The Shore Daily, 2/12
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That distant rumbling you heard shortly before 8:30 last night came from Howell, where senior heavyweight Ryan Demian shook the roof with an electrifying finish that put the Rebels into the South Jersey Group V championship match.
With only eight seconds left in Howell's season and the Rebels needing a pin to beat Southern in the semifinals, Demian delivered by turning sophomore Josh Bento from the offensive position and sticking him for a ground-shaking 25-24 victory.
“This is where all the hard work pays off,” Demian, who was also a top lineman on Howell's football team, told Bob Badders. “The grueling hours where you’re thinking about quitting, it all runs through your mind. It’s a moment like this where it all pays off.”
The reward for Demian's heroics is a trip to top-seeded Brick Memorial for the sectional final on Friday in a rematch of last year's Central Jersey Group IV final won by Howell. The Rebels are one of nine sectional finalists from the Shore Conference who will be in action tomorrow, including another all-Shore final in Central Jersey Group IV, where top-seeded Brick will host second-seeded Jackson Memorial after beating the Jaguars on criteria during the regular season.
Raritan will travel to Delaware Valley for its annual showdown with the Terriers in Central Jersey Group II, Point Beach heads south to top-seeded Cinnaminson in Central Jersey Group I, Toms River South heads down to face last year's Group III champion, Clearview, in South Jersey Group IV, Wall also goes down south to face top-seeded Delsea in South Jersey Group III, and top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy hosts fellow state-ranked squad St. Augustine Prep in Non-Public South A. All of them are underdogs except for CBA, which is evenly matched with the Hermits in what should be a hard-fought final. All of the others are capable of winning titles because none of those home teams are overwhelming favorites.
On the girls side, St. John Vianney completed a season sweep of Rumson-Fair Haven in a showdown of top 10 teams in the state in Class A Central as guard Kelly Campbell poured in 28 points, including a 15-for-15 showing from the foul line, to cement a top-three seed for the Lancers in the upcoming SCT. The win also means that St. John Vianney and Manasquan will end up sharing the Class A Central title after splitting during the regular season.
The other bad news for Rumson is that star Grace Stant left the game with a thumb injury that will be evaluated and hopefully is not serious.
It was a light night of boys basketball, but several games had importance.
Freehold Township continues to play well and cement its case for a top-four seed in the Shore Conference Tournament as it took care of Freehold Boro by 30 to clinch the outright Class A North public title.
Lakewood also continued its mastery of Class B South by wrapping up the outright title with a 75-49 win over Barnegat behind 25 points from senior guard Ryan Lawrence. That makes five straight division titles for the Piners. All of those titles have come under coach Randy Holmes, who replaced a legend in Pott Richardson, who Holmes also played for, and now he's on his way to carving out his own impressive legacy with the Piners.
After reaching last year's SCT semifinals, Matawan is still breathing when it comes to a berth in this year's tournament thanks to a win over Red Bank Catholic behind 32 combined points from standout guards Jason Dunne and Joe Piscopo. The Huskies need a win over either Ocean or Bloomfield by Saturday to make the field.
Red Bank will be breaking out the green-and-white pom poms tonight, as the Bucs need Colts Neck to knock off Wall to have a shot at claiming part of the Class B North title. Red Bank beat Ocean last night to put the pressure on the Crimson Knights.
If Wall loses, it could potentially be a tri-championship as Colts Neck could then grab its own piece by following with a win over last-place Long Branch. However, the Crimson Knights will certainly be motivated considering they have a chance to win their first outright division title since way before they were born, even before I was born, in 1974.
If Colts Neck wins out, that means we could potentially have two divisions with tri-champions if Manasquan, Rumson-Fair Haven and Shore all win their remaining games in Class A Central against teams they have already beaten once. That tearing sound you hear is the SCT seeding committee opening up a roll of Tums.
Former Howell head man Cory Davies is back in the head coaching ranks, as he was approved by the Freehold Regional District Board of Education on Wednesday night as the new head coach at Freehold Township. He will be the latest coach to take a crack at a program that has struggled throughout its existence with only one playoff appearance, but a program that many coaches have said over the years has the potential to become a true contender in Class A North and beyond.
I would think Freehold Township junior Jack O'Brien and the Patriots' receiving corps have a smile on their collective face given that Davies' quarterbacks and receivers usually are at or right near the top in the Shore in all the statistical categories in his no-huddle spread offense. O'Brien threw for 1,200-plus yards and nine touchdowns this past fall.
Also, congrats to SSN first-team All-Shore safety Frank Henry of Ocean, who announced his commitment to Bentley University on Wednesday. He had 134 tackles, including 51 solo stops, and was right at the top of the Shore with 12.5 sacks for the Central Jersey Group III semifinalists. He also grabbed three interceptions and had 17 tackles for a loss.
Finally, the NJSIAA has issued a response to Mater Dei Prep coach Steve Sciarappa's statement from yesterday in which he said that the Seraphs are not under any NJSIAA investigation for alleged recruiting. An NJSIAA spokesperson said that the governing body is currently "gathering facts" about the recruiting allegations.
Chris LeMore is back in the head coaching ranks in the Shore, as the former Red Bank and Marlboro head man was announced as the new coach at St. Rose yesterday. There's no time to waste for LeMore, as practices start less than a month from now on March 6.
Also, congrats to Manalapan junior infielder Chris Rodriguez, who announced Wednesday that he has verbally committed to the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C., which is a Division I program that competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
More on Thursday:
- Manasquan and St. Rose girls basketball, who play each other on Saturday, are both ranked in the Top 25 in the nation.
- You'll be able to watch Monmouth University baseball, which features several former Shore stars, live online on ESPN3 for 12 games this spring.
- RIP to legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian. He coached my all-time favorite college team, the 1990 UNLV squad that absolutely obliterated Duke in the championship game. Larry Johnson remembered his old coach on Wednesday.
- A Yale senior forward who was a starter took a year off from basketball to sing with an a cappella group called the Whiffenpoofs. Only in the Ivy League.
- A high school athlete in Seattle still competes as a swimmer despite losing his foot in a lawnmower accident.
- A guy saved a woman from dying after she fell 45 feet from the top of the stadium at a Raiders game, and that's just the beginning of the story.
On tap for tonight: The two big ones in boys basketball are Wall at Colts Neck at 6:30 and Toms River South at Toms River East at 6:30. Wall can clinch the Class B North title, its first outright division title since 1974, while Colts Neck can keep its hopes alive for a piece of the division title with a win. A loss by Wall also gives Red Bank Regional a tie for the Class B North crown.
Toms River East has to beat Toms River South to qualify for the SCT, while the Indians look to solidify a Top 10 seed in the SCT and keep the pressure on Toms River North to potentially grab a share of the Class A South title if the Mariners lose to Jackson Memorial on Friday. Also, Manasquan hosts Raritan and Shore is at Holmdel as the Warriors and Blue Devils look to stay tied for first with Rumson in the race for the Class A Central title.
Wrestling returns on Friday with nine Shore teams in action in the NJSIAA sectional finals.