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Two more Shore Conference girls basketball teams reached Group finals on Thursday night, while only one boys team is still alive in the state playoffs after a tough one-point loss by Shore Regional last night.

Note - Update: Shane Fallon was the athletic assistant director at Rumson for 13 years, not 2. I regret the error.

Also, congrats to former Rumson-Fair Haven football coach Shane Fallon on being named the new athletic director at Holmdel by the Board of Education to replace the retiring Randy Westrol. Fallon's 106 wins are the most in Rumson history, and the former Bulldogs' quarterback led them to the 2010 Central Jersey Group II title, their first in school history, as well as final appearances in 2007 and 2011. He stepped down before the 2013 season to get his master's degree, which has now come to fruition.

Former Rumson-Fair Haven football coach Shane Fallon is the new athletic director at Holmdel. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Of the six Group finals on the girls side, four of them feature Shore Conference teams gunning for titles. All of them have a very good chance of advancing, which could mean the Tournament of Champions is essentially the Shore Conference Tournament Final Four (Manasquan, St. Rose, Middletown South, St. John Vianney) all over again plus two other teams. That is remarkable. Just a powerhouse girls basketball conference.

Defending Group II champion Manasquan rolled over Lower Cape May, 77-43, to advance to Sunday's Group II final against Westwood at Pine Belt Arena. Lower Cape May was coming off its first sectional title ever, and the Warriors overwhelmed them behind 19 points from newly-minted Gatorade NJ Player of the Year Marina Mabrey and 18 from senior guard Courtney Hagaman. The Warriors, ranked No. 1 in New Jersey and No. 9 in the nation, will again be a heavy favorite on Sunday at 6 p.m. against Westwood in their march toward what they hope is a Tournament of Champions title after losing in the TOC final last season.

Courtney Hagaman and Manasquan are back in the Group II final. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

The great run by the Middletown South girls continues as they topped Timber Creek, 51-48 in the Group III semifinals to advance to Sunday's Group final against Old Tappan at 2 p.m. at Pine Belt Arena. Their defense forced a whopping 30 turnovers last night, while Haley Dalonzo led the offense with 14 points and Angela DeBartolome added 12.

The win made history for the Eagles, who have never advanced this far in the state tournament, so they will try to make one more piece of history by winning their first Group title on Sunday and advancing to their first Tournament of Champions.

Alexandra Balsamo and Middletown South will try to make history on Sunday in the Group III final. (Photo by Bill Normile)

The great run by the Marlboro girls came to an end with a 49-40 loss to Shawnee in the Group IV semifinals after the Mustangs' march to the Central Jersey Group IV title. Senior Nicole Shatsky wrapped up her brilliant career as a 1,000-point scorer by dropping in a game-high 20 points in the loss.

On the boys side, Shore Regional was only one basket away from playing in just its second Group final in school history and the first since 1967 when it lost 51-50 to Paulsboro in the Group I semifinals. Senior Dan Largey went out in style, pouring in 31 points in his final high school game to conclude a brilliant state tournament that puts him right in the conversation for a first-team All-Shore selection. Largey finished with a single-season school record 609 points.

 

Asbury Park and Point Beach had both denied Paulsboro a shot to reach the Group I final in the last three seasons, and the Blue Devils nearly made it three in a row before coming up just short to conclude a 21-win season.

It will be a new era of Blue Devils' basketball next year as the entire starting lineup graduates, led by the core of Largey, Kevin Bloodgood and Jack Byrne, who have been varsity players for four years. Largey and Bloodgood are both 1,000-point scorers, while Byrne is one of the Shore's most underrated defensive players and a solid complementary scorer.

Shore's loss means that (in Princess Leia voice) CBA is our only hope. The Colts are the last Shore Conference boys team remaining. They will play Pope John XXIII on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Pine Belt Arena in a bid to win their first Non-Public A title since 1995 and reach the Tournament of Champions for the second time in their history.

Pope John may have just only won its first sectional title in history, but the Lions are a formidable opponent who enters as the favorite. They feature 6-foot-8 Syracuse recruit Moustapha Diagne from Senegal, one of the state's top players, as well as 6-foot-8 power forward Jeromy Rodriguez from the Dominican Republic, who has multiple Division I offers and had 17 rebounds in their sectional final win over Seton Hall Prep. Also, senior guard Matt Zignorski is a Fordham recruit, 6-foot-7 forward Damien Rance has multiple Division I offers, and 6-foot-4 junior guard James Scott has multiple Division I offers and high-level interest.

So yeah, this team is loaded, and the chatter is that the Lions are the sleeper team to take down the Roselle Catholic-St. Anthony winner to win the TOC. That means CBA can go in with nothing to lose, and if Jack Laffey and Pat Andree can get hot from downtown like they did in the sectional final against St. Augustine, the Colts can give the Lions a run. A big key is going to be defensive rebounding against that giant Pope John front line.

Here is the schedule for Saturday's Non-Public Finals action at Pine Belt Arena:

St. Rose girls vs. Lodi Immaculate, Non-Public B final, noon

St. John Vianney girls vs. Immaculate Heart Academy, Non-Public A final, 2 p.m.

CBA vs. Pope John XXIII, Non-Public A final, 5 p.m.

Roselle Catholic vs. St. Anthony, Non-Public B final, 7 p.m.

That is a great day of basketball. St. Rose is the favorite to repeat as Non-Public B champs, while St. John Vianney will try to avenge a last-second loss to IHA from last season's final. We know the deal with CBA, and then the night caps off with what could be the game of the year in New Jersey boys basketball.

Kentucky recruit Isaiah Bricoe and a loaded Roselle squad, which also includes Asbury Park resident/super frosh Nazreon Reid, against the gold standard of the state tournament, St. Anthony, which features Wichita State recruit Markis McDuffie and Marlboro resident/Division I  guard Jagan Mosely. Doesn't get better than that. The winner will be the favorite to win the TOC.

BASEBALL

One of our photographers, the great Mark Brown of B51 Photography, is down in Florida at spring training working on some things. He did a fun photo essay on a recent Yankees-Orioles game and will have an upcoming feature on a former Shore star. Check it out here. 

Mark Teixiera and the Yankees geared up for the American League battles with a spring training game against the Orioles. (Photo by B51 Photography)

Fun day for former Toms River South and Rutgers star Todd Frazier during Will Ferrell-palooza in spring training yesterday.

More on Friday:

On tap for tonight: No basketball tonight, but there is Notre Dame and freshman guard Matt Farrell (Point Beach) playing Duke on ESPN at 9:30 in the ACC Tournament. Also, Farrell's former Point Beach teammate, Jarelle Reischel, will be in action with the University of Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals on NBC Sports Network at 9:30 p.m.

I'll end with a couple videos. There's Robert Downey Jr. giving a boy a prosthetic Ironman arm, which is awesome. Then a pro lacrosse player flinging a lacrosse ball all the way across Baltimore Harbor, and finally the "greatest bowling story ever told" about a guy almost rolling a 900 series and then what happened in the aftermath.