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It is somewhat counterintuitive that Donovan Catholic could move out of a Class B South division with smaller-sized schools like Lakewood, Barnegat and Point Pleasant Boro and into a pod with larger schools (Southern, Lacey and all three Toms River public schools) and improve its chances to finish first place. That could very well be the reality, however, and it is both because the Griffins are starting to develop the necessary experience to get to the finish line in first place and also because they might be facing their new pod-mates at the right time.

Both of those hypotheses will be put to the test starting on Jan. 26, when Donovan Catholic will run out a team that has a mix of established and new players. Four of Donovan Catholic’s five projected opening-night starters have starting experience, led by junior guard and 2020 leading scorer Amari Ayala-Petty. Classmate Alex Melon also returns to the backcourt with starting experience as a sophomore and senior Trevor Pruitt – who transferred to Donovan Catholic before his junior year and had to sit 30 days – will be the wing after getting some starts as a junior and averaging 6.3 points.

Donovan Catholic has plenty of production to replace as well, especially with juniors Jaden Anthony and Dallas Weisse transferring. Senior Sean Farrell will help bolster the lineup after missing his junior year due to injury and starting as a sophomore. Dylan Oroscz provides good size to the guard-heavy lineup at 6-foot-6 and he will have to handle most of the frontcourt minutes without a lot of size behind him on the bench. Sophomore Peter Farlekas is a prospect to watch at the varsity level this season and juniors Connor and Brian Farrell will help out as well, but the bulk of Donovan’s production is likely to come from a well-rounded starting five that, if healthy, could carry the Griffins to a first-place finish in well-balanced pod.

Donovan Catholic junior Alex Melon. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Head Coach: Mike Kearney, 23rd season
2019-20 Record: 13-12 (9-5, tied third in Class B South)
2020 Postseason Performance: Lost in Shore Conference Tournament first round (Ranney); lost in NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A first round (St. John Vianney)

Disclaimer: Projected lineups listed in the 2021 Shore Sports Network Preview are not necessarily directly from coaches. Some are, while others are projections from Shore Sports Network staff. In either case, the projected lineup is fluid and could change leading up to the start of the season and beyond. Check back for periodic updates to every team's projected starting lineup on shoresportsnetwork.com.

Projected Lineup

Alex Melon, Jr., 6-0, Guard (RS)

Amari Ayala-Petty, Jr., 6-1, Guard (RS)

Trevor Pruitt, Sr., 6-2, Guard/Forward (R)

Dylan Oroscz, Jr., 6-6, Forward (R)

Sean Farrell, Sr., 6-1, Forward (R)

Key Losses

Neithan Ramos, 5-9, Guard

Matt Weeden, 6-3, Forward

Jaden Anthony, Jr., 6-2, Guard (transferred to Southern)

Dallas Weisse, Jr., 5-10, Guard (transferred to Jackson Liberty)

Christian McElroy, 5-11, Guard

Off the Bench

Will Duddy, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Mike Clarke, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Connor Farrell, Jr., 6-2, Forward

Brian Farrell, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Peter Farlekas, So., 6-3, Guard/Forward

Joe Ruggerio, Sr., 6-3, Forward

RS – Returning Starter

R – Returning Varsity Player

Donovan Catholic junior Amari Petty. Photo by Paula Lopez)

Player to Watch: Amari Ayala-Petty

Donovan Catholic did not have a player average double-figure scoring in 2019-20 but Ayala-Petty was its top scorer and most likely player to go off for a 20-point night. The Griffins may be a little more top-heavy this season, which would mean more minutes for Ayala-Petty and, in all likelihood, more scoring. Without a lot of proven scoring alongside him in the lineup, the junior will both to help lead the way and help get the rest of the team involved.

Big Shoes to Fill: Dylan Oroscz

The Griffins have four key figures to replace from last year’s roster: two shooting guards in Weisse and Anthony, a point guard in Ramos and a forward in Weeden. Ayala-Petty, Melon and Pruitt should be able to handle the guard play and the return of Sean Farrell will provide a boost, so that makes Orosz as the key to the lineup. At 6-6, he has the size to protect the rim and clear the boards – as Weeden did during his two years as a starter – and if Oroscz is especially good at that, any scoring is a bonus.

Impact Newcomer: Peter Farlekas

Farlekas checks a lot of boxes when it comes to a player coming off the bench. He has the size, as well as a skillset, suited to play multiple positions, he is a sophomore who should embrace a varsity role and he is a young player who could develop into a key figure on the team over the next two seasons. With some potential contributors transferring or opting not to play, Donovan Catholic be looking for reliable bench contributors and future starts and a sophomore like Farlekas could deliver both of those things.

X-Factor: Depth and Health

Injuries contributed to a slow start to 2019-20 season and as is so often the case for teams that start the season with injuries, Donovan Catholic was never able to shake totally free of the bug. It stalled the chemistry-building effort for a team with new pieces to work in and trying to keep up with Lakewood and the other B South contenders turned out to be a chore. With better health to start the season, Donovan Catholic is actually in a better position to be ready for opening night vs. Toms River South – provided, of course, the Griffins can remain healthy in what is still a hazardous environment.

Schedule

Jan. 26 at Toms River South, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 vs. Toms River South, 6 p.m.

Feb. 1 at Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 vs. Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 at Central, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 9 vs. Southern, 6:45 p.m.

Feb. 11 at Southern, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 15 vs. Lacey, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 17 at Lacey, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 19 at Manchester, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 23 vs. Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 25 at Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.