off there, particularly when it comes to offensive rebounds. If he can get Riley Calzonetti in early foul trouble, that also removes Point Beach’s main scoring threat in the post.
- Defend the 3-point line. Whenever Point Beach is down, it always seems to be able to get right back into the game with a 3-pointer. Manasquan seemed to be in a good spot up by five with four minutes to go in the semfinals, but P.J. Kineavy hit a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game and it was tooth-and-nail from there. Lakewood wants the Garnet Gulls to shoot contested jumpers from 16-17 feet out of their halfcourt offense.
- Stop Matt Farrell. Much easier said than done because Farrell has been one of the Shore Conference’s top guards all season. He is the head of the snake. He gets the offense set in the right spots, scores when necessary and gets in the lane to make plays. Lakewood wants to smother him or trap him in the backcourt to force someone else to initiate the offense and handle the ball against the Piners’ pressure. He is the key to everything Point Beach does.
Matt Manley: Adding Dominique Uhl to the lineup against the best rebounding team in the Shore Conference will help Point Beach after they lost the 6-foot-7 forward to an ankle injury in the first quarter of the Feb. 2 loss to the Piners. Despite his height, Uhl is not a dominant presence on the glass as much as he is a tall athlete who can get his hands on a lot of loose balls. He only had three rebounds against Manasquan and Lakewood has four players who rebound better than their height.
This game will be a lot more about the guard play for Point Beach, who will have to shoot and protect the ball better than it did in the first meeting. Defensively, Lakewood showed they can pose a lot of problems for the Garnet Gulls after four players – Jared Craddox, Ben Watson, Mo Diawara and Tyrice Beverette – reached double-figure figures for Lakewood in the first meeting, and that was with Beverette having an off game. Expect Beverette to step his game up and Lakewood’s defense to shine once again in what should be a great final. The Pick: Lakewood, 53-49
Scott Stump: Since I saw them beat Colts Neck earlier in the season, my thought has been that Point Beach is the best team in the Shore Conference when it is at full strength. This game comes down to rebounding for me. If you do a solid job of keeping Lakewood off the offensive glass, you put yourself in position to win, but that's much easier said than done against the likes of Tyrice Beverette, Jared Craddox and Ben Watson.
If the presence of Dominique Uhl can pull one of Lakewood's taller, more athletic defenders (i.e. Craddox) out of the paint, that gives Point Beach a better shot to attack the rim. The X-factor in this game, judging by the last two seasons, is how these teams acclimate to the rims and depth perception when playing at Monmouth. The last two SCT finals have featured roaring, capacity crowds and awful basketball because no one can make a jumpshot, including last year's 37-33 peach basket-era horror show between Neptune and Colts Neck. If that is the case again, that favors Lakewood and its ability to score inside and on the offensive glass. Point Beach is going to have to break that jinx and be the team that makes it happen from behind the arc in key spots. I think this is the year the Garnet Gulls make school history by beating an excellent opponent. The pick: Point Beach, 48-47.
Head coach: Nick Catania
No. Name Yr. Pos
3 Matt Farrell Jr. G
32 P.J. Kineavy Sr. G
23 Riley Calzonetti Sr. C
24 Noah Yates Jr. G/F
25 Dom Uhl Jr. F
Key reserves: Jeff Bryant (Jr., F/C); Matt Van Nostrand (Fr., G)
Head coach: Randy Holmes
No. Name Yr. Pos
12 Mo Diawara Sr. G
10 Tyrice Beverette Sr. G
13 Jared Craddox Sr. F
44 Ben Watson Jr. C
5 Malik Mendez Sr. G
Key reserves: Erick Davis (Sr., G); Marquise Oliver (Sr., G/F).
SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT FINALS HISTORY
2012: Neptune 37, Colts Neck 33
2011: Raritan 43, Rumson-FH 35
2010: CBA 60 Middletown South 44
2009: CBA 58 Neptune 49
2008: Neptune 67 Monsignor Donovan 52
2007: Freehold Township 55 CBA 49
2006: CBA 65 Monsignor Donovan 56
2005: CBA 57 Manasquan 41
2004: Raritan 60 Neptune 58
2003: CBA 44 Raritan 30
2002: Neptune 57 CBA 47
2001: CBA 56 Neptune 39
2000: CBA 60 Neptune 38
1999: Red Bank 44 CBA 43
1998: Neptune 55 Red Bank 48 (OT)
1997: Long Branch 44 CBA 42
1996: CBA 64 Toms River North 58
1995: CBA 58 Lakewood 57
1994: CBA 51 Long Branch 38
1993: CBA 60 Red Bank 52
1992: Red Bank 60 CBA 54
1991: Lakewood 86 Lacey 67
1990: CBA 42 Neptune 30
1989: Lakewood 79 Neptune 77 (OT)
1988: CBA 57 Lakewood 55
1987: CBA 58 Asbury Park 55
1986: Asbury Park 61 Lakewood 60
1985: CBA 70 Asbury Park 63
1984: CBA 58 Mater Dei 51
1983: Red Bank 61 CBA 58
1982: Toms River South 83 Neptune 80
1981: Neptune 59 Long Branch 28
1980: Neptune 72 Manasquan 45
1979: Middletown South 73 Red Bank 68
1978: Asbury Park 41 Long Branch 37
1977: Long Branch 65 Lakewood 49
1976: Neptune 59 Long Branch 54
1975: Lakewood 55 Neptune 45
1974: Lakewood 65 Wall 60
1973: Ocean 71 Neptune 63
1972: Neptune 80 Manasquan 66
1971: Ocean 65 Henry Hudson 56
1970: Long Branch 88 Neptune 67
1969: Henry Hudson 56 Long Branch 53
1968: Lakewood 61 Ocean 55
1967: Neptune 48 Lakewood 45
1966: Neptune 61 Lakewood 44
1965: Neptune 63 Lakewood 56
1964: Neptune 59 Matawan 53
1963: Neptune 66 Point Pleasant Beach 54
1962: Neptune 82 Keyport 58
1961: Neptune 69 Keyport 60
1960: Matawan 62 Manasquan 59
1959: Red Bank 68 Matawan 47
1958: Lakewood 59 Atlantic Highlands 57
1957: Manasquan 79 Red Bank 56
1956: Red Bank 55 Lakewood 51
1955: (Class A) Manasquan 76 Neptune 65
(Class B) Matawan 70 Point Pleasant Beach 56
1954: (CLass A) Neptune 73 Manasquan 52
(Class B) Atlantic Highlands 62 Hoffman 59
1953: (Group II) Red Bank 60 Neptune 55
(Group I) Hoffman 53 Atlantic Highlands 41
1952: (Group II) Neptune 60 Manasquan 39
(Group I) Hoffman 56 Atlantic Highlands 53 (OT)
1951: Neptune 61 Hoffman 52
1950: Red Bank 56 Neptune 52
1949: Neptune 71 Atlantic Highlands 45
1948: Manasquan 58 Freehold 48
1947: Manasquan 57 Point Pleasant Beach 25
1946: Red Bank 34 Manasquan 27
1945: Manasquan 31 Red Bank 26
1944: Lakewood 40 Toms River 36
1943: Neptune 32 Manasquan 25
1942: Neptune 42 Manasquan 40
1941: Manasquan 35 Neptune 32 (OT)
1940: Hoffman 33 Manasquan 31
1939: Neptune 41 Manasquan 38
1938: Atlantic Highlands 28 Neptune 22
1937: Keyport 31 Atlantic Highlands 22