If you drove by the Pine Belt Arena at all this weekend you might have wondered why the parking lot was jammed, especially late in the day on Saturday when drivers were desperately seeking parking spaces on the campus of Toms River High School North. 

Roselle Catholic-St Anthony during the NJSIAA basketball championships at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River (Townsquare Media NJ)

As they have for years the NJSIAA seeks out the facility to host their state championship basketball games in part because the location is centrally located and because the school district does an incredible job in hosting big sporting events.  Eight group state basketball champions were crowned this weekend and four of them were girl’s teams from the shore whose fans didn’t have to travel far and were rewarded with state titles.

On Saturday St. Rose and St. John Vianney claimed non-public championships and Sunday Manasquan and Middletown South added to the shore harvest by collecting Group 2 and Group 3 titles.  For Manasquan its deja vu all over again as the state title is their second straight and third in four years while for Middletown South it’s the first group crown under 19-year head coach Tom Brennan, who collected his 300th career victory back in December during the WOBM Christmas Classic.  For more of the Shore Four check out shoresportsnetwork.com

Middletown South girls celebrate their championship (Ray Richardson)

The Monmouth County schools along with Franklin and New Providence advance to the Tournament of Champions with rivals Manasquan and St. Rose getting the top two seeds and byes into Thursday’s semifinals at the Pine Belt Arena.  The girls TOC tips off tomorrow night in Toms River at 5:30 with St. John Vianney playing New Providence before Middletown South collides with Franklin.

Local basketball fans get a special treat this year as the Boys Tournament of Champions will be held at the Pine Belt Arena right through the semifinals.  The action begins Wednesday night at 5:30 when Bergenfield plays Paulsboro and following that Paterson Eastside meets Newark Tech.  Top seeds Roselle Catholic and Pope John, loaded with big-time talent including players heading to Kentucky and Syracuse have byes into Friday’s semifinals.