The Shore Daily, 2/11/15
Follow Scott Stump on Twitter for news and notes from around the Shore.
This is a great time of year, with milestones, division titles and Shore Conference Tournament berths highlighting the basketball season while wrestling teams battle for the right to be the last ones standing at the NJSIAA Team Championships on Sunday.
It was a busy Tuesday on the basketball front, with Rumson-Fair Haven girls coach George Sourlis setting a Shore Conference record, two stars reaching 1,000 career points, three division titles being clinched on the boys side, and multiple teams fighting to qualify for next week's SCT.
Sourlis passed retired Christian Brothers Academy great Ed Wicelinski with his 626th career victory, a 66-23 win over Raritan, to give him the most wins of any coach on the boys or girls side in Shore Conference history. While that is a ridiculous number, it's also amazing because Sourlis has done it in the midst of 29 seasons. His teams have averaged 22 wins a year.
He could put that record into the stratosphere considering he still is only in his early fifties because he got the head coaching job at Rumson when he was only 23 years old. If you're wondering about the state record on the girls side, Pascack Valley's Jeff Jasper has more than 900 wins and is still coaching in his late sixties, so that one might be a tall order. The only other coach in New Jersey who has more wins than Jasper is St. Anthony legend Bob Hurley Sr., a Naismith Hall of Famer who is over 1,000 with the Friars.
Sourlis wasn't the only Bulldog to hit a milestone on Tuesday as senior Grace Stant, a Villanova recruit, also celebrated a memorable day by scoring her 1,000th point in the first half of the win over the Rockets. Stant essentially accomplished the feat in 2 1/2 seasons, as she missed most of her freshman season with an injury.
Stant also wasn't the only standout to hit 1,000 on Tuesday as Central's Katelyn Kuster did it in memorable fashion by exploding for a career-high 41 points and hitting 1,000 along the way in a win on Senior Night. She joins her senior classmate Evan Lang from the boys side in the 1,000-point club this season.
On the boys side, the Class B North madness is going right down to the wire. Wall pulled out a 52-49 win over Neptune thanks to Brendan Barcas pouring in 31 points. That win, coupled with Red Bank's overtime loss to Colts Neck, allowed Wall to clinch at least a tie for its first division title since 1992. With a win over Colts Neck on Thursday, the Crimson Knights can clinch their first outright division title since 1974, according to coach Matt Kukoda, who deserves to be right at the front of the conversation of Coach of the Year candidates in his first season at Wall. The Crimson Knights finished last in B North with one divisional win last season with essentially the same roster, so it's been a big turnaround with a senior-laden team.
Matt Manley covered Colts Neck's big win over the Bucs, which kept the Cougars in contention for a piece of the B North title. They can tie Wall for the title by beating the Crimson Knights and then Long Branch in their last two divisional games. They also will have to do it without junior guard Lloyd Daniels, their second-leading scorer who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Behind standout senior guard Chris O'Reilly and the return of 6-foot-7 big man Mike Lamb, they showed last night that they are certainly capable.
Toms River North rolled over Brick to clinch at least a tie for the Class A South title and can finish the job on Friday against Jackson Memorial. Mariners coach Rory Caswell has really built a solid program there, and that team isn't going anywhere considering the bulk of its top players are sophomores and juniors.
Lakewood also continues to dominate Class B South, as a 10-point win over Point Boro kept the Piners unbeaten in the division and clinched no worse than a tie for a third straight division title. They can have it all to themselves with a win over Barnegat tonight.
Three teams also locked down SCT berths on Tuesday. Matt was a busy man as he also was there for the story and highlights from Marlboro's overtime win over St. John Vianney on Senior Night to cement the Mustangs' spot in the field. With a senior-laden team led by George Elghoul, Matt Ringel and Kenny LaRocca, the Mustangs are a dangerous underdog in the first round. They took out the No. 8 seed, Shore, in last season's SCT first-round games.
Central beat Barnegat 62-28 thanks to 18 points by John Forrester to clinch its SCT berth as it continues to play well, while Howell topped Middletown North by nine points behind strong games by Aaron Trimble and Will Kocsis to earn its spot under coach Pat Ramsay one season after finishing 5-19. Great improvement by the Rebels, who should be another dangerous first-round opponent.
Another team right in the mix is Toms River East, which picked up a crucial win over Lacey behind 18 points from Ryan West to set up a do-or-die game against rival Toms River South on Thursday. The Raiders have to win that game to qualify for the SCT.
One other performance of note was by Pinelands. One night after qualifying for the SCT for the first time in school history, the Wildcats beat Donovan Catholic 46-39 thanks to 13 points and 12 boards by Mike Suarez to beat the Griffins for the first time ever, according to coach John Tierney.
Finally, great sportsmanship shown by St. Rose last night against longtime rival Mater Dei in both the boys and girls games. Before the boys game, St. Rose senior forward Matt Frost took the microphone and talked about how longtime St. Rose coach Dennis Devaney is a Mater Dei alumnus and that St. Rose did a fund-raiser to donate money to the Save The Seraphs fund to help keep Mater Dei Prep from closing at the end of the school year. At the girls game, St. Rose's players gave roses to their counterparts on Mater Dei in support.
Just when you can get really cynical about scholastic sports, things like that happen and remind you that there are still plenty of good people involved. Well done, Purple Roses.
Things pretty much went as planned in the first round of NJSIAA sectional tournament action, as six more Shore Conference teams advanced to tonight's semifinals with wins.
The marquee match-up of tonight is in South Jersey Group V, where third-seeded Southern heads to second-seeded Howell for the right to most likely travel to top-seeded Brick Memorial in Friday's championship match. Howell beat Southern during the regular season, but the Rams have been wrestling their best at the perfect time, so it should be a great showdown.
The only other all-Shore match-up is between cross-town rivals Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty, where the Jaguars are the heavy favorite to advance to the Central Jersey Group IV final after beating the Lions 52-13 during the regular season. Brick (CJ IV); Raritan (CJ II); Point Beach (CJ I) and CBA (N-P South A) are all solid favorites to reach finals, while Long Branch should have a battle at Cranford in CJ III, Toms River South has a tough opponent in Kingsway in SJ III, and Wall will have a fight at Highland in SJ III. Middletown North (North II Gr. IV); Ocean (CJ III); Shore (CJ I) and St. John Vianney (N-P South A) are all underdogs on the road.
More on Wednesday:
- A lawsuit by two Mater Dei parents to keep the school open contains allegations of blatant recruiting of "ringers" by the football program.
- RIP to long-time Jersey Shore journalist Sam Christopher. Back when I covered the Lakewood BlueClaws for the Asbury Park Press in the early 2000s, Sam was a fixture in the press box and always had some great old stories from his days of covering Ocean County. I remember myself and another reporter were talking about the Civil War once, and he corrected us on a fact and then said, "I know. I covered it."
- The Wildwood Catholic boys may not be able to defend their Cape-Atlantic League Tournament title because it played too many regular-season games.
- No matter where he winds up, a four-star linebacker from Georgia is not signing a Letter of Intent to go there.
- Seventh Woods, an NBA-level prospect as a high school junior in South Carolina, might be the next Russell Westbrook. Throws down some of the sicker dunks you will see.
- Two Indiana boys basketball teams had their seasons cancelled after a wild brawl.
- On the same night that Sourlis got win No. 626 and Grace Stant scored 1,000, the girls coach at Immaculate Conception got his 500th win and their star scored her 2,000th career point.
- There's an app that rewards kids with discounts at local businesses if they don't look at their phone during class.
- The U.S. Army veteran who went off to Syria to fight with the rebel forces.
- The break room at this company is a giant ball pit.
- The vacuum robots have come to kill us all.
- Your drone waiter will now take your order.
On tap for tonight: As mentioned above, the NJSIAA sectional semifinals are tonight in wrestling.
In girls basketball, the marquee game of tonight is Rumson-Fair Haven heading to St. John Vianney at 6:30 p.m. in a showdown of top-10 teams in the state in Class A Central. The Lancers won the first meeting.
In boys basketball, Freehold Township can clinch the Class A North public title with a win at home against rival Freehold Boro. Matawan also hosts Red Bank Catholic in a game the Huskies need for their SCT hopes. Lakewood plays Barnegat in a make-up game that was postponed by weather in a bid to clinch the outright Class B South title.
I'll end with two things: the great show of sportsmanship by the St. Rose girls before the Mater Dei Prep game, and a nice throwdown by Long Branch freshman Tyree Morris in a win over Ocean. With a team of primarily freshmen and sophomores, Long Branch is finishing strong after a rough start.