The Shore Daily, 2/19/15
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Wait, what happened to all that parity in Shore Conference boys basketball? For the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament at least, there were no surprises.
All of the higher seeds/home teams brought home wins in last night's first round, with three of them coming down to the wire and the others being mainly blowouts. Southern, Point Beach and Toms River South all had to work to escape upset bids but sealed the deal in the final minutes to pull out single-digit wins.
Two divisions only have one team left standing among the final 16, and those teams play each other tonight when Class B Central co-champ Point Beach travels to Class B South champion Lakewood. I took in Point Beach's 59-54 win over Matawan last night at the Gulls' Nest, as the defending SCT champs earned a rematch with the Piners after losing on a buzzer-beater to Lakewood during the regular season.
Junior guard Jimmy Panzini, who had 20 points last night, is definitely a difference-maker for Point Beach as he continues to return to form after an ankle injury. His ability to slash to the rim off the dribble opens things up for kickouts to long-range shooters like Mike Rice, Jesse Hill and Mike Frauenheim. Plus, Panzini scraps to keep plays alive, whether it's tipping a loose ball to a teammate or fighting for an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive. The team feeds off his energy.
You talk to opposing coaches, and they usually cite him as a big key to Point Beach's success. He gives them an extra level of toughness and aggressiveness, which is no surprise considering he is a transfer from St. Anthony, where those qualities are a signature of Bob Hurley Sr.'s perennial power. That toughness isn't just prized by coach Nick Catania, either. I was talking to Point Beach football coach John Wagner last night after the game and he told me he was trying to get Panzini to come play tight end for them this coming fall.
Senior center Jesse Hill has also picked up his game at the perfect time, turning in an 18-point, 8-rebound effort last night to continue a hot streak coming into the tournament. They will need his rebounding in particular tonight because Lakewood relentlessly crashes the offensive boards.
Forget the Piners' talent, matching their 32-minute intensity is usually a big part of the equation because Lakewood keeps coming at you no matter what the scoreboard says. That should be a good one tonight. So much of it comes down to Lakewood's perimeter shooting. When they are knocking down shots from behind the arc, teams are in a lot of trouble, but they have streaks where they really struggle, and if you can keep them off the glass and take care of the ball against their pressure, it can swing the tide. That's also a lot easier said than done.
The performance of the night belonged to Shore senior Dan Largey, who erupted for a career-high 41 points in a rout of Marlboro to avenge a loss to the Mustangs from last season's SCT. Largey was in the Kyle Korver zone, going 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter alone and scoring 18 in the opening period to key the blowout.
All of the games tonight look like match-ups that could go to the wire. The Red Bank Catholic at No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy game should have a great atmosphere just because of the rivalry.
If I had to guess, RBC probably hasn't won a game in CBA's gym since the late 1970s, if ever. It all comes down to whether the Caseys are hitting from the perimeter, like Joe Montano's long-range, Steph Curry-bombing against Manchester yesterday. If not, CBA might run away with it behind a potent offense led by Pat Andree and Jack Laffey.
The Southern at Wall game is an interesting one because it's been a long time since either of those teams made it to Sunday at Brookdale in the SCT quarterfinals. For Wall, it may be since the 1970s. Southern may have done it back when Cincinnati Bengals long-snapper Clark Harris was balling for the Rams in the early 2000s, but I'm not sure. Either way, it's a rare occurrence for either team. It will be Wall's three-headed backcourt of Trent Mitchell, Brendan Barcas and Ryan Janeczek against the length of Southern duo Peyton Wejnert and Jake Logue.
Plus, there's the Battle of Ridge Road Part II between Red Bank and Rumson, so you know the old gym at Red Bank will be rocking as Rumson tries to avenge a regular-season loss. There's also a dangerous Shore Regional team headed to a Toms River North squad trying to find its footing, the balance of Freehold Township vs. the explosiveness of Toms River South star Tymere Berry, a hard-charging Neptune team looking to remind people it's one of the Shore's storied programs vs. an athletic Manalapan team repping A North, and the talented backcourt of Colts Neck's Chris O'Reilly and Lloyd Daniels against the Manasquan frontcourt of Ryan Jensen and Kyle Bradshaw. All good stuff.
On the girls side, there were a few minor surprises last night with No. 19 Matawan beating No. 14 Brick Memorial, and No. 18 Manchester beating No. 15 Toms River North. However, girls basketball in the Shore is much more the haves and the have-nots than the boys, so there usually isn't a whole lot of suspense until the semifinals. These early-round wins are a nice feather in the cap for these underdog teams before they get fed to wolves like St. John Vianney, St. Rose, Rumson-Fair Haven and Manasquan.
The 8-9 game between Southern and Holmdel should be a hard-fought one tonight measuring the strength of Class A South against the depth of the relentless Class A Central. The winner gets the right to face the No. 14 team in the nation, undefeated top seed St. Rose, on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Freehold Township at Red Bank Catholic in the 6-11 game also could be a fight, with the winner having to deal with third-seeded St. John Vianney on Saturday. Yes, I know St. John Vianney and St. Rose also have games tonight, but they are such overwhelming favorites that it would be one of the biggest upsets in SCT history if they lose.
Congrats to Red Bank Catholic senior tailback/defensive back Mike Cordova, an All-Shore selection who has committed to Stonehill College.
More on Thursday:
- Still no Shore teams in the Star-Ledger boys basketball Top 20, and I can't really argue with that. We'll see who emerges from the SCT.
- The 23 rebounds grabbed by Raritan grad Mike Aaman for Wagner over the weekend mark the third-highest total in Northeast Conference history.
- A Seattle high school gymnast has returned from a fractured skull to be one of the state's best.
- RIP Jerome Kersey. He was always good for some crowd-hyping dunks back in the Blazers' heyday.
- 77 surfers filmed riding the same wave.
- They dimmed the lights on the Vegas strip in honor of Tark. As it should be.
- Kyle Wiltjer, who was on the Anthony Davis Kentucky team that won it all, has resurrected his career after transferring to Gonzaga.
- Wait, someone is paying a billion dollars just to broadcast the freakin' Arizona Diamondbacks games?
- Great moments in NFL Combine failure.
- How a homeless white kid from Boston became a gangster kingpin in Chinatown.
- It's official. We now live on the planet Hoth from Star Wars.
On tap for tonight: It's "go to Brookdale or go home" time for the boys and girls sides in the Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16.
Check out the full schedule here.
I'll end with some #ThrowbackThursday clips from the Shore Conference Tournament. A pair of buzzer-beaters. One by Monsignor Donovan, uh, Donovan Catholic's Tom Carter to beat Colts Neck in the 2008 semifinals, and one by Matawan's Joe Piscopo to stun CBA in 2013.