MIDDLETOWN - The Toms River North boys basketball team Sunday evening walked out of Collins Arena having avoided another bad memory on the campus of Brookdale Community College and now the Mariners get to attempt to make history on their home floor.

Junior Jaden Rhoden scored 15 points and junior Darrion Carrington added 14 as the fourth-seeded Mariners survived a second-half scare from No. 12 Long Branch to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the third time in four years with a 58-52 win.

The scene now shifts to Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, where the Mariners will play top-seeded Mater Dei Prep in the first game of the semifinal double-header Tuesday night, which tips off at 6 p.m.

"This is where we wanted to be," said Toms River North coach Rory Caswell, who has now guided his team to the SCT semifinals in three of the five years that he has been coaching it. "This is our third trip since I've been here, but the last two times, it didn't go on any longer. Our kids know that and we want to take it a step further this year and winning today was the first step."

While Toms River North has now won its last three quarterfinal games at Brookdale, its last game on the court at Collins Arena turned into one of the most lopside games in SCT history - a 65-29 loss to CBA in which Toms River North did not score for the first 12 minutes in falling behind 25-0 and 39-5 by halftime.

Toms River North's Darrion Carrington drives past Long Branch's Tyree Morris Sunday. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

"Last year was tough - we came in with a positive mindset," Carrington said. "We were a high seed and we beat Wall (in the quarterfinals) but CBA gave us one of the worst losses anybody has ever seen in this gym. Coming back here this year, we're even more positive, we have a family-oriented team and we all came into today knowing we don't want that feeling anymore."

Saturday was a different kind of struggle for the Mariners and ultimately one they overcame. After leading by as many as 17 in the first half, Toms River North let the large lead slip away by the end of the third quarter.

"We were up by a good amount at halftime and they came out in the second half more ready that we were," Carrington said. "I guess we got a little big-headed after we put them down early and we kept coming down and missing quick shots and they'd come right back and make a shot off that and that's what got them back in it."

With his team trailing by four, Carrington cut Long Branch's lead to 45-43 with under four minutes left by stealing the inbounds pass under the Long Branch basket and laying it in. From there, the Mariners won the game on the free-throw line, shooting 15-for-22 over the final three-plus minutes to pull away.

Senior Hunter Petrick scored nine of his 13 points in the first half for Toms River North and senior Pat Marinaccio added nine in the win. Petrick and junior Mike Husni also combined to defend Long Branch leading scorer Anthony Velazquez, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half.

Toms River North senior Hunter Petrick drives the lane against Long Branch on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

Carrington was 3-for-4 at the line down the stretch, while Marinaccio went 4-for-4. Rhoden went 5-for-8 and Petrick was 4-for-6.

"Our team free-throw shooting numbers aren't that great, but we've shot it well in the fourth quarter," Caswell said. "Darrion is the example of that. He's shooting in the mid-to-high sixty percent range, but he's well over eighty in the fourth quarter. If he's getting to the line late in the game, we feel good."

Long Branch fell behind 28-11 by the late stages of the second quarter but stormed back to take a 37-36 lead on a three-point play by freshman Marc Dennis in the final seconds of the third. The Green Wave took its largest lead when sophomore Tyree Morris found senior Jaquan Presley for a layup to make it 45-41 before Toms River North scored nine straight.

"I think it was as simple as they didn't come out ready and we were able to jump on them even though we couldn't really make a shot," Caswell said. "They started to execute their offense in the second half and all of a sudden, the missed shots started hurting us because we weren't getting the stops. The thing I liked was we didn't panic, we didn't rush and we put ourselves in situations to get good looks and get to the free-throw line."

In addition to the 15 Velazquez scored, Morris had 10 points, Dennis poured in nine and sophomore T.J. Fosque contributed eight.

Toms River North will take on top-seeded Mater Dei on Tuesday, 6 p.m. at Pine Belt Arena - the Mariners' home gym. The Mariners had to make the longest trip to Brookdale of any team in the quarterfinals, so the homecourt advantage will be a welcome change, especially against the No. 1 seed in the field.

"When we're home and our fans our in it, I feel we can hang with anybody," Rhoden said.


Box Score

Toms River North 58, Long Branch 52

1 2 3 4 F
Long Branch (16-7) 5 10 22 15 52
Toms River North (22-3) 16 12 8 22 58


Long Branch (52): Marc Dennis 2 5-7 9, Anthony Velazquez 6 2-2 15, Joshawn Boynton 0 1-2 1, T.J. Fosque 4 0-0 8, Jamar Foster 1 0-2 3, Tyree Morris 4 1-2 10, Jaquel Presley 2 2-2 6, Cascius Briggs 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 11-17 52

Three-pointers: Velazquez, Foster, Morris

Toms River North (58): Darrion Carrington 4 5-6 14, Mike Nyisztor 1 2-4 5, Jaden Rhoden 5 5-8 15, Pat Marinaccio 2 4-7 9, Hunter Petrick 4 5-8 13, Mike Husni 0 0-0 0, Anthony Storino 0 2-2 0. Totals: 16 23-35 58

Three-pointers: Carrington, Nyisztor, Marinaccio