The Shore Daily, 2/24/15
Follow Scott Stump on Twitter for news and notes from around the Shore.
*Note: Tonight's girls SCT semifinals will be broadcast live on the radio on 1310 a.m. and 1160 a.m., and the audio will be streaming online right here on ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
It's Shore Final Four time, starting tonight with the girls basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals at Brick Memorial High School, followed by the boys semifinals tomorrow night at Brookdale Community College.
The girls field is the definition of a heavyweight showdown. It's the boys equivalent of Roselle Catholic, St. Anthony and Patrick School all being in the same conference semifinals, with a strong Linden-type school thrown in there as well.
No. 1 seed St. Rose is undefeated and ranked No. 14 in the nation by Maxpreps, No. 2 Manasquan is ranked No. 22 in the country, No. 3 St. John Vianney is a top-five team in New Jersey that was also nationally-ranked at one point, and No. 5 seed Middletown South is the defending Central Jersey Group III champion and just beat a Rumson-Fair Haven team ranked in the top 10 in the state. That is as good as it's going to get as far as star power in the semifinals of one conference.
St. Rose takes on Middletown South in the first semifinal tonight at 6, with the Purple Roses looking to reach their third SCT final in the last four years. The three major stars are the St. Rose duo of Kat Phipps, a St. Francis (N.Y.) College recruit, and Jess Louro, a Middle Tennessee State recruit, and Middletown South's Stephanie Karcz, a 1,000-point scorer already as a junior. However, it most likely comes down to St. Rose's depth vs. Middletown South's starting five. Can the Eagles contain the Purple Roses' army of sharp-shooting guards and not get worn down by their pressure defense?
St. Rose has a chance to have an all-time season in Shore Conference girls basketball history, but it's going to take some heavy lifting to get there. If they can get by Middletown South, they will either see defending champion Manasquan in the final for the second straight year or a strong St. John Vianney squad eager to fill the one gap in its impressive resume under ninth-year coach Dawn Karpell with its first SCT title since 2005.
If the Purple Roses can climb that mountain to win one of the hardest girls basketball conference tournaments in the country, there is a good chance they will have to beat one or more of those same teams again in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions to finish undefeated if they repeat as Non-Public B champions, with other top teams like Paterson Eastside also lurking out there.
One thing I've noticed about St. Rose is that even though the Purple Roses are undefeated, they play with a chip on their shoulder under coach Joe Whalen like they feel people still don't respect them. They play like they still have to convert some non-believers who don't think they can beat top teams in the SCT when it counts, even though they did just that in winning the title in 2012. Middletown South is going to have an uphill battle, but the Eagles are a scrappy team with talent and a top coach in Tom Brennan, so they are not going out without a fight.
The other semifinal between Manasquan and St. John Vianney at 7:45 p.m. is the grudge match after the two split their regular-season series and shared the Class A Central title. The Lancers knocked off the Warriors at home, and then Manasquan ran St. John Vianney out of the gym in the second meeting. These games are physical and fiercely contested, and there is no love lost between the two teams, which always makes for a great show.
When Manasquan is playing its best behind McDonald's All-American Marina Mabrey, it's hard for any team in New Jersey to stop them. Their two losses are the one to St. John Vianney and one to St. Rose in the final 20 seconds. The Warriors beat St. Rose by 20 last year to win the SCT and then went on to win the Group II crown before reaching the TOC final and falling to Shabazz. Their offense in most games is a given, so it really comes down to how well they defend that will determine if they advance to a third SCT final in four seasons.
St. John Vianney is led by junior DePaul recruit Kelly Campbell, a guard who is also one of the state's top players like Mabrey, Karcz, Louro and Phipps. The Lancers' trademark full-court press is always a problem for opponents, so much of their success comes down to perimeter shooting and their contributing role players finishing around the basket. St. John Vianney has done everything under Karpell, from winning the TOC to multiple Non-Public A titles, so the SCT is the one last item on the checklist.
You can read more about the girls semifinals in our program/preview here.
SAVE THE SERAPHS
The fund-raising effort by #SavetheSeraphs to keep Mater Dei Prep from closing has produced this video that is worth checking out.
The Region VI Tournament seeds are out, with the pre-quarterfinals featuring the second- and third-place finishers from the District tournaments coming up tomorrow night at Pine Belt Arena.
Saturday is always a great day of wrestling at Pine Belt Arena in one of the hardest Region tournaments in New Jersey. There are storylines galore that Bob Badders will get into later this week, but a few jump out to me like whether Brick Memorial 106-pounder Matt Wardlaw can keep his Cinderella run going as the seventh seed after a stunning win in District 23, a potential showdown between defending Region champ Gianni Ghione and state place-winner Sebastian Rivera at 113, a potential Dylan Seidenberg-Marcus Iwama rematch at 132 after Seidenberg won the District 22 title, a possible Will Scott-Cliff Ruggiero rematch at 160 after a controversial finish in the District 23 final, a potential Kyle Wojtasek-Brett Donner rematch in the semifinals at 170 after a classic District 23 final, and a possible Tyree Sutton-Matt McKenzie throwdown in the final at 195 between undefeated wrestlers.
Southern Regional senior two-way lineman Pat Ferraro, an All-Class A South selection by the coaches, announced Monday night that he has signed with Sacred Heart University.
Also, the offers keep rolling in for Red Bank Catholic junior quarterback Eddie Hahn and junior lineman Liam Smith. Hahn picked up an offer from Yale on Tuesday and Smith was offered by Vanderbilt. Another tandem that continues to pick up offers is St. John Vianney sophomore lineman Micah Clarke, who has added one from Temple, and junior quarterback Anthony Brown, who was offered by Air Force on Tuesday morning, according to coach Mark Ciccotelli.
The recruiting for another first-team All-Shore selection, Toms River North junior defensive tackle Da'shon Copes, also is starting to pick up. He received an offer from Army on Monday, according to coach Dave Oizerowitz.
More on Tuesday:
- Two girls basketball teams in Tennessee got kicked out of the state tournament and fined $1,500 each for supposedly both trying to tank a game to avoid a juggernaut team in the next round. Could you imagine the NJSIAA doing this or fining a school? The line of lawyers would form to the left.
- Forget four state titles, this Minnesota wrestler is going for five after winning one as a seventh-grader.
- The surfing wipeout of the year?
- A pair of twin high school girls are both chasing the national indoor pole vault record.
- This octopus snatching this crab is fairly unsettling.
- The next wars are going to be fought over the water supply.
On tap for tonight: The girls basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals are at Brick Memorial. St. Rose-Middletown South is at 6 p.m., followed by St. John Vianney-Manasquan at 7:45.
I'll end with the sweet walk-off Ping Pong shot and then James Harden crumpling Ricky Rubio.