In a Shore Conference Class A North division that Christian Brothers Academy has mostly owned, the Freehold Township boys basketball team has become a constant in its own right. In addition to fielding a contender in most years, the Patriots have been able to mark their calendar when it comes to winning the outright division championship.

Last week, the Patriots beat Marlboro, 42-41, to clinch the Class A North championship for the first time in five years, which is why they are this week's Shore Sports Network Army Strong Team of the Week. The last time Freehold Township won the outright A North title in 2011-12, it was also a five-year wait: the 2006-07 Shore Conference Tournament championship team had been the last Patriots squad to win the division.

CBA was the only team to beat Freehold Township during the regular season and up until last week, the Patriots had not won an A North game by fewer than eight points. They then polished off a 13-1 season in the division with two one-point victories, beginning with the win over the Mustangs. In that game, senior forward and leading scorer Steve Staklinski sat for the duration of the second quarter with two fouls and watched Marlboro outscore his team 16-6 in the second quarter to go up 21-13 at halftime.

Staklinski returned in the second half and Freehold Township took over the lead in the third quarter. Marlboro would rally to tie it at 32, but the Patriots answered with an 8-2 run that was too much for the Mustangs to overcome. Staklinski finished with 15 points to lead the way for Freehold Township.

Fresh off winning the division title, the Patriots nearly got caught in hangover mode three days later against last-place Manalapan. The Patriots trailed 44-43 in the final seconds, but senior Ryan Cardone came through with a pullup jumper just before time expired to help his team escape with a 45-44 win.

On Thursday, the Patriots continued their march toward what they hope will be either a second Shore Conference Tournament championship, a first ever NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship, or perhaps even both. They defeated Ocean, 49-38, in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 behind a strong second half. Sunday at Pine Belt Arena, Freehold Township will play Marlboro for a third time with a chance to reach the SCT semifinals for the first time since 2007.

 

2017 Team of the Week Winners

Week 6: Brick

Week 5: CBA

Week 4: Donovan Catholic

Week 3: Ranney

Week 2: Rumson-Fair Haven

Week 1: Ocean

 

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