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Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone out there. It's always one of my favorite days of the year between furiously scribbling in last-minute March Madness brackets, shoveling corned beef at a heart attack-inducing rate and the fact that being pale with freckles is celebrated for a day.

My younger brother and I have been down with St. Patrick's Day since the 1980s. And yes, I was a despondent Jets fan even back then.

Tonight also marks the start of the girls basketball NJSIAA Tournament of Champions with a pair of quarterfinal games at Pine Belt Arena involving two Shore Conference squads. St. John Vianney, playing in its state-record 16th (!) TOC, will take on Group I champion New Providence at 5:30 p.m., followed by Middletown South, competing in its first TOC in history, against Group IV champion Franklin at 7:30 p.m.

If the Lancers and Eagles win, that would mean that the four TOC semifinalists would all be from the same conference, which would have to be a first. No. 1 Manasquan awaits the Middletown South-Franklin winner and No. 2 St. Rose will play the St. John Vianney-New Providence winner, both on Thursday at Pine Belt Arena.

New Providence is a perennial Group I power that plays a tough schedule, so it will be no cakewalk for St. John Vianney in the first game. The Pioneers feature Florida recruit Sydney Morang, complemented by sophomore guard Katie Kinum. It will be St. John Vianney's depth against Morang's star power. The Lancers have faced McDonald's All-American Marina Mabrey of Manasquan three times this season, so having to deal with a big-time player on the other side is nothing new.

Kelly Campbell and St. John Vianney hope to bull their way into the Tournament of Champions semifinals with a win tonight. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

With one of the best guards in the state in junior Kelly Campbell, a double-double threat in Kim Evans, knockdown shooters like Kellie Crouch and Tina Lebron, and length on defense with Gigi Caponegro, the Lancers are looking to not only get this one but steal the whole show and win a record seventh TOC crown. A showdown with St. Rose would be an eagerly-anticipated semifinal game.

Stephanie Karcz and Middletown South hope to be jumping for joy again on Tuesday with a win in their first Tournament of Champions appearance in history. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Middletown South has already made history with its first Group III title, so this is gravy time. Franklin is a talented and balanced team that is similar to the Eagles, who are led by junior standout Stephanie Karcz. Jaeda Wilgoose, Alexandra Jackson and Adreana Miller lead a Franklin team where everyone in its starting lineup has to be guarded because all are capable of double-digit scoring, just like Middletown South's unit of Karcz, Julia Valkos, Angela DeBartolome, Haley Dalonzo and Alexandra Balsamo. A win by the Eagles would mean a rematch with Manasquan, which beat them 62-27 in the WOBM Christmas Classic championship game in December.


Bob Badders has unveiled his choices for the 2015 SSN All-Shore Wrestling Teams as well as the final Top 10 rankings.

Also, big congrats to Brick Memorial's Mike Denver on being named the SSN Coach of the Year, and to Keansburg senior Tyree Sutton, one of the best stories across New Jersey this season, in being named the SSN Wrestler of the Year.


Ocean running back Tyler Thompson, Red Bank Catholic offensive lineman Liam Smith and Middletown South offensive lineman Thomas Lopez are all committed to attend the Syracuse spring game on April 4 as top recruits from the Class of 2016. Toms River North running back Asante Moorer received an invite on Tuesday and also should be in the house, according to Mariners coach Dave Oizerowitz.

No surprise that the Orange are hitting the Shore hard considering their recruiting coordinator is former Monmouth Regional head coach Bobby Acosta, who is well-versed in Shore football. In addition to the aforementioned recruits, Syracuse's top quarterback target from the junior class is St. John Vianney's Anthony Brown.

I will have a little more on this as we get closer to it, but former Manasquan standout Donny Klein, who is now the Warriors' offensive line coach, is running the Gridiron Showcase, an event at Colts Neck High School on June 13-14 that will feature numerous college coaches from all levels evaluating talent. Another coach with Shore ties, former Point Beach standout Shane Ferguson, who is now the wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Division II Merrimack, will be working at the camp.

He and Klein and looking to provide an opportunity for more Shore Conference and New Jersey talent to gain college exposure. Schools like New Hampshire, Bryant and Lehigh as well as a host of Division II and III programs will all have coaches there to evaluate players, so it should be a quality event. Klein and Ferguson are also hoping to build relationships with Shore Conference and college coaches to keep our local talent on their radar. You can find all the information here.

In one other tidbit, Howell defensive coordinator P.J. Gibbs was gleaning some wisdom from none other than new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this weekend out in Ann Arbor.

No word on whether P.J. Gibbs was given a special set of pleated dad khakis to wear on the Howell sideline this fall. (Photo courtesy of P.J. Gibbs)


I will have more on this as we get closer to the season, but the Strike Out Autism event put on by former Central and St. Rose head coach Jerry Frulio continues to grow by leaps and bounds into a premier event. Frulio, whose son Dayton has autism, has worked tirelessly to grow the event to help raise money and awareness for autism. The Shore Conference coaching community has also really embraced the event in only its third year.

Here is the most up-to-date schedule of the showcase, which still may have a few tweaks before the season starts.

Saturday, April 18

*All game times and the order of games were determined by host schools 

AT Central Regional 

 Freehold Twp. vs. Central Regional… 11am

Mater Dei vs. Southern… 2pm 

 AT Jackson Memorial

Liberty vs. Jackson… 10am

Manalapan vs. Brick…12:30pm 

AT Wall

Old Bridge vs. Wall…11am

Pt. Boro vs. Long Branch…1pm 


Barnegat vs. SJV…11am

Monmouth Reg. vs. RBR…2pm 

AT Howell

Holmdel vs. Howell… 10am

Colts Neck vs. Brick Memorial… 1pm 

AT TR South

Lacey vs. Midd. South… 4pm

RBC vs. TR South… 7pm 

AT Raritan

Lakewood vs. Raritan … 10am

Manchester vs. Rumson … 12:30pm 

AT St. Rose

Manasquan vs. St. Rose …10am

Donovan vs. Midd. North … 1pm 

AT Ocean

Freehold Boro vs. Ocean … 10am

Shore vs. Matawan … 1:30pm

More on Tuesday: 

  • The NFL is going to find it harder and harder to deny the effects of concussive hits when 24-year-olds like the Niners' Chris Borland are retiring and openly citing the potential for head trauma as a reason.
  • Five women's lacrosse players at UMBC got suspended for allegedly threatening freshmen on the team on social media.
  • Oregon football has now offered the son of Evander Holyfield and the son of Randy Moss.
  • Triathlons are hard enough without people shooting at each other while you're trying to ride your bike.
  • Looking back on the great run by UCLA and Tyus Edney in 1995, a name that shall live in infamy in the halls of Bobb-McCulloch Hall at Northwestern when his end-to-end game-winner was the beginning of me taking everyone's money in the NCAA pool.

On tap for tonight: As previously mentioned, tonight is the girls Tournament of Champions quarterfinals at 5:30 and 7:30 at Pine Belt Arena. Follow Matt Manley on Twitter for all the updates.

Have a good day everyone.