Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Freehold Township
Last year’s 11-16 season was a disappointment for a Freehold Township team coming off a 2019 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship, but it could turn out to be a positive if it follows a developing pattern. After reaching the Central Jersey Group IV title game in 2017, the Patriots went 11-13 with an inexperienced team in 2017-18 before coming back the next year loaded with seniors that led them to the program’s first ever sectional title. Those seniors then graduated and another 11-win, losing season followed.
There is no sectional championship to win this year, but Freehold Township could be the dark horse to finish atop a very difficult six-team pod (CBA, Marlboro, Middletown South, Manalapan and Freehold Boro) thanks to a senior-loaded roster that goes very, very deep. The Patriots return an entire starting lineup from last year, although they used a number of different lineups over the course of last season and are likely to do the same during the early part of 2021.
Seniors Zach Orrico, Jayce Schapiro and Joe Lardaro played in the Patriots’ regular rotation during the championship season of 2018-19 and will lead the senior core this year. Anthony Barthel got major minutes at the end of last year while Matt Cardone, Lorenzo Chirichella and Bryan Potter all look to build on their junior-year contributions. The two non-seniors who could take a big step forward are 6-foot-5 sophomore Jayden Holmes-Cotter and junior guard Bobby O’Brien, with Holmes-Cotter pushing his way into the starting lineup as a freshman last year and O’Brien again ready to provide a spark off the bench.
Last season ended with the Patriots losing nine of their last 10 games, but a senior-heavy team is likely change that narrative in a hurry. Competing with Marlboro and CBA for the top spot in the pod and positioning themselves for the championship pod to close the season will be ambitious goals, but they are the kind of goals coach Brian Golub and Freehold Township embrace when the program boasts this much talent and experience.
Head Coach: Brian Golub, 26th season
2019-20 Record: 11-16 (6-8, fifth in Class A North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Lost in Shore Conference Tournament first round (St. Rose); lost in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV first round (North Brunswick)
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.
Zach Orrico, Sr., 5-8, Guard (RS)
Jayce Schapiro, Sr., 5-10, Guard (RS)
Anthony Barthel, Sr., 6-2, Guard (RS)
Jayden Holmes-Cotter, So., 6-5, Forward/Center (RS)
Joe Lardaro, Sr., 6-5, Forward (RS)
Off the Bench
Bobby O’Brien, Jr., 6-2, Guard (R)
Matt Cardone, Sr., 5-8, Guard (R)
Bryan Potter, Sr., 6-3, Forward (R)
Lorenzo Chirichella, Sr., 6-1, Forward (R)
Shane O’Malley, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)
Jake Stern, Sr., 6-0, Guard
Josh Ibarreta, Jr., 5-9, Guard
Christian Mojares, Jr., 5-10, Guard
Malachi Harris, So., Guard
Tommy Lucas, Sr., Guard
Ryan Keegan, Jr., Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Players to Watch: Jayce Schapiro and Zach Orrico
Freehold Township’s sub-six-foot back court might not jump out on the layup line with their lack of size but they both players set the tone for the Patriots on both ends of the floor. Schapiro was Freehold Township’s leading scorer at 11.8 points per game last season while Orrico averaged eight points and five assists as a junior after starting as a sophomore on the title team. There is plenty of depth to spell the two senior guards and to mix up the lineup around them, but the Patriots will likely go as they go.
Big Shoes to Fill: The Senior Class
With only one senior graduating from last year’s team, there aren’t any major holes to fill from last year’s team. For this group of seniors, however, they will be trying to follow up a 2019 class that left a lasting legacy by delivering the program its first ever sectional title two years ago but authoring a similar ending to their careers. On top of that, while Golub is not committing to anything beyond this season, he has admitted to being on a year-to-year plan when it comes to retiring. A memorable season could provide either a fitting sendoff or motivation to return for Freehold Township’s accomplished 26-year head coach.
Impact Newcomer: Newcomers?
Jason Golub was the lone senior in last year’s rotation and the Patriots are bringing back 11 players from that mix plus a number of additional players who suited up on the varsity team. Sophomore Malachi Harris and juniors Ryan Keegan, Christian Mojares and Josh Ibaretta could find themselves in bigger roles this year, but for the most part, the Patriots are likely to run out a lineup and rotation that closely resembles the 2019-20 version. If the extra year of experience does not provide a sufficient boost to the wins and losses, however, Golub has enough options to mix things up.
X-Factor: Jayden Holmes-Cotter
The Patriots have plenty of athletes to swap in and out and play in different positions on the floor, but Holmes-Cotter is both a more defined player and potentially unique weapon. At a sturdy 6-5 with good scoring touch, Holmes-Cotter was a top scoring option by the end of last season and is also a candidate to post some double-doubles over the course of the season. If he can settle in defensively and keep producing on offense, he could prove to be one of the Shore’s better big men before he hits his junior season.
Jan. 27 vs. Manalapan, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Manalapan, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Middletown South, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Middletown South, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Barnegat, 11 a.m.
Feb. 8 at Marlboro, 4 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. Marlboro, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. Howell, 11:30 a.m.
Feb. 16 vs. CBA, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 at CBA, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Freehold Boro, 5 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. Freehold Boro, 5:30 p.m.