Boys Basketball: Three Shore Teams Competing for Two Sectional Titles
There are just three of 47 Shore Conference boys basketball teams left standing as we head to the NJSIAA sectional finals, with the Shore guaranteed to have at least one champion.Top-seeded Lakewood, this season’s Shore Conference Tournament champion, will host third-seeded Manasquan at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in an eagerly-awaited showdown in the Central Jersey Group II championship. The two teams played four times last season, with Lakewood winning three of them, including a win over the Warriors in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals.
“We will be ready,’’ Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said following a thrilling 77-75 win over Ewing in the CJ II semifinals. “We played them four times last season, and we returned four starters from that team, so we are familiar with them. We expect a battle.”
"We had high expectations before the loss to Point Beach (in the SCT semifinals), but we still have a chance to win a state championship,'' Manasquan senior guard J.R. Hobbie said. "We don't want our senior season to end. Especially since (Lakewood) won the Shore Conference, this is big for us. We've got to try and make a statement."
In Central Jersey Group I, Point Beach will be gunning for school history when it welcomes Bound Brook to its home floor at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in a bid to win its first sectional title. This is only Point Beach’s second trip to a sectional final in program history, as the Garnet Gulls fell at home to Woodbury in the South Jersey Group I final in 2010. On Saturday, Point Beach knocked off fourth-seeded Shore Regional 60-47 to put itself one step away from history.
In the Central Jersey Group II semifinals, Manasquan (23-3) pulled out a thriller over Ewing, the defending overall Group II champion, thanks to a game-high 32 points by Hobbie, a huge all-around game for senior forward Jimmy Walsh (22 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 blocks) and 17 points and 12 assists by junior guard Tommy Toole. The Warriors also did it without starting point guard Jack Fay, a junior who hit the floor hard when he was fouled on a rebound just 51 seconds into the game and did not return. He suffered a bruised hip, elbow and spine but may be available to play against Lakewood.
Lakewood (25-2), which has not lost to a Shore Conference team all season with its full lineup, rolled over Spotswood in the other semifinal with a 53-36 win. Senior guard Tyrice Beverette poured in a game-high 24 points and senior guard Erick Davis added 10 as the Piners made their second straight sectional final after falling to Neptune in last season’s Central Jersey Group III championship.
Lakewood and Manasquan have not played each other this season, so Monday’s game is an eagerly-awaited showdown between two of the Shore’s top three teams. Beverette is a Player of the Year candidate for Lakewood, while Hobbie and Walsh are making their own cases for Manasquan. The availability of Fay could be crucial because Manasquan does not have much depth in its backcourt rotation and will be facing a Lakewood team that thrives on turning over opposing guards with its relentless fullcourt pressure.
The Piners also are an excellent offensive rebounding team behind Beverette, senior forward Jared Craddox, junior center Ben Watson and junior guard Maurice Diowara. It will be up to Walsh, senior forwards Chris Keane and Sean Yerks and freshman forward Ryan Jensen to try to limit Lakewood to one shot. As for Lakewood, they will have to find a way to slow down Hobbie, who has been a scoring machine in the state tournament, averaging 26.7 points per game in three games. Walsh has also been a consistent force who will look to get Watson and Craddox in foul trouble early on to open up the middle.
As for Point Beach(24-3), the Garnet Gulls face a formidable opponent in Bound Brook (26-2), which has four scholarship athletes in its lineup, two for football and two for basketball. This is Bound Brook’s first sectional final appearance since 1979 and Point Beach’s best shot to win its first sectional title, so something will have to give.
Both teams like to play fast and have various offensive weapons. All five Point Beach starters – junior point guard Matt Farrell, junior forward Dominique Uhl, junior forward Noah Yates, senior guard P.J. Kineavy and senior center Riley Calzonetti – are all capable scorers. Farrell dropped in 20 points and dished out 7 assists in the win over Shore, while Yates chipped in with 18 points and a strong all-around game.
Bound Brook had 19 steals in an 85-62 win over Burlington City in the other semifinal, so taking care of the ball is a huge priority for Point Beach. Senior guard J.D. Rodriguez had 23 points, 9 steals and 6 assists and fellow senior guard Ricky Holliday added 16 points and 5 steals, so the backcourt matchup in this one will go a long way toward dictating how things shake out. One difference is that Bound Brook goes seven or eight players deep without missing a beat, while Point Beach played its entire starting lineup for 31 of 32 minutes in the win over Shore and did not substitute at all in a win over Manasquan in the SCT semifinals.
Point Beach will try to use its length with the 6-4 Calzonetti, the 6-6 Uhl and the 6-4 Yates to create second shots against the guard-oriented Crusaders.
The winner of the Point Beach-Bound Brook showdown will face the winner of the South Jersey Group I final between heavily-favored Paulsboro and Pitman in the Group I semifinals at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River North. Asbury Park stunned Paulsboro in last season’s Group I semifinal on its way to winning its second straight Group I title, and Point Beach hopes to keep the Shore Conference in possession of that crown.
The winner of the Manasquan-Lakewood game will play the South Jersey Group II winner from the Sterling-Medford Tech showdown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Perth Amboy High School in the Group II semifinal. All four public Group finals are on Sunday at Rutgers University.