Just when the coaches and returning players of Class B Central thought they might catch a break with the graduation of Point Beach’s standout trio, the Garnet Gulls have reloaded for another run at a Shore Conference Tournament title. With a recent run of dominance in Class B Central, Point Beach is now moving into the territory of perennial power with its latest infusion of ready-made talent to join with the two other players back from its SCT championship rotation.

As for the rest of the division, there are plenty of question marks with each team. Including Point Beach, every single team in the division will be playing this season without its leading scorer from a year ago. Only Asbury Park had a non-senior for a leading scorer, but that player – senior TyQuis Davis – tore his ACL during football and is out for the season. With so much production to replace and several teams going with younger lineups, Point Beach and St. Rose have a chance to really separate themselves while the rest of the division tries to load up. It will take a lot to beat this Point Beach team to begin with, so the make-up of the division at the present time bodes well for the Garnet Gulls.

 

Point Pleasant Beach

Head Coach: Nick Catania, 11th season
2013-14 Record: 29-2 (14-0, first in B Central)
Returning Players: Mike Frauenheim (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Chris Schifano (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Matt Farrell, Dominique Uhl, Noah Yates, Jeff Bryant, Matt VanNostrand (Transferred to Point Boro)
Newcomers: Jesse Hill (Sr., 6-7, Forward; Transfer from Jackson Memorial), Ryan Sheehan (Jr., Guard), Andrew Pidduck (Sr., Forward), Jimmy Panzini (Jr., Guard; Transfer from St. Anthony), Michael Rice (Jr., Guard; Transfer from Red Bank), Joe Petkowski (Jr., Center), Steve Flanders (So., Guard), Danny Frauenheim (Fr., Guard), Trevor Covey (Fr., 6-3, Guard)

The names and faces are a little different, but the story is similar at Point Pleasant Beach, where the Garnet Gulls said goodbye to three of the Shore Conference’s best players and brought in two of this year’s best to slide into a starting lineup with two returning players from last year’s Shore Conference Tournament championship team. On talent alone, Point Beach will once again be able to stack up against any team at the Shore Conference thanks to the additions of Jackson Memorial transfer and Florida Atlantic recruit Jesse Hill, as well as junior guard and St. Anthony’s transfer Jimmy Panzini. The two incoming players will join senior returnees Mike Frauenheim and Chris Schifano in a starting lineup that compares favorably to any other five at the Shore.

Junior Ryan Sheehan and senior Andrew Pidduck both served as reserves last year and look to earn more minutes this season. Junior point guard Mike Rice – the son of the former Rutgers head mens basketball coach by the same name – will see significant time after transferring from Red Bank. The Garnet Gulls also have some talent in the pipeline that could earn minutes, including junior center Joe Petkowski, sophomore guard Steve Flanders and freshman duo Danny Frauenheim and 6-3 swingan Trevor Covey. For as talented as Point Beach is this year, losing Matt Farrell is a huge hurdle to overcome for a team that maintains its SCT and Group I championship aspirations. Panzini can help make up for the loss, while Hill plays the Dom Uhl role, but it could require some patience early on. Class B Central is there for the taking and by the time the SCT hits, Beach just might be ready to defend the throne.

Jesse Hill (middle) battled Noah Yates (24) and Mike Frauenheim (5) last year as a member of Jackson Memorial and now will play alongside Frauenheim at Point Beach. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

 

St. Rose

Head Coach: Dennis Devaney, 29th season
2013-14 Record: 17-9 (12-2, second in B Central)
Returning Players: Nolan Slattery (Sr., 6-0, Guard), John Krotulis (Jr., 6-6, Center), Craig Suchecki (Sr., Guard), Joe Forlenza (Sr., Guard), Matt Frost (Sr., Guard)
Key Losses: Dan Borner, Matt Skea, Austin Talty, Bobby Hendrickson, Jimmy Gowen
Newcomers: Brendan Hueth (So., 6-0, Guard), Mike Gowen (Jr., Guard), Bob Sun (Sr., 6-5, Forward)

Just when the Purple Roses thought the division was going to fall back up for grabs, Point Beach brought in its next wave of talent. Then again, St. Rose should not lay down their swords before the battle begins considering the Roses return a quality scoring guard in Nolan Slattery and a 6-6 junior center in John Krotulis to anchor a team that returns a number of players from a deep rotation last year. Slattery knocked down 63 3-pointers last season and the Roses will ask him to be the top scoring option this season with four starters moving on to graduation. Krotulis, meanwhile, looks to take the next step in his development after seeing time in the middle as a sophomore.

The challenge for St. Rose in pushing for a division title is that there is not a lot of returning talent in the starting lineup, but last year’s players off the bench should be ready to take on the challenge. Senior guards Craig Suchecki, Joe Forlenza and Matt Frost will all step into more prominent roles, while sophomore Brendan Hueth and junior Mike Gowen will also step up in the back court. Senior Bob Sun, a 6-5 forward, will also see more time this season and could be a key contributor in the paint. It could be beneficial for St. Rose to play Point Beach before the New Year since the Garnet Gulls are still getting used to one another, but either way, the Roses will be put to the test within the first week of the season against Donovan Catholic at the WOBM Classic and Point Beach on Tuesday.

 

Mater Dei Prep

Head Coach: Bob Klatt, 19th season
2013-14 Record: 11-13 (8-6, fourth in B Central)
Returning Players: Tysaun White (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Patric Donohue (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Jason Mandile (Sr., 6-0, Forward), Shane Mastro (So., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Sam Miles, Matt Eckert, C.J. Williams, Jordan Owens, Eddie Lewis
Newcomers: Reese Entwhistle (Sr., 6-7, Forward), Jamian Lawson (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Matt LaPorte (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Vincenzo Mezzacappa (Sr., 5-7, Guard), Ruben Rodriguez (Sr., 5-7, Guard), Thomas Hannafin (Jr., 6-0, Forward), Luke Lino (So., 6-0, Guard), Sean Krueger (So., 5-10, Guard).

This is where things get tricky in Class B Central. Point Beach and St. Rose have been sure bets to finish one and two in the division and that stands for at least one more year, but after those two, a lot can happen. It’s usually safe to assume that Mater Dei is going to finish in the top five of the division and in a season like this in which there is not yet a clear third team that will compete with the top two, the Seraphs are probably the way to go when looking for a third-place finisher.

Mater Dei must replace Sam Miles, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last year. On the plus side of things, senior guard Tysaun White returns after finding a scoring touch last year, when he averaged a shade above 10 points per game while also handing out a team-best four assists per game. Seniors Patric Donohue and Jason Mandile also return after playing last year, while 6-4 sophomore Shane Mastro brings some upside the Seraphs front court after he contributed as a freshman. With some size and interesting returnees from a year ago, Mater Dei appears most prepared to finish in the top half of the division, even if contending for the top spot is a longshot.

 

Asbury Park

Head Coach: Dave Johnson, 29th season
2013-14 Record: 1-18 (1-13, eighth in B Central)
Returning Players: Mikal Fearon (Jr., 6-6, Forward), Shaleek Davis (Jr., Guard), Josmair Taylor (So., Guard), Najir Ridout (So., Guard), Damion Gill (Sr., G)
Key Losses: Imani Stevenson, Paul Bacon, TyQuis Davis (Torn ACL, out for season), TyQuere Davis (Broken femur, out for season)
Newcomers: Nyzaire Jones (Sr., Forward), Salvador Swain (Sr., Guard), Dale Ghee (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Devon Thompson (Jr., Guard), Carl Cazeau (Sr., Guard), Imani Stephenson (Sr., 6-4, Center), Keanu McNaill (Sr., 6-5, Center), William Nicholson (Sr., G), Xavier Hundley (So., Forward), Dante Abrams (Fr., Guard)

Last year was about as low as things can go for Asbury Park which won just one game and was not competitive against the best teams on its schedule. The program was decimated with low numbers and very little senior representation, both of which put a strain on a young varsity team that just was not up the standards of what Asbury Park has produced recently. This year, though, the Blue Bishops have plenty of seniors and lots more numbers thanks to the return of a number of players who elected not to play in either of the last two years. Seniors Nyzaire Jones, Sal Swain and Dale Ghee all entered the program as freshmen only to pass on playing over each of the last two years. Seniors Imani Stephenson, William Nicholson and Keanu McNaill will suit up on varsity for the first time as well. McNaill is a 6-5 transfer from Baltimore who, along with Ghee and Stephenson – both 6-4 – will give Asbury Park some height in the frontcourt.

While the newcomers give Asbury Park some more hope this season, 6-6 Mikal Fearon will be Asbury Park’s centerpiece after another solid season last year as a sophomore. Junior Shaleek Davis and sophomore Josmair Taylor also played last season and will see time in this more complete Asbury Park rotation. The Blue Bishops hope to fully contend took a hit when by TyQuis and TyQuere Davis suffered season-ending leg injuries during football season. TyQuis – the team’s leading scorer last year – tore his ACL and TyQuere suffered a broken femur. Although the Davis family’s bad fortune cut into some of Asbury Park’s potential, the expectation remains among the Blue Bishops players and coaches that if all of the new parts can jell together, they will get back to competing with the top teams in B Central.

 

Henry Hudson

Head Coach: Vinnie Whitehead, ninth season
2013-14 Record: 7-16 (4-10, tied fifth in B Central)
Returning Players: Tom DeFelippo (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Kyle Rauen (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Chris Coberg (Jr., 6-6, Forward), Tom Colantino (So., 5-7, Guard)
Key Losses: Jacob Link, Jaxon Terrell
Newcomers: Anthony LaRue (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Chris Dos Santos (Sr., 5-8, Guard), Derek Lucas (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Joe Vamvakidis (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Kyle Vamvakadis (Sr., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Ryan Quartrocchi (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Chris Habibian (Sr., 6-1, Forward/Center), Jordan Stahl (Jr., 6-1, Forward/Center)

Following a string of seasons at or near the bottom of Class B Central, Henry Hudson started to push back last season and made some very important strides within the division. The Admirals won four games and climbed to a fifth-place tie in the division with Ranney, which sets up an opportunity to keep on moving this season. That won’t be a given considering the Admirals lost their two most reliable scoring options in Jaxon Terrell and Jake Link, but the core that returns was a relatively young group last year and is poised to make strides over the next two seasons.

Juniors Tom DeFellippo and Chris Coberg will lead the way this season after DeFellippo averaged six points and three assists per game while running the point and the 6-6 Coberg posted eight points and five rebounds per night. Senior Kyle Rauen was also a noteworthy contributor with an average of seven points per game and sophomore guard Tom Colantino also saw significant minutes as well. Replacing the production of Terrell and Link will make competing in the top half of the division a challenge, but the Admirals could sneak into the top four and position themselves as an interesting team next season.

 

Keyport

Head Coach: Phil Recco, 10th season
2013-14 Record: 14-9 (9-5, third in B Central)
Returning Players: Travis Alvarez (Jr., 6-6, Center), Zach Ochs (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Joe Froncek (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Anthony Fernandez (Sr., 5-9, Guard)
Key Losses: Alex Thomson, Kevin Walsh, Ezra Hill, Ky’Sun Pryor, Jeff Sheard (Transferred to St. John Vianney)
Newcomers: Dylan Bartlett (Sr., 5-7, Guard), Zack Smith (Jr., 5-7, Guard), Chris Hogrefe (So., 5-6, Guard), Brendan O’Brien (So., 5-11, Forward), Christian Smith (So., 5-7, Guard), Lorenzo Valente (So., 5-8, Guard), Jay Hanson (Fr., 6-0, Forward)

The Red Raiders battled their way to a second-place finish in Class B Central behind a big senior season from Alex Thomson and strong years from Ezra Hill and Brian Walsh. All three are gone this season and the Red Raiders also lost Jeff Sheard to St. John Vianney before the start of the football season. Keyport’s hopes rest with 6-6 junior center Travis Alvarez, who returns after averaging nine points and nine rebounds as a sophomore. Zach Ochs, Joe Froncek and Anthony Fernandez will all move into the starting lineup after coming off the bench last season and will look to provide a collective perimeter threat around Alvarez.

Keyport will also turn to some of its youth, namely sophomores Chris Hogrefe, Brendan O’Brien, Christian Smith and Lorenzo Valente, as well as six-foot freshman Jay Hanson. Senior Dylan Bartlett and junior Zak Smith will also look to contribute in their first varsity seasons as Keyport tries to show it can lose key pieces and still reload quickly enough to finish in the top half of Class B Central. With a large gap seemingly between St. Rose and the next best team, that won’t be an impossible challenge for Keyport.

 

Ranney

Head Coach: Drew Eldridge, first season
2013-14 Record: 9-15 (4-10, tied fifth in B Central)
Returning Players: James Geraghty (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Joe Mahoney (So., 6-0, Guard), John Mejia (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Cory Natofsky (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Ryan Wade (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Andy Chu (So., 6-2, Forward), Prakahar Nair (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Kory Barbanel (Sr., 6-0, Guard)
Key Losses: Joe Murphy, Grahame Wade, Will Rotolo
Newcomers: Jerome Cohen (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Sam Metzger (So., 6-2, Forward), Rob Johnson (So., 6-2, Forward), Gregg Marx (So., 6-0, Guard), Kirahn Shah (Fr., 6-0, Guard), Louie Mastrokostas (Fr., 6-0, Guard), Marc Greenstein (Fr., 6-1, Guard)

Although they lost three very productive starters to graduation and will have to go with a very young lineup around seniors John Mejia and Ryan Wade, the Panthers are looking forward to the future of the program. In addition to bringing back junior guard James Geraghty (11.5 points per game last year) and sophomore Joe Mahoney (five points per game as a freshman), the Panthers also bring in a crop of freshmen ready to contribute right now and start laying the foundation for what could be an exciting couple of years for the Shore Conference’s newest member.

Freshmen Marc Greenstein, Louie Mastrokostas and Kiran Shah will all have a chance to play, while junior Jerome Cohen and sophomores Sam Metzger, Rob Johnson and Gregg Marx also vie for time. This season will set Ranney up for next year, when it expects to welcome in a 2019 class that is already creating local buzz thanks to a core of current eighth-graders who have drawn national recognition. If the Panthers can overcome the graduation of the players that helped them win nine games last year and continue to improve in the standings, then Ranney could very well be a team to watch late in the year and certainly in 2016.

 

Keansburg

Head Coach: James McCarthy, seventh season
2013-14 Record: 4-14 (4-10, tied fifth in B Central)
Returning Players: Nick Rizzi (So., 5-10, Forward)
Key Losses: Kason Preston, Shawn Woods, Mike Politano
Newcomers: Shaquan Hutchings (Sr., 6-3, Center), Dwane Butler (Sr., 6-3, Center), Dylan Faler (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Arkeyel Brown (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Xavier Murrell (Jr., 5-7, Guard), Quentin Godfrey (So., 5-5, Guard), Maxwell Massari (So., 5-9, Guard), Vaughan Fitzgerald (Fr., 6-5, Forward/Center), Danny Vital (Fr., 5-8, Guard)

Like Ranney, the Titans are pushing a youth movement and although there are no nationally-ranked prospects immediately over the horizon, Keansburg has a good group of freshmen and sophomores pushing their way onto the varsity roster this season. Sophomore Nick Rizzi already got a taste of varsity basketball as a freshman and averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game as a 5-10 forward. The Titans will throw some size and athleticism up front, led by 6-3 seniors Shaquan Hutchings and Dwane Butler and athletic 6-2 junior Arkeyel Brown. The Titans will also feature 6-5, 195-pound freshman Vaughan Fitzgerald down low to go with his more experienced teammates.

Freshman Danny Vital will see time in the backcourt along with senior Dylan Faler, junior Xavier Murrell and sophomores Quentin Godfrey and Maxwell Massari. The back court contingent will have a tall order trying to replace Kason Preston, the Shore Conference’s leading scorer at 24 points per game who carried the Titans to their four divisional wins. It will take a team effort and there will be some growing pains for the younger members of the squad, but with so many unproven teams in Class B Central, it’s still too early to tell with any certainty which of the teams outside the top two will rise to the top and which ones will end up struggling. Keansburg’s loss of Preston makes them a team that would figure to struggle, but the Titans also have a chance to surge ahead with a deeper team this year.

 

Players to Watch

Jimmy Panzini, Point Beach – A hard-nosed player with plenty of ability to boot, Panzini got some time at St. Anthony’s as a sophomore.

Jesse Hill, Point Beach – Started to flash the game that eventually landed him an offer from Florida Atlantic and could really take off in Point Beach’s fast-paced system, particularly in a thin B Central division.

Mikal Fearon, Asbury Park – The lone returnee from the coaches’ all-division team last year, Fearon has already proven he can score and will now look to become a defensive force for the Blue Bishops as well.

Mike Frauenheim, Point Beach – Already one of the top players in the division, Frauenheim has a chance to be one of the Shore’s most improved players now that he is in a more prominent role with the Gulls.

Nolan Slattery, St. Rose – One of the Shore’s top shooters, Slattery buried 63 three-pointers last year, but did not average double-figure scoring. Expect the points per game total to climb.

Travis Alvarez, Keyport – Nearly averaged a double-double as a sophomore and at a long 6-6 and without a lot of scoring returning, there are probably more points and rebounds to come.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

John Krotulis, St. Rose – With more regular minutes this season, Krotulis has a chance to establish himself as a top junior center in the Shore.

Chris Coberg, Henry Hudson – Posted a solid eight points and five rebounds as a sophomore and at 6-6, Coberg has the build of a player who could average 15 and 10.

Shane Mastro, Mater Dei Prep – Like Coberg, Mastro showed signs of a breakout last year while playing as a freshman. At 6-4 with an extra year of maturity, he could give the Seraphs a strong second option to Tysaun White.

 

Burning Questions

Can Point Beach repeat as SCT champs with a different team?

The Garnet Gulls graduated three All-Shore players from their SCT title team from a year ago, including SSN Player of the Year Matt Farrell, and yet they are ranked in the Star-Ledger Top 20 to begin the year and widely regarded as one of the favorites to win the SCT again. That is because the Garnet Gulls added Florida Atlantic commit Jesse Hill and St. Anthony’s transfer Jimmy Panzini to team up with returnees Mike Frauenheim and Chris Schifano. Frauenheim figures to fit into a role similar to the one Noah Yates filled, while Hill and Panzini play the role of Dom Uhl and Farrell. With some depth pieces on board, those guys don’t have to quite play at those levels, but if they resemble some approximation of that trio, why can’t Point Beach win a second straight conference title?

Which gap is bigger: the one between St. Rose and Point Beach or the one between St. Rose and the next-closest team in B Central?

Depending on what one thinks of Point Beach, the safe bet would be to take the B Central field and assume some team will emerge as a competitive challenger to St. Rose. There is so much uncertainty in the division, as evidenced by the fact that nine of last year’s 10 coaches’ all-division picks graduated. St. Rose is among the teams with question marks, but the Roses were also comfortably ahead of third-place Keyport and return just as much as every other team in the division. It’s unlikely that St. Rose will beat Point Beach and that St. Rose will lose to anyone other than Point Beach, but neither would be the strangest thing to happen this year.

Can Asbury Park bounce back after a nightmare 2013-14 season?

It’s hard to imagine a worse season than the one Asbury Park had last year in what is typically considered the Shore Conference’s weakest division. The Blue Bishops finally won a game in mid-January against Keansburg to break a long losing streak to open the year and then did not win again. Asbury Park had little senior leadership and there were games that the Blue Bishops only dressed six or seven players. Things are shaping up to be much different, with a host of seniors rejoining the program this year and coach Dave Johnson expecting to work with an eight-to-10-man rotation that will allow Asbury Park to get back to its traditional up-tempo, pressing game. Whether it translates into a winning record remains to be seen, but at the very least, it appears the Blue Bishops are ready to move on from the frustration of last year.