Shore Sports Network basketball blogger Tim "Nep84" McCollum gives his take on the latest in Shore Conference boys basketball.

It sounds like it was a great night of basketball around the Shore Conference on Thursday. It’s funny how the game works with a chalk night following the upset-a-thon that was the opening round of the SCT. I hope y’all have enjoyed the tournament so far, because I’ve seen exactly zero minutes of it. I couldn’t make Neptune’s win over Lacey the other night because of the dreaded 5 p.m. start. I was all set and excited to see the Holmdel game tonight, but I was foiled again by the old work emergency trick and was stuck in my office following the game on Twitter and text messages from old forum stalwart Growch.

But the sun will come out tomorrow. The clouds will part. The snow will melt. There will be gold at the end of the rainbow because we have one heck of a slobberknocker set of games in store for us on Sunday in the quarterfinals. How’s that for a powerball payoff? Yeah, THAT kind of rich.

Sophomore forward Ryan Jensen and Manasquan look to make a return trip to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals when they face Matawan in Sunday's quarterfinals at Long Branch. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB)

Batting leadoff is the home team and #7 seed Fliers, who have avoided the "scrappy team throws them off their game and upsets them early in the tournament" bugaboo that drives ya crazy. Now they are the hunter rather than the hunted. What do we get for an appetizer on Slobberknocker Sunday? CBA?

Yeah there’s no juice in that game.

One of THE questions entering the tournament was “How good is CBA?” They rolled through A North like a snow plow down the NJ Turnpike. The question really boils down to a referendum of A North because outside of their division schedule, there isn’t much of a point of reference. They of course have taken on all comers out of the conference and one of these games I saw was a thumping at the hands of St Anthony. It’s true that this isn’t a vintage Friars team (after all they lost 3 whole games last I checked), but they were still St Anthony and still very good. Your typical "I’m gonna win the SCT" type of CBA team would have put a scare into them, at least a little.

Where does that leave us then? A North hasn’t exactly set the world on fire short of Marlboro’s nice win the other night. At 11 a.m. in Game One, we are going to find out just how good the Colts are.

Neptune has to dominate the guard play and harass Andree and the Colts' frontcourt. Neptune has to move the ball and control the tempo. If they revert to their jump shooting ways they are in trouble. The key stat for Neptune will be the team assists. When they are playing well, they are either running and dishing or penetrating and kicking. CBA has to keep the Fliers to the perimeter and force them into settling for the low percentage jumpers. This is a great time for Pat Andree to have a coming-out party. If he does, they could not only win this game but throw the gauntlet down right at Point Beach’s feet.

And that’s just the first game…..

The next two games are rematches from the Boardwalk Showcase.

As soon as I saw the seeding, I penciled in a Jackson-Beach quarterfinal as a game I’d like to see. This gets to THE OTHER question on everyone’s mind coming into the SCT. Can any of these guys fly with the Gulls?

At the Boardwalk Showcase, Beach laid the smack down on the Jags, pure and simple. It got ugly quick and was over early. Farrell had his way all day, and while Jackson had its moments, there was never a point in time where you felt the game was at risk for Beach.

It’ll be a different story on Sunday. Write it down on the blackboard. No, I’m not picking the upset, but unlike the first game, I think the threat will be there. The question is exactly how long.  A South has traditionally struggled in this tournament, and Jackson did need a buzzer-beater to avoid the first-round upset this year. I’ve seen it too many times where a team like this will break through a barrier such as that and then go on a run with the pressure off. You saw a bit of that on Thursday night.

I’m sure the 20-point loss at the showcase stung them, and they have got to be chomping at the bit to get their hands on Beach on Sunday. I know I would be. Beach is going to be looking at a hungry bunch of Jags in Game Two. I still think Beach is the better team and will hold off the upset, but it won’t be the one-sided game it was the first time.

There were some us at the table that thought the last seconds of the first Long Branch and Lakewood game was sooooooo long that the final buzzer of that game will actually be the opening buzzer of Game Three on Sunday. I still maintain that Long Branch has come of age this year even though they fell slightly behind in the rugged B North. The win against Lakewood was a big statement win for them and for the most part they’ve followed through.

If you are Lakewood today are you cursing Brookdale because you have to play Long Branch on their home floor in what is supposed to be a neutral site game. Or, you are like “I’ll play them on the moon if that’s what it takes." Knowing the Piners the way I do, my money is on the latter. You want to talk about a hungry team chomping to avenge a tough loss? Lakewood has heard about that game all season.

If the Lakewood team that played Long Branch in the Boardwalk Showcase shows up, it could be another rough day in the Branch for them. If the Cox who played against Neptune just after Christmas shows up to play, Lakewood is in for a dog fight. If it’s the Lakewood who blasted Neptune on their home floor not too long ago that shows up, well I hope Long Branch has them laced up real tight because it’s gonna be a long day.

Which of these is going to happen? I have no idea, but I hope the Cox who lit up the Fliers and the Foster who controlled the paint show up to play the Lakewood team that blasted Neptune. This has the potential to be the game of the year.

Last and certainly not least, you have Matawan and Manasquan in the 4/5 game. I’m gonna call this the "Nep bats .500" game of the day. I took a lot of heat for being high on Matawan despite the fact that Barnes is in Manchester.  Well, here they are the winners of their division for the first time since the Great Depression. Not just any division mind you, but B North, where they avoided the one-off losses that ended up costing Neptune, Long Branch and Red Bank at least a share of the title. Three of the 8 teams on Sunday are from B North, and Matawan ran the gauntlet to get the best of all of them. That’s a pretty good way to come into this game.

Now I wasn’t too high on Manasquan coming into the season, but they very quietly put their thermos in their lunch box and toil away in anonymity until they show up in the quarterfinals and make your life miserable. It must be a Central thing. Get it? Rough crowd.

What have they done wrong exactly? They have two wins against the Holmdel team that matter of factly took down the A North public champs. They have two wins against everyone’s “It” team in RFH at the start of the season. On Thursday, they won the rubber game against a red-hot RBC team. I liked the blurb on the SSN scoreboard – “The high-scoring RBC team.” What did Nelson have? 1,000 points since Signing Day? Watching this will be a fitting end for Slobberknocker Sunday.

I’ll be right there with you … on the ShoreLine.