The Shore Daily, 2/23/15
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Before I get to the recap of Sunday's boys basketball Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, let me just give my quick 2,000-word take on the Oscar winn- . Just kidding, let's get right to the hoops.
There wasn't a whole lot of drama on Sunday, as no games came down to the final minutes. The closest was Toms River North's 68-56 win over Wall that was a one-point game going into the fourth quarter before the Mariners unloaded the knockout punch with a 13-0 run.
The big reason most of the games weren't very close was because of some stellar defensive efforts by Rumson-Fair Haven, Christian Brothers Academy and Neptune. All three teams neutralized the opponent's top scorer to build double-digit leads and then iced the game at the foul line. Rumson and CBA in particular are known for their flashy offenses that can light it up, but it was their defensive intensity and ability to control the paint that was crucial in wins over Freehold Township and Manasquan, respectively.
Every team that won essentially dared the opponent to beat them by making jumpshots or contested shots among defenders in the lane, and they couldn't do it. As Matt Manley noted in his game story from Rumson's win, the Bulldogs played a pack line-style defense daring the Patriots to hit threes, and Freehold Township shot 1-for-11 from behind the arc and 14-for-49 overall. While coach Chris Champeau is known for his fun-and-gun offense, it was his defensive gameplan that has them one win away from their second SCT final appearance since 2011 after having never made the final once in their history prior to that.
In CBA's 61-50 win over Manasquan, the Warriors shot 40 percent overall and hurt themselves with turnovers in a game with relatively limited possessions because of both teams being methodical on offense before CBA went into a stall with about four minutes left. Manasquan actually shot well from 3-point range (5-for-10), but went 10-for-27 on two-point attempts, many of them on wild drives to the basket that were challenged by CBA's defensive rotations and the Colts' length up front.
As for Neptune's 52-35 win over Point Beach, the Scarlet Fliers were zeroed in on Garnet Gulls senior Jesse Hill, who was coming off a 27-point game in an upset of second-seeded Lakewood in the previous round. Neptune held Hill to 11 points overall and five points and only one field goal through three quarters to build its lead before allowing a few harmless buckets to him late in the game when it had things in control. Neptune's Joe Fagan coached Hill last year at Jackson Memorial, and Scarlet Fliers' senior forward Micah Kerr told me that Fagan broke down everything Hill would do. Kerr was ready for all of it as far as not conceding any jumpers from 3-point range and boxing out on free throws, where Hill has been lethal as an offensive rebounder.
Neptune's guards also did a good job of hounding Point Beach's perimeter players and making it hard for them to turn the corner and get into the lane, particularly in the second half.
While Toms River North's 68-56 win over Wall was a little more high-scoring, it still was a defensive philosophy that permeated the win in the second half. The Mariners were committed to stopping dribble penetration at the expense of allowing open threes, and it nearly backfired when Wall shot 8-for-14 from downtown through three quarters. However, they shot 1-for-8 from long range in the fourth quarter while Toms River North kept putting up points with dribble penetration of its own, which helped big man Jordan Craig finish with a game-high 20 points.
Rory Caswell has really emerged as one of the top young coaches in the Shore, and he has the Mariners back in the semifinals for the second time in three seasons at a program that has only made one SCT final in its history.
In the spirit of the Oscars, let's also now hand out a few awards from Sunday's action at Brookdale Community College. I will get more into a look at Wednesday's semifinals tomorrow.
Toms River North's 68-56 win over Wall. The lead was going back and forth like crazy in the third before the Mariners hit the gas in the fourth.
Best individual performance
(tie) Jordan Craig, Sr., C, Toms River North; Pat Andree, Jr., F, CBA
Craig had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in Toms River North's win while also disrupting any Wall penetrators on defense. When he is on his game, the Mariners can beat any team in the Shore.
As for Andree, he not only dropped in a game-high 22 points on 11-for-20 shooting, he also helped limit Manasquan standout junior Ryan Jensen to seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Rumson's Brendan Barry does the no-look barrel roll pass while falling down that somehow ends in Thomas Famulary's hands for a fast-break lay-up. Just like they practiced.
I also could have dubbed this category "only dunk," as yesterday's action was a decidedly below-the-rim affair. So take a bow, Pat Andree.
Best supporting actors
Morgan Maguire, Sr., F, Rumson; Micah Kerr, Sr., F, Neptune; Shaun Belbey, Sr., G, CBA
Maguire has become a key complement down low to the scoring of Rumson's guards. He had 12 points in the win over Freehold Township, and he also adds more of a physical, "I just might knock you into the third row if you drive down the lane" presence.
Kerr has become a consistent rebounder and defender who has added a scoring touch as a finisher for Neptune. If teams don't put a body on him, he will kill them on the offensive glass. He had 11 points and 13 boards in the win over Point Beach and held Jesse Hill to 11 points.
Finally, Belbey had 11 points in the win over Manasquan by finishing in the lane off the high pick-and-roll. Teams get so worried about Jack Laffey or Pat Andree off that play that Belbey has space to work. When he forces teams to defend that honestly because he can score, it makes CBA really hard to stop. The Colts also only had two turnovers the entire game, which speaks to Belbey's effectiveness as a ballhandler running the offense.
Elijah McAllister, Fr., C, Rumson-FH; Barry Brown, So., G, Neptune
In the last two weeks, the 6-foot-6 McAllister has helped transform Rumson's defense by giving them a legitimate shotblocker. When he comes from the weakside, look out, and he also can block shots while trailing the play because of his wing span.
As for Brown, this is his first Shore Conference Tournament, as he transferred to Neptune from Cardinal McCarrick before this school year. He had a game-high 13 points against Point Beach and has been a crucial addition for the Scarlet Fliers. His nickname is "Pop," and it makes sense when you see him shoot.
Joe Fagan, Neptune
Point Beach's offense had been running full tilt heading into Sunday's game against Neptune. The Garnet Gulls put 72 points on Toms River North in a regular-season game right before the tournament, scored 59 in a win over Matawan in the first round, then put up 67 in an upset of second-seeded Lakewood in the Round of 16.
Neptune then squashed them on Sunday, holding them to one of their lowest outputs of the season in a 52-35 win. Fagan made his name on the rugged defensive teams he coached at Jackson Memorial, and that philosophy has carried over to the Scarlet Fliers because they didn't let Point Beach get anything easy.
Fagan took over at Neptune after Hall of Famer Ken O'Donnell was not re-hired by the Board of Education in controversial fashion over the summer. Neptune then started 3-7, which happens approximately never at Neptune. Just as the Fliers fans may have started to look for the pitchforks and torches for the new coach who followed a legend, Neptune ripped off 12 wins in 14 games and is now one victory away from reaching a mind-boggling 38th SCT final in its history.
Best standing ovation
Longtime Shore official Lou DeGeorge announced his retirement after 45 years of being involved with Shore basketball and received a standing O from the Brookdale crowd as he was honored by his fellow officials.
Best student section
(tie) Colt Crazies, Freehold Township Bleacher Creatures; RFH Dawgpound
I'm not picking just one because people have enough reasons to dislike me already. Instead, let's just compliment the three groups that really shined on Sunday.
The Colt Crazies, who have been a fixture at quarterfinal Sunday at Brookdale since the Paleozoic era, went the "pink out" route.
I was waiting for James Brown to come rising out of the Freehold Township crowd singing "Living in America."
And finally, the Dawgpound gets the nod simply on these three guys alone. I just picture someone in Rumson frantically needing a kangaroo costume for a party and the guy at the store saying, "Sorry, we're all sold out." These three started hopping up and down on the baseline while Freehold Township was shooting free throws. Job well done, gentlemen.
Manalapan senior offensive lineman Pete Williams will join teammate Ben Sieczkowski in playing for Wagner this fall, according to coach Ed Gurrieri.
More on Monday:
- The story of future Knicks No. 1 draft pick (after Adam Silver rigs the lottery) Jahlil Okafor and overcoming the tragic death of his mother and reconnecting with his father.
- The mystery surrounding the death of Howard University running back Terrence Tusan.
- A guy placed a $1 parlay bet on the latest UFC Fight Night and hit it for $48,000.
- A cornerback from UConn set a world record in the broad jump at the NFL Combine.
- Heartwarming story about a San Diego ice hockey team composed of developmentally-disabled children that is free thanks to the generosity of others.
- I tweeted about this last night, and it actually exists. The app that plays the Oscar "wrap it up" music.
- Grading the Oscar speeches.
On tap for tonight: Nada. Maybe renting "Birdman" on Amazon to see what all the fuss is about with all these Oscars.
The next thing on the menu is the girls basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals tomorrow night at Brick Memorial. St. Rose takes on Middletown South at 6 p.m., followed by St. John Vianney vs. Manasquan at 7:45 p.m. for the right to advance to Friday's championship game at Monmouth University.
Let's end with Richard Jefferson coming flying out of the Fountain of Youth like it's 2002. Who cares if it didn't count.