The Shore Daily, 2/13/15
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The bar has now been set in the Game of the Year argument as Wall and Colts Neck played a triple-overtime thriller that the Crimson Knights pulled out on a driving lay-up by Brendan Barcas with five-tenths of a second remaining.
Matt Manley was in the house to take in the instant classic as Wall locked down the Class B North crown for its first outright division championship since 1974 (the Crimson Knights shared a title in 1992). Barcas poured in a career-high 37 points, and he wasn't even the game's high scorer. Colts Neck senior guard Chris O'Reilly had a 43-point night, the biggest scoring game of any player in the Shore Conference this season, in the loss. He and Barcas traded clutch baskets repeatedly after halftime.
Barcas has become Mr. Clutch across multiple sports at Wall, whether it's scoring golden goals in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals in soccer or getting the big hit as a shortstop on the baseball team. He had back-to-back 30-point games this week against Neptune and Colts Neck in the biggest games of the season thus far to bring home the title.
The senior trio of Barcas, Ryan Janeczek and Trent Mitchell were predicted to do big things when they saw varsity time very early on at Wall. After last season, it looked like that might not happen when the Crimson Knights finished last in B North, but they have delivered as seniors. Now we'll see if they can make a run in the Shore Conference Tournament, which Wall has never won. The only time the Crimson Knights have reached the SCT final was that same 1974 season when they won the outright division title.
Colts Neck, playing without injured second-leading scorer Lloyd Daniels, also has shown it will be a tough out in the tournament behind O'Reilly, who is now under 30 points away from becoming the second 1,000-point scorer in his family, joining older brother Sean, a former Cougars standout himself.
The main Achilles' heel for Colts Neck has been its foul shooting. The Cougars missed 13 foul shots last night in a one-point loss and have had several single-digit losses in which they've missed eight or more free throws. That's a scary statistic considering how big foul shooting becomes in do-or-die tournaments.
I took in Toms River South's 67-56 win over Toms River East that eliminated the host Raiders from a potential SCT berth. Senior guard Tymere Berry continues to be unstoppable, as he poured in 35 points while playing all 32 minutes. While many opponents have sat in a zone against the Indians, Toms River East stuck to a man-to-man defense all game and often ran a second defender at Berry, but he still was able to consistently get into the lane off the dribble and cause problems.
His athleticism is up there with any player in the Shore. At one point, the Raiders were inbounding from the baseline under South's basket and he simply snatched the inbound pass with two hands over his head while only about a foot away from the inbounder. He is a weapon that few teams can boast, and he is right there at the front of the Player of the Year discussion as we head into the tournaments.
As for Toms River East, the Raiders are clearly showing improvement in their second season under coach Jim Dempsey. They play a fun brand of basketball and have made 110 3-pointers this season, so they have no qualms about launching it from deep. The next step in their evolution will be defending at a championship level because offensively they are a problem for opponents. They just couldn't stop Berry or Khaleel Greene at key moments.
Still, it was a great atmosphere with a full crowd and a fun student section. As Dempsey noted, when was the last time you saw that at a Toms River East game deep into February? It's usually tumbleweed time by now as they are playing out the string. They still have the state playoffs to look toward for the first time since 2009, and much of their roster returns next season. Things definitely seem to be heading in the right direction for the Raiders.
In other action, Manalapan made a nice addition to its resume in advance of the SCT seeding by taking down No. 4 Freehold Township for the second time this season as Mike Venezia led four scorers in double-figures with 15 points. That's why this SCT is way more about match-ups than seedings. Coaches will gladly take a lower seed than they may think they deserve if their team matches up favorably with the other teams in its part of the bracket.
You have situations like Manalapan beating the Patriots twice, Red Bank Catholic beating Red Bank twice, Rumson beating Shore twice, Shore beating Manasquan twice, Manasquan beating Rumson twice, Pinelands taking Lakewood to the final minute twice, and on and on. It really comes down to how teams match up rather than a few juggernauts at the top of the seedings that no one wants to have to face until late in the tournament.
Manasquan grabbed no worse than a tie for its third straight Class A Central title with a win over Raritan, and now Shore and Rumson each have to win their final divisional games to tie the Warriors for a tri-championship. Also in A Central, Monmouth has come alive with two straight wins after ending a 35-game losing streak as they upset St. John Vianney last night thanks to 18 points by Matt Mooney to put the Lancers behind the eight-ball in qualifying for the SCT. St. John Vianney now has to beat Rumson tonight to get in, while Rumson needs to win to clinch a share of the division title.
St. Rose topped Keansburg to grab its share of the Class B Central overall title, and Point Beach can get its half with a win over Henry Hudson tonight. Asbury Park beat Mater Dei Prep last night to clinch a berth in the SCT and eliminate the Seraphs from SCT contention, continuing the turnaround for the Blue Bishops one season after they finished 1-18.
Finally, congrats to Henry Hudson coach Vinnie Whitehead, who was honored at halftime of a win over Timothy Christian for his induction into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame. Whitehead played basketball and baseball at Christian Brothers Academy and has coached basketball, baseball, cross country, softball and field hockey during his 41 years coaching at Henry Hudson.
In the latest step in the Mater Dei Prep football drama, the parent who filed a lawsuit to keep the school open that contained allegations of recruiting by the football program has done an about face and given the full Frank Drebin "nothing to see here,'' telling MyCentralJersey.com's Greg Tufaro that his son was not recruited and he is no longer part of the litigation.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit said he is still going forward with it regardless of the parents dropping out and will replace the plaintiffs with his own children, one of whom attends Mater Dei, according to the story. The lawsuit alleges that a reason Mater Dei Prep is financially strapped and forced to announce it will be closing is because of mismanagement by the football program that included giving scholarships to players who were allegedly recruited.
Now the parent is clarifying that his son was not recruited for football, but hasn't clarified whether he believes the other accusations detailed in the lawsuit regarding the team bringing in "ringers" and giving them scholarships. So essentially the family just dropped the alleged recruiting grenade publicly with this lawsuit that now has the NJSIAA "gathering facts" about the allegations, and yet a week later they're walking away from it, saying their son was offered a drama scholarship, not a football one, and they don't want to be a part of it any more. Cue the Benny Hill music.
Congrats to Holmdel senior pitcher Corey Nuzzi, who announced Thursday that he has committed to Stevenson University in Maryland.
More on Friday:
- The NJSIAA state brackets were released yesterday. Lakewood got the top seed in Central Jersey Group II, while Toms River North grabbed the top seed in South Jersey Group IV. We will have an in-depth look at all the brackets as the tournament gets closer. It starts on March 2.
- The state's No. 1 team, Roselle Catholic, faces the Fighting Kevin Boyles and nationally-ranked Montverde (Fla.) Academy tonight at Kean University.
- A guy is suing the Vancouver Canucks for a brain injury suffered when he was hit by a confetti cannon.
- A look at how that one p.r. woman's infamously dumb tweet about AIDs in Africa blew up her life.
On tap for tonight: Nine Shore Conference wrestling teams are gunning for sectional titles tonight, including two championship matches featuring Shore teams going head-to-head. Bob Badders will be there as Howell heads to Brick Memorial with the South Jersey Group V title on the line, and I will be in the house as Brick welcomes Jackson Memorial in a rumble for the Central Jersey Group IV crown. All of the other teams are wrestling a million miles away on the road except for CBA, which hosts St. Augustine Prep for the Non-Public South A title.
In boys basketball, Rumson hosts St. John Vianney in a bid to lock down a share of the Class A Central title, while the Lancers have to win to qualify for the SCT. Also, Toms River North can claim the outright Class A South title by beating Jackson Memorial at home.
Point Beach can clinch a tie with St. Rose for the Class B Central title with a win at home over Henry Hudson. Barnegat needs a win at Jackson Liberty in B South to qualify for the SCT, and Matawan can clinch an SCT berth of its own with a victory at Ocean.
I'll finish with two things, starting with the rare dunk by a JV player, courtesy of Brick's Javion Harris.
Finally, in honor of Friday the 13th, here is my favorite Jason Voorhees kill of them all - the spear gun to the eye from distance on the dock in Part III. I like how Jason kind of wearily trudges out there like he's thinking, "Gotta knock out this last kill before I get my smoke break and a cold one." And it's the perfect horror movie bimbo saying, "What are you doing, terrifying man with a hockey mask and a weapon in your hand? Explain yourself!" instead of just running as fast as possible in the other direction. That's also a small piece of horror history as that is Jason's first kill while wearing the hockey mask in all the 85 sequels. My mom probably would get a visit from DYFS these days for letting us watch these movies when we were in like fifth grade, but we saw this in 3-D and this was awesome back in the '80s.