MIDDLETOWN - While Mater Dei Prep has rapidly become the measuring stick for the rest of the teams in the Shore Conference, the Seraphs learned on Saturday that they have a lot of work to do to reach that distinction at the state level.

The Shore's No. 1 team suffered its first loss of the season when it was overwhelmed 65-42 by New Jersey's No. 1 team, nationally-ranked Patrick School, during the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase at Brookdale Community College.

Kenny Jones and Mater Dei Prep had their hands full with the state's No. 1 team in suffering their first loss. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

The Seraphs (7-1) hung with the Celtics (6-2), who are ranked No. 9 in the country by MaxPreps, for a quarter before a team with five Division I starters and a deep bench pulled away in the second quarter and didn't look back. The victory delivered a clear message to an up-and-coming Mater Dei Prep program that is now 33-3 since the arrival of second-year head coach Ben Gamble.

"We're not ready to play at that level,'' Gamble said. "That's obvious. They have five major Division I starters and their sophomore guard is a Division I player. We've got a ways to go to be at that level.

"The good thing is that I just took over this program last year, and we're in an event like this. That was unheard-of (in the past). I think we're moving in the right direction. I came from a level like that being (an assistant) at St. Anthony's. I know we have a ways to go, but the program is going to get better."

Junior guard Yasin Pretlow had five of his eight points in the first quarter when the Seraphs took a 9-7 lead, and they only trailed 11-9 going into the second period. Senior forward Elijah Barnes, a Princeton recruit, led Mater Dei Prep with 11 points to earn Player of the Game honors for them in the loss.

The Seraphs were able to limit the damage from the perimeter initially, but an ominous trend was developing as far as Patrick's School's massive front line of Kentucky recruit Nick Richards (6-11), junior Valdir Manuel (6-9), and Tulane recruits Bul Ajang (6-10) and Buay Koka (7-0).

"With them, the thing I was concerned about, and right away it was a problem - the guards can make mistakes, but they're so big around the basket they can cover for any mistakes,'' Gamble said. "They take a bad shot, they're covering it. They were just all over the offensive boards."

Patrick School's imposing size, led by 6-foot-11 Kentucky recruit Nick Ricchards (in yellow) helped the Celtics control the boards. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

One of those talented guards, Minnesota recruit Jamir Harris, poured in 10 of his game-high 17 points in the second quarter and Manuel chipped in with 7 of his 11 points as the Celtics zoomed to a 32-17 lead at the half after starting the quarter with a 7-0 run.

"We were able to stick with it and extend the lead,'' Harris said.

Harris, who earned Player of the Game honors for Patrick School, also scored his 1,000th career point on a 3-pointer with 3:24 left in the second quarter for a 26-13 lead.

"I was in awe when I found out I had  my 1,000th point,'' Harris said. "The feeling was unbelievable."

Local fans got a glimpse at future Monmouth University wing Marcus McClary in Patrick School's win. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

Harris played on the same AAU team as Barnes and Seraphs guard Elijah Mitchell and is a relative of Pretlow, so he was familiar with what the Seraphs bring to the table, particularly with their backcourt. In addition to Patrick School's length up front, led by six blocks from Richards, Patrick School's ball pressure made it difficult for Mater Dei's guards to attack the basket like they usually do.

"Night in and night out, as guards, as a group, we want to make sure we do our job, and that's defending the ball as well as orchestrating the team,'' Harris said.

Patrick School put the game away in the third quarter, making it 42-20 on a bucket by Monmouth University recruit Marcus McClary with 5:40 remaining. The Celtics pushed the margin to 54-30 going into the fourth quarter thanks to eight points in the quarter by guard Jordan Walker (13 points). Barnes had all 11 of his points in the third quarter for Mater Dei and was the only Seraph to register a field goal as Patrick School pulled away.

"I wanted to slow the game down,'' Gamble said. "I thought the first quarter was at the right pace, (and) the second quarter we got a little sloppy and it got away from us. I don't think we competed in the third quarter. This is the first time a lot of my guys have ever, other than the CBA game (in last year's Shore Conference Tournament final), been down a big amount and really weren't confident they were coming back."

The loss gave the Seraphs a look at the level they will have to reach to compete for a title in the most loaded state playoff bracket in New Jersey, Non-Public South B, which includes Patrick School. However, while many teams will never reach the level of a Patrick School, Gamble believes it's only a matter of time until the Seraphs become the team others across the state will measure themselves against.

"This is the beginning of a program,'' he said. "A couple of years from now, we'll be on that level."

Box score

Patrick School 65, Mater Dei Prep 42

Patrick School (65): McClary 2 1-2 5, Harris 6 2-2 17, Walker 4 3-4 13, Richards 2 4-4 8, Ajang 1 0-0 2, Koka 1 2-2 4, Manuel 5 0-0 11, Dawes 2 0-0 5, Roundtree 0 0-0 0, Williams 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 12-14 65.

Mater Dei Prep (42): Mitchell 0 4-6 4, Jones 3 0-1 6, Barnes 4 1-3 11, Afifi 1 2-4 2, Muhammad 0 2-2 2, Pretlow 2 3-4 8, Wilson 3 0-0 7, Lewis 0 0-0 0, Pierre 0 0-0 0, Devaney 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 12-20 42.

Patrick School (6-2) 11  21  22  11  - 65

Mater Dei Prep (7-1)  9   8   13   12 - 42

Three-pointers: (P) Harris 2, Walker 2, Manuel, Dawes; (M) Barnes 2, Pretlow. Fouled out: (P) McClary.

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