High School Boys Basketball – SCT Round-of-16 Predictions
Sixteen teams will take the court Thursday with a chance to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals Sunday at Brookdale Community College and the staff at All Shore Media was feeling competitive too. Here are the staff picks for the SCT round of 16, made by Scott Stump and Matt Manley.
(24) Matawan at (8) Christian Brothers Academy, 4 p.m.
Manley: CBA is 9-0 on its home floor with wins over fourth-seeded Colts Neck and 10th-seeded Manalapan, so taking out the Colts on their court is a tall task for even the best teams. While the No. 24 seed and modest 11-9 record suggest Matawan will not be up to the task, the Huskies have a young core of talented players, no losses by double-digits, and even played Manalapan tough earlier in the season in losing 56-50. CBA is a little more proven, but the Colts are not running away with this one. The Pick: CBA, 55-49
Stump: Matawan should give CBA a battle, but if there has been one sure thing in an up-and-down season for the Colts, it’s that they are unbeatable at home. The key for Matawan is withstanding CBA’s initial attempt at a knockout punch. The longer the Huskies hang in this game, the more they put pressure on a young CBA team that has a lot of players on the floor who haven’t played in tournament games of this magnitude. With that said, I think the Colts have enough balance offensively to get this done. The Pick: CBA 56-50.
(11) St. Rose at (6) Jackson Memorial, 5 p.m.
Manley: Both the Jaguars and the Purple Roses are seeking to return to the quarterfinals after reaching the final eight last year and in St. Rose’s case, this would be a third straight year. St. Rose has more experience and more shooting, while Jackson Memorial is the better defensive team with more size. The Purple Roses have the edge in guard-play, but Jackson’s wings can disrupt that guard-play. Expect this one to come down to the last couple of possessions. The Pick: Jackson Memorial, 47-45
Stump: This one should be a dogfight. St. Rose’s offense has really been clicking, while Jackson Memorial has built its reputation on a stifling defense. This comes down to St. Rose neutralizing Jackson’s size and limiting second shots, mainly by 6-8 center Eric Carter. Conor Leddy has been an offensive force for St. Rose, so he should see some extra attention from Jackson’s defense. I’m going with the upset here. I think the Roses are on a roll. The Pick: St. Rose 50-47.
(21) Ocean at (5) Toms River North, 6 p.m.
Manley: These two teams have very similar personnel but two things play in Toms River North’s favor. First, the Mariners guards will have an edge in experience and athleticism while having enough athleticism to match up with the Spartans’ athletes. Secondly, Solly Stansbury’s length can bother any big man, even one who can play away from the basket like Eric Musto can. Ocean will give Toms River North a scare, but the Mariners are ready to take the next step. The Pick: Toms River North, 54-46.
Stump: I feel like Toms River North has something to prove in this tournament for a Class A South division that has not had an SCT finalist since 1991. The Mariners can play many different styles, which I think helps them in tournament settings. If Ocean wants to slow it down, the Mariners can do that. If the Spartans want to run, Toms River North can do that as well. The Mariners are at their best in transition when they are pushing the ball with Damien Singleton and Kyle Carrington and Solly Stansbury filling the lane. Ocean is well-coached and tough, so they will fight the Mariners until the end. I give the advantage to the home team. The Pick: Toms River North 48-42.
(10) Manalapan at (7) Shore, 6:30 p.m.
Manley: It’s hard to play a more impressive offensive game than Manalapan played in beating Freehold Township 81-51 on Wednesday. If any team is armed with as many shooters as Manalapan is, it is Shore and its balanced and versatile offense. Where the Blue Devils have struggled is with slashing point guards and they will only be facing the best guard – and perhaps the best player – in the conference in Braves senior and Harvard University recruit Anthony Firkser. With more seniors and the best player on the floor, Manalapan is a little more ready right now. The Pick: Manalapan, 72-63
Stump: This is an intriguing game because Manalapan appears to have plenty of momentum after burying Freehold Township in the first round, while Shore has been a little shaky of late. Anthony Firkser is such a problem because he is so unselfish. If an extra defender runs at him, he will give it up to an array of shooters around the perimeter. Shore is going to need one of its best defensive efforts of the year. Its guards will have to defend the 3-point line and force Manalapan’s guards besides Firkser to put the ball on the floor to score rather than just wait for kickouts. The Blue Devils also will need their crowd to give them some energy. This is a good comparison game between the relative strengths of Class A Central and Class A North. I think Shore finds a way. The Pick: Shore 72-69.
(13) Southern at (4) Colts Neck, 6:30 p.m.
Manley: At first glance, this appears to be a bad match-up for Southern because Colts Neck has the athleticism to defend a big, strong Southern team. The hope for the Rams is that junior Mike Gesicki just has one of those nights in which he takes no prisoners and does not let anyone keep him off the glass and away from the rim. Southern will also need its shooters to have big nights, and while that can happen, it is a lot that has to happen in order to be a very formidable No. 4 seed. The Pick: Colts Neck, 68-55.
Stump: This is essentially Southern’s one big gun, Mike Gesicki, against a deeper and more balanced Colts Neck team. Southern has been a fairly low-scoring team all year, while Colts Neck is one of the better offensive teams in the Shore. If James Sobieski can keep possessions alive with offensive rebounds and Chris O’Reilly and Brandon Federici are knocking down outside shots, Colts Neck should be fine. The Pick: Colts Neck 58-49.
(17) Middletown North at (1) Lakewood, 6:30 p.m.
Manley: The Lions are about as dangerous as a No. 17 can be because of a cohesive group of seniors and experience against good competition, which is one of the reasons they lost so many games and ended up with the No. 17 seed. Lakewood, though, is experienced as well and the Piners are also very tough to beat on their home floor because of how well they shoot that ball in newly-named Pop Richardson Gymnasium. The great thing about Lakewood is that they have proven they don’t have to shoot well to win games and even if they have to win ugly, the Piners can do it. The Pick: Lakewood, 56-45.
Stump: Lakewood needs to be careful in this game. The Piners were at Wall in person on Tuesday night to get a look at Middletown North, so they know what they are facing. The Lions can get hot from 3-point range, particularly senior guard Cody Thompson, and can be dangerous in an up-tempo game. However, Middletown North doesn’t have much size and relies heavily on its guards to rebound. If the Lions are going to pull off this upset, it will be by sitting in a zone, limiting Lakewood to one shot, and taking care of the ball on offense. Lakewood needs to focus on pounding Middletown North on the offensive glass, particularly if the Lions are sitting in a zone. Lakewood is also deeper, whereas the Lions are only about six players deep, so the Piners will look to push the pace and wear the Lions down. The Pick: Lakewood 68-57.
(14) Long Branch at (3) Manasquan, 7 p.m.
Manley: Long Branch has only lost by a large margin twice this season and both of those games were in December against teams – Seton Hall Prep and Paterson Eastside – with the athleticism to neutralize some of the Green Wave’s best players. Manasquan has a dominant rebounder in Jimmy Walsh who can keep Long Branch to one shot on the offensive end, but with so many good athletes, Long Branch can also keep Manasquan off the offensive glass as well. That is going to make the game come down to J.R. Hobbie vs. Terrel Cox, which could go either way on a given night. Because of Manasquan’s ability to get to the free-throw line and with the Warriors playing at home, Manasquan should be able to survive a Long Branch team that can beat any team in the field. The Pick: Manasquan, 60-52.
Stump: Manasquan has played as well as any team in the Shore over the last month. The Warriors are looking every bit the part of the team we ranked No. 1 in the preseason. Jimmy Walsh is a Player of the Year candidate, J.R. Hobbie is one of the most lethal scorers in the Shore and guards like Tommy Toole and Jack Fay continue to improve. Long Branch is a dangerous team because of its ability to play volleyball on the offensive glass, defend the perimeter and score in bunches when Terrel Cox gets hot from behind the arc. I just think Manasquan is playing on another level right now, and if Walsh can get some of Long Branch’s big men in foul trouble early, the Warriors will be in command. Plus, Manasquan is a hard team to come back on late because of its foul-shooting ability. The Pick: Manasquan 64-55.
(15) Neptune at (2) Point Pleasant Beach, 7 p.m.
Manley: The game of the night features two of the preseason favorites at the Shore, one of which has underachieved for a number of reasons. Neptune is close to full strength, but that does not mean the Scarlet Fliers are ready to play the kind of quality basketball it takes to win a tournament like this. They might be, but how would anyone – including anyone in their own locker room – know for sure? Point Beach, meanwhile, is hoping that its health holds up after dealing with some injuries over the last month and because it looks like the Garnet Gulls are indeed healthy, they will have a little too much talent for Neptune to flip the switch and get started on a big run. The Pick: Point Beach, 62-57
Stump: This is the most buzzed-about game of this round because everyone is wondering if this is when we will finally see the Neptune team that has not been able to get out of its own way all season. The Scarlet Fliers seem to have pulled it together, and if Keith Kirkwood plays to his full potential after a season of nagging injuries and distractions, this is a scary game for the Garnet Gulls. However, if Point Beach is fully healthy, the Gulls are the better team. They can get scoring from all five of their players in the starting lineup and they have a point guard who should be able to help Point Beach withstand Neptune’s trademark full-court press. Neptune is the defending SCT champ and is out to remind everyone of that fact. The fun wrinkle is that Point Beach senior center Riley Calzonetti is from Neptune and his older brother played for the Scarlet Fliers, so I would expect him to come out fired up. If Point Beach withstands Neptune’s press and can consistently get into the lane off the dribble, the Gulls will move on. If Kirkwood goes crazy on the offensive glass and gets Calzonetti and others into foul trouble, it could get awful interesting. The pick: Point Beach 58-56.
The SSN will carry the Girls Semifinals on Tuesday, February 19 and the Boys Semifinals on Wednesday, February 20 from Brookdale with coverage beginning both nights at 5:50 p.m. Our coverage of the tournament concludes with the Boys Championship game on Saturday, February 23 from Monmouth University with that game scheduled for 3 p.m. We cannot broadcast the Girls Final because of our commitment to Monmouth University as the Hawks have a 1 p.m. game at St. Francis (PA) on 1160/1310 at the same time of the girl’s championship game.
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