Boys SCT – Looking Back, Looking Forward
The Shore Conference Tournament is a time for the best and brightest of the Shore Conference to shine, but that doesn’t mean the usual suspects are the ones to grab the headlines.
Holmdel, Jackson Memorial and Colts Neck all got big goals from players who had not yet scored on the varsity level, two of which were game-winners and another that tied the game in the final minutes.
Holmdel survived a scare from Toms River East thanks to a goal by sophomore Andrew McStay, who came off the bench with freshman starter Brendan Wall hobbled. McStay poked a passed from Jason Kyriacou into the goal with 27 seconds left in the first overtime period to deliver the Hornets a fourth straight trip to the SCT semifinals.
“Like anybody, I’m looking to play and help the team any way I can, so when coach puts me in the game, I’m just looking to do my job and make a play if it’s there,” McStay said. “Jay Kyriacou worked hard to win the ball and I just tried to position myself to finish if he got a shot off. Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time.”
McStay’s goal capped a wild game in which Toms River East rallied from a two-goal second-half deficit and the two teams combined to account for a goal in the final 30 seconds of each period. Holmdel senior Jack Flanagan headed in a corner kick by Wall as the buzzer sounded for halftime to give the Hornets a 2-0 lead.
Toms River East then scored with 16 seconds left in the second half to tie the game at 2, with Lorenzo Scala’s free kick deflecting off of a Holmdel defender and into the goal.
“That was just a strange game in so many ways,” Holmdel coach John Nacarlo said. “You had three goals in the final 30 seconds of each period, you had a team come back from 2-0 down, and the overall game just felt strange. The last 10 minutes of the second half felt like the last 10 minute of the first half. We just didn’t have much life or excitement out there and I think that’s a big reason they got back in the game.
Saved by DiBella
Colts Neck beat Freehold Township thanks to goals by two players who had never scored on the varsity level prior to Saturday. Senior Tom DiBella scored the first goal of the game on a 25-yard strike for his first varsity goal. DiBella logged key minutes with starting forward Jason Tonelli hobbled by a sore hamstring.
DiBella’s goal came against his younger brother Andrew, a freshman on the Patriots who scored his first career goal two days earlier in an SCT first-round win over Asbury Park.
Junior Brian Knauf followed DiBella’s goal with his first goal, heading in a cross from senior Brian Winderman. Knauf is a starter who has also found more minutes thanks to a sprinkling of injuries to various Cougars players.
“One thing all the injuries have done is they’ve allowed some guys who would otherwise be bench players to get big minutes and have a chance to improve,” Colts Neck coach Art Collier said. “It’s made us a more well-rounded team now that we’re getting healthy, because guys can move to simpler roles and if they just do their job, then we’re in good shape. And we’ll have a lot of guys like that.”
Procida with Caution
Jackson Memorial senior Bryce Procida kept his team’s hopes of a second straight SCT semifinals appearance alive when he buried a direct kick from 40 yards out in the 75th minute to tie the Jaguars with Lacey, 1-1. Jackson went on to win in penalty kicks, 11-10.
Most of the Jaguar starting lineup is revamped with the graduation of eight starters, but Procida is one of the defenders that have stepped in around returning starter Anthony Provini to help form another strong unit in front of goalkeeper Devyn Josko.
(9) Colts Neck at (1) Manalapan, 3 p.m.
The third meeting between the two Class A North rivals also happens to be a rubber match, which makes this game as unpredictable as any of the four games Tuesday, despite the fact that it involves the No. 1 seed. At one point this season, Colts Neck had outscored Manalapan 5-0 over 120 minutes before Manalapan outscored the Cougars 3-0 in one half to steal a 3-2 win in the second meeting. The Braves have been the better team this season, but Colts Neck is just now beginning to get to full strength. Then again, so is Manalapan and the Braves will again be playing on their home pitch. That’s enough to push the top seed into the next round. The Pick: Manalapan, 2-1
(5) Ocean at (4) Toms River North, 3 p.m.
All three Toms River public schools went to overtime on Saturday and Toms River North was the only one of the three to survive. Ocean took out one of those Toms River teams by beating Ocean with a golden goal in the final minute of overtime by sophomore Wadneson Alexis. During last year’s SCT championship run by Ocean, Alexis had a breakout tournament along with senior Justin Silverberg, who did most of his damage in the postseason as well. Those two happened to score the two Ocean goals in the win over Toms River South and containing the two standout forwards will be a challenge for Toms River North. The midfield has been for the taking against Ocean this year, but goals are not. The Spartans can score and prevent them and that’s the name of the game. The Pick: Ocean, 3-1
(7) Jackson Memorial at (2) Holmdel, 4 p.m.
When I filled out my original bracket, I had Jackson Memorial making the semifinals for the second straight year, but that was after picking Toms River East to beat Holmdel. That did not happen and although the Hornets needed overtime to beat the Raiders in the round of 16, that game could very well be Holmdel’s wake-up call with a tough Jackson Memorial team coming in. This is not a great match-up for Jackson Memorial, especially considering Holmdel nearly squandered a two-goal in in the previous round by getting outworked by Toms River East in the second half. The Jaguars will still get to a lot of loose balls against Holmdel, but they have to win most of those in order to win. If Holmdel brings their A-game, the Hornets will likely be too much for Jackson Memorial. The Pick: Holmdel, 2-0.
(11) Wall at (3) Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
If there was any doubt that this version of Wall is ready to win a big game, the Crimson Knights answered that question loud and clear by going on the road and beating CBA in the quarterfinals. The Crimson Knights have looked awfully good lately, particularly in keeping teams out of the net. Their finishing on the offensive end has been a boost, but when Wall is right, it is keeping teams off the board. Rumson, on the other hand, plays fast and will not be pushing for a low-scoring game. My guess is the Bulldogs get what they want. The Pick: Rumson-Fair Haven, 3-2