New Cast Could Mean New Script for Beach, Manasquan in SCT Semis
The Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball team has already defeated Manasquan on a neutral court with the entire Shore Conference watching this season, a 48-42 victory at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase on Jan. 12.
Shore Sports Network broadcast schedule
Wednesday Boys Semifinals
Point Beach vs. Manasquan (6pm)
Lakewood vs. Toms River North (7:45)
With that in mind, Wednesday’s rematch at Collins Arena on the Campus of Brookdale Community College in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals ultimately amounts to a glorified re-run between the two neighboring beach-towns,.
No. 2 Point Beach beat third-seeded Manasquan, at Long Branch High School in mid-January despite missing 6-foot-6 junior forward Dominique Uhl and losing sophomore Chris Schifano early in the game. Uhl sprained his right ankle in practice prior to the game and Schifano was diagnosed days later with a torn ACL suffered on that Saturday afternoon.
While the Garnet Gulls will not have Schifano back this season, Uhl is back and feels he is close to 100 percent. The native German is coming off an 11-point, 11-rebound, three-block performance against Manalapan in the quarterfinals on Sunday, a performance than also included two alley-oop dunks. While Point Beach would be happy with another six-point win, the Gulls are eager to quiet any doubts that they are the better team, especially now that Uhl is back in the lineup.
“I know Dom really wanted to play that first game against them and he is really looking forward to playing them this time,” Point Beach junior Point guard Matt Farrell said. “Losing Chris definitely hurt us that game too, but our bench came in and played great. We’re definitely looking forward to playing them again, and we know Manasquan is looking forward to getting another shot at us. It should be a good game.”
While the difference for Point Beach between January’s game and Wednesday’s game lies in who is on the court, the difference for Manasquan is in the preparation. Not only will the Warriors have a chance to improve upon the first performance, but they will have more time to prepare and more experience upon which to draw.
The night before playing Point Beach at noon on a Saturday, Manasquan survived a 53-48 battle with a Shore Regional squad that previously had not lost to a Shore Conference team. While coach Andrew Bilodeau and his players were quick to dismiss lack of rest as an excuse, citing the frequency with which players play three games in one day on the AAU circuit, it is a factor when only one of the teams is playing two games in 24 hours while the other has a full day to prepare in practice, as well as rest.
“We want Point Beach,” Manasquan senior Jimmy Walsh said. “We played poorly, they had some guys hurt, so I think both teams feel like they can play better and that’s what we expect on Wednesday.”
Another dimension adding to Manasquan’s confidence going into Wednesday is that in addition to rolling through its division during the second time through the schedule, the Warriors showed composure in winning close games against Long Branch and Jackson Memorial in the round of 16 and quarterfinals. Manasquan reached the semifinals last season by winning close games against Lacey and Lakewood, but had not been able to pull through in many close contests until the SCT.
“Experience is a big factor for us,” Walsh said. “We’re trying to impress it upon all of the guys to embrace the moment, take it all in and just go out and play. The last few games, I think we started to see the experience pay off, especially late in games.”
Point Beach is actually in a similar position to the one Manasquan was in last season, when the Warriors made a run to the semifinals with a team of mostly juniors and sophomores. The Garnet Gulls lost their only sophomore in the regular rotation in Schifano, but starters Uhl, Farrell and Noah Yates, as well as 6-foot-6 center Jeff Bryant off the bench are all juniors. Point Beach’s two seniors starters – P.J. Kineavy and Riley Calzonetti – account for much more of the offense than all of last year’s Manasquan seniors, but like the Warriors last year, Point Beach has a chance to not only win a championship now, but to win the first of two.
"When we started the season, we had three goals: win our division, win Shore Conference and win states," Farrell said. "We got the first one and (Sunday) was a step toward getting to our second goal, but we still have two games to go. Now, our goal and our focus is Manasquan."
Because Manasquan did not do what Point Beach is trying to do this year, the urgency factor is definitely more prevalent on the Warriors sideline. Manasquan actually has a solid group of returnees coming back next year in juniors Tommy Toole and Jack Fay, as well as freshman Ryan Jensen, but seniors J.R. Hobbie and Walsh have been the driving force of the team over the past three seasons and this is their last chance at an SCT title. That urgency will be a big part of what makes Wednesday’s game so much different than January’s meeting, even if the result stays the same.
“I go out and play hard for (the seniors) because I know how hard they work and they deserve a chance to win a championship,” Jensen said. “I think we all want to win it for them.”