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Following Shore Conference division realignment, the Class B North division retains some of its former look but there are some noteworthy changes to the field. Neptune, Red Bank, St. John Vianney, Colts Neck and Middletown North are all holdovers from 2019-20, but the two teams that finished at the top of the standings that year – Wall and Matawan – have moved elsewhere. The only new team in the mix is Freehold Boro, which will hope to benefit from moving out of the rugged Class A North division.

St. John Vianney has been on a steady climb with a team of young talent over the last two seasons and this year is a chance for the Lancers to strike with a run at a division title. Middletown North is also on an upward trajectory after putting together a winning season, while Red Bank and Neptune are traditional contenders with some graduation questions to answer. Colts Neck, meanwhile, has struggled to get back to the level it was at four years ago and Freehold Boro continues to try to make up ground in its rebuild.

There are some differences in where each program currently stands, but there is not a large gap between whichever team wins the division and whichever one finishes sixth. Expect all six squads to have their moments in 2021-22.

 

In predicted order of finish

St. John Vianney

Since Ryan Finch took over the program before the 2016-17 season, St. John Vianney has been building up step-by-step and there is potential for this season to be a breakthrough one. There might have been some potential for that last season, but COVID stoppages were a major obstacle, including one that ended the Lancers’ season in the middle of the final week of the season.

Most of last year’s team returns, led by senior four-year varsity player and three-year starter Nate Williams. Last season, Dylan Seay joined Williams as the other half of a one-two scoring punch despite only being a freshman. Senior Omar Calderon also stepped up as another scoring option, with junior Kyle Verriest serving as a defensive stopper, giving the Lancers two more valuable pieces back in the starting lineup. Justice Brayboy is in line to round out the starting lineup, but Finch will have plenty of options off the bench in Connor Howard, Joe DeBlasio and Liam Thomas, as well as two newcomers in freshman Aidan Ur and Woodbridge transfer Jordan Winnik.

With more offseason time to gel and a lengthier roster, St. John Vianney is better set up to live up to Top 10 expectations, which are obvious based on a schedule that includes games against Rumson-Fair Haven, Freehold Township, Marlboro, Rutgers Prep and a trip to play against a deep field in the WOBM Christmas Classic Tournament. All that should have SJV ready to make a run at the top spot in Class B North.

St. John Vianney senior Nate Williams rises up for a shot with teammate Omar Calderon (1) looking on. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
St. John Vianney senior Nate Williams rises up for a shot with teammate Omar Calderon (1) looking on. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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Head Coach: Ryan Finch, sixth season
2021 Record: 6-6 (2-4 in Pod F)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

Nate Williams, Sr., 6-3, Guard (RS)

Justice Brayboy, Sr., 5-9, Guard (R)

Omar Calderon, Sr., 6-3, Guard (RS)

Kyle Verriest, Jr., 6-1, Guard (RS)

Dylan Seay, So., 6-5, Forward (RS)

Key Losses

Ross Thomas, 6-3, Forward

Off the Bench

Connor Howard, Jr., 6-3 (R)

Liam Thomas, Sr., 6-1 (R)

Joe DeBlasio, Jr., 6-0 (R)

Aidan Ur, Fr., 5-11

Jordan Winnik, Jr., 6-2 (Transfer from Woodbridge)

Matt Recco, Jr., 5-11

 

Middletown North

Middletown North showed some promise during the course of the shortened 2021 season, riding breakout senior Vinny Pennino and a junior duo of Tommy Giannone and Matt Kenny to some big wins and to a second-place finish in the Pod C bracket of the Shore Conference Playoffs. There were some inconsistencies along the way, and with Giannone and Kenny back, the Lions and second-year coach Kevin Spies are hopeful to address some of those.

With two prove all-division-caliber players back in the starting lineup, rounding out a supporting cast and filling in roles will be key for Middletown North. Senior Lucas Cerbo is a tough, physical guard to complement the offensive-minded Kenny and junior point guard Mac Colantino. Senior Zac Searight, meanwhile, will look to step in as a frontcourt starter after playing important minutes off the bench as a junior. Senior Brian Haddow showed he can make an impact off the bench a year ago and junior Derek Soto and freshman Luke Sheehan will be new players to watch step up in the rotation.

St. John Vianney has a little more overall depth back, but the Giannone-Kenny one-two punch will help Middletown North measure up with whichever teams emerge as contenders in Class B North, as well as a lot of division-title hopefuls from around the Shore Conference – particularly if the supporting cast can produce some lineup gems.

Middletown North senior Tommy Giannone. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Middletown North senior Tommy Giannone. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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Head Coach: Kevin Spies, second season
2021 Record: 8-7 (4-4 in Pod F)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

Mac Colantino, Jr., 5-10, Guard (R)

Matt Kenny, Sr., 6-0, Guard (RS)

Lucas Cerbo, Sr., 5-10, Guard (RS)

Tommy Giannone, Sr., 6-6, Forward (RS)

Zach Searight, Sr., 6-5, Forward (R)

Key Losses

Vinny Pennino, 5-11, Guard

Alex Bogues, 6-4, Forward

Brendan Kelly, 5-11, Guard

Off the Bench

Brian Haddow, Sr., 5-10 (R)

Colin Devine, Sr., 6-1 (R)

Derek Soto, Jr., 5-9

Luke Sheehan, So., 6-3

Matt Spinella, Sr., 5-10

 

Red Bank

With four starters and five major members of the rotation graduating last season, Red Bank will have a lot to replace from a year ago. The Bucs did not put a good seasons together as far as their record goes, but were competitive in losses to quality opponents like Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven and Freehold Township.

While that doesn’t do much good for a team without a whole lot of experience returning, Red Bank does return its top scorer in senior two-guard Patrick Murray (11.3 points per game as a junior). Murray is a four-year varsity player and a third-year starter for Red Bank and will lead a lineup that lack experience but has some real upside. Junior Nick Valentino is poised to join Murray as a go-to scoring option, while seniors Tommy Keegan and Brian Tobin are experienced varsity contributors to fill out two starting spots. The other opening is in the front court, where junior Colin Teter will add some scoring prowess and senior Donovan Bradley some defensive presence in the paint.

On paper, the Bucs look a little thinner than both St. John Vianney and Middletown North, but that is more based on proven talent than on what this Red Bank squad could look like comparted to its rivals by the end of the season. With a breakout year from a junior like Valentino and some solid complementary play from Keegan, Tobin, Teter, Bradley and junior guard Jackson Hyman off the bench, Red Bank can ride Murray to a surprise season at the Shore.

Head Coach: Scott Martin, 21st season
2021 Record: 4-9 (2-5 in Pod G)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

Patrick Murray, Sr., 6-3, Guard (RS)

Tommy Keegan, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)

Brian Tobin, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)

Nick Valentino, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Collin Teter, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Key Losses

Nick Ferrogine, 5-11, Guard

Enoch Hutchinson, 6-1, Guard

Bodhi Martin, 6-0, Guard

Owen Laughlin, 6-1, Forward

Matt Keegan, 6-1, Guard

Off the Bench

Donovan Bradley, Sr., 6-3 (R)

Jackson Hyman, Jr., 6-0

Joe Caruso, Sr., 6-0 (R)

Braydon Kirkpatrick, So., 6-0

Chayce Ford, Sr., Forward

Paul Ferrigno, Sr., 6-1

Reed Carroll, Sr., 6-5

 

Neptune

Few teams have deployed more different looks over the course of a season and used more players than Neptune has since Joe Fagan took over eight seasons ago. Fagan is not afraid to go to an underclassman in the middle of the season, but those options may be limited this year for a program that currently does not have a single member in its sophomore class. Fagan will have plenty of juniors, however, and this year will require some more mixing and matching given the heavy losses the roster took over the last year, headlined – but not limited to – Fagan’s son and current Monmouth University freshman guard Sam Fagan.

Neptune’s horse on both ends this year will be senior Oneil Campbell, who stepped into a starting role as a sophomore and took his game to the next level last year, when he became more or a scoring threat. The challenge for Campbell and the Scarlet Fliers is that he is the only returning starter from last year and the group around him, while coming back with some experience, does not have a lot of collective varsity minutes. Jahmil Miranda, Daniel Moran, Danniel Charles and Mateo Andrews also saw the floor while playing a grueling schedule in 2021, so the easing-up in competition could help this group taste some success.

It will take improvement over the course of the year and contributions from newcomers like C.J. Argilagos, Jason Neal and freshman Andrew Petrick, and based on Neptune’s track record, the Scarlet Fliers should progress as the calendar ticks toward February. While last year’s record took a hit playing teams like Manasquan (three times), Ranney (twice) and Marlboro, this year’s should be much better with a better balance to the schedule.

Head Coach: Joe Fagan, eighth season
2021 Record: 3-7 (2-4 in Pod H)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

C.J. Argilagos, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Jahmil Miranda, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)

Mateo Andrews, Jr., 6-1, Guard (R)

Daniel Moran, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)

Oneil Campbell, Sr., 6-6, Forward (RS)

Key Losses

Sam Fagan, 6-0, Guard

Andre Harris, 6-0, Guard

Everett Cheavers, 6-3, Center

Bryson Bird, 5-5, Guard

Malik Fields, Sr., 6-5, Forward

Mike Daniels, Jr., 6-3, Guard/Forward

Off the Bench

Daniel Charles, Jr., 6-1 (R)

Sam Cetoute, Jr., 6-0

Jason Neal, Jr., 6-0

Jalen Weedon, Jr., 6-5

Luke Dafeldecker, Sr., 6-5

Davionne Pearson, Jr., 6-3

Anthony Banks, Jr., 6-0

Andrew Petrick, Fr., 6-2

 

Colts Neck

It has been four years since Colts Neck lost a heartbreaker to Trenton in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final and the Cougars have been scrapping just to get to a winning record ever since. This year will be another challenge, with only third-year starting junior Will Surdez returning to the starting lineup coming off a combined 10 wins over the past two seasons.

Last year, a host of football players helped veteran coach Lou Piccola plug some holes with athleticism, and while a lot of last year’s athletes are gone, there will be some more to work with this season. Michael Belcher and Matthew Celli will provide some toughness and athleticism in the lineup alongside Surdez as the top scorer, while Spencer Bernstein occupies another guard spot. Ronak Sandeep is an experience 6-foot-4 big man, but will start the season on the bench due to injury. Until Sandeep returns, Colts Neck will rely on an inexperienced bench that is made up of a collection of multi-sport athletes.

Getting back to the postseason will be a laborious process and with a longer season this year, Colts Neck will have more time to develop pieces around Surdez and could pick up steam heading into 2022-23, if not by the tail end of this season.

Head Coach: Lou Piccola, 23rd season
2021 Record: 5-9 (3-6 in Pod F)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

Will Surdez, Jr., 6-3, Guard (RS)

Michael Belcher, So., 6-2, Guard

Spencer Bernstein, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Ronak Sandeep, Sr., 6-4, Forward (R)

Matthew Celli, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Key Losses

Richard Lee, 5-9, Guard

Steve Ciccarone, 6-1, Guard

Tommy Fallon, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Off the Bench

Aidan Gardiner, Jr., 6-3

Jacob Gold, Jr., 6-4

Eric Lavin, Jr., 6-0

Henry Shell, Sr., 6-2

Brandon Ladzinski, Sr., 6-2

Dominic Beninato, So., 6-0

Jacob Buss, So., 6-5

Tyler Spencer, Jr., 5-11

 

Freehold Boro

Freehold Boro was all set to move out of the loaded Class A North division in 2020-21, but the shortened season prompted a realignment that stuck the Colonials back in a pod with the likes of Christian Brothers Academy, Marlboro, Freehold Township, Middletown South and Manalapan. All told, the season went fairly well for Freehold Boro, which went 8-7, but six of those losses came from playing in that challenging pod. Outside of pod play, Freehold Boro was nearly flawless and ended its season by winning the Pod D championship in the Shore Conference Playoffs.

While the story of last year’s team is a compelling one to tell, it doesn’t have much impact on this year’s team because most of the impact players from 2021 are gone. Two players who remain and will start are senior Joe Caleo and sophomore Christian DiGiso – each of whom are guards who will pick up some of the scoring slack, particularly DiGiso. Mike Bisaha also comes back with some varsity experience and Timmy Springer adds some senior influence to the starting five.

Freehold Boro’s hopes this season and beyond could rest on the additions of sophomore Will Hon and promising freshman Brian Tassey. Both will start this season, with the lineup opening up while senior Tyler Ochojski – a football standout who is mulling over a collection of FCS offers – recovers from an injury that will likely keep him out for the season. The youth movement will lead to some growing pains, but the process should be a little less painful now that Freehold Boro does not have to deal with the Class A North field.

Head Coach: Ben DiBiase, 12th season
2021 Record: 8-7 (0-6 in Pod E)

Projected Lineup

RS - Returning Starter
R - Returning Varsity Player

Joe Caleo, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)

Christian DiGiso, So., 6-0, Guard (RS)

Timmy Springer, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Will Hon, So., 5-7, Guard

Brian Tassey, Fr., 6-1, Guard

Key Losses

Ryan Neely, 6-1, Guard

Mario Rivera, 5-10, Guard

Mike Sikaras, 6-0, Guard

Jiasion Carpenter, 6-6, Forward

Tyler Ochojski, Sr., 6-2, Forward (Injured, out for season)

Off the Bench

Mike Bisaha, Jr., 5-7, Guard (R)

Sam Cranwell, So., 6-0

Mike Byrnes, Sr., 6-1 (R)

Joe Boccieri, Sr., 5-10 (R)

David Sawiris, Sr., 6-1

St. John Vianney sophomore Dylan Seay. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
St. John Vianney sophomore Dylan Seay. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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Division Starting Five (With 2021 Stats)

Nate Williams, Sr, St. John Vianney (14.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.0 steals)

Matt Kenny, Sr., Middletown North (11.5 points, 2.5 assists, 38 3-pointers)

Patrick Murray, Sr., Red Bank (11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 20 3-pointers)

Dylan Seay, So., St. John Vianney (13.0 points, 9.1 rebounds)

Tommy Giannone, Sr., Middletown North (9.5 points, 4.3 assists)

In the Rotation

Oneil Campbell, Sr., Neptune

Will Surdez, Jr., Colts Neck (12.7 points)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Nick Valentino, Jr., Guard, Red Bank

Christian DiGiso, So., Guard, Freehold Boro

Jahmil Miranda, Jr., Guard, Neptune

Zac Searight, Sr., Forward, Middletown North