Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Lakewood
After perhaps its worst season ever in 2018-19, Lakewood boys basketball roared back in 2020. The Piners won 20 games, won the Class B South championship for the 11th time in 12 seasons and were the No. 10 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. Ryan Savoy was an SSN Second-Team All-Shore selection and the Piners appeared to be set up with a pair of impressive freshmen in Respect Tyleek and Samir Padilla. One year later, coach Randy Holmes and the two now-sophomores are gone and Lakewood finds itself in somewhat dire straits.
It is not to say the players on hand won’t help steady the ship. Alex Scretching will have his chance to start in his senior year for a prestigious program, as will Matt Vargas in his junior year. Sophomore Solomon Brown is another frontcourt player to go with Scretching, while freshmen Zahmir Anderson and Zachary Kencik will have a chance to make a contribution. Unfortunately for the Piners, the program is not deep this season and Scretching and Vargas will have to quickly rise to the occasion.
While Lakewood was enjoying another successful season last year, the signs were there that the Piners could run into trouble: they had 11 players on the varsity team and there were nights Holmes was down to eight. Holmes – a former Lakewood star as a player and decorated coach – interviewed for different coaching jobs multiple times toward the end of his Lakewood coaching tenure and even resigned briefly in 2016 before changing his mind. This year, new coach Jonathan Jones, his staff, and all of Lakewood is hoping this year is a productive learning experience and leads to more years like 2019-20. Either way, it will mark the beginning of a new era at Lakewood.
Head Coach: Jonathan Jones, first season
2019-20 Record: 20-8 (12-2, first in Class B South)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 (lost to Red Bank Catholic); reached NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals (lost to Burlington Twp.)
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.
Matthew Vargas, Jr., 5-11, Guard
Alex Scretching, Sr., 6-3, Forward
Solomon Brown, So., 6-2, Forward
Zahmir Anderson, Fr., 5-11, Guard
Zachary Kencik, Fr., 5-11, Guard
Ryan Savoy, 6-5, Guard/Forward
Samir Padilla, So., 6-0, Guard (Transferred to Jackson Memorial)
Respect Tyleek, So., 6-2, Guard (Transferred to Jackson Memorial)
T.J. Paturzo, 5-9, Guard
Sean Antoine, 6-1, Guard
Omari Barksdale, 5-9, Guard
Ty’mir Bergstrom, 6-4, Forward
De’Andre Harris, 5-10, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Matthew Vargas
With no starters or regular contributors back, Vargas and his teammates will be learning on the job with the hope of finding the right mix so that Lakewood can reclaim its status as the premier Class B South program as soon as possible.
Big Shoes to Fill: Jonathan Jones
Randy Holmes is one of the largest figures in Lakewood basketball history, having won a Shore Conference Tournament championship as a player and a coach, as well as leading the Piners to 10 straight division championships and two NJSIAA sectional championships – all after the program had slowed down some in the early 2000’s. Now Jones will take over following a 20-win season while trying to keep the program afloat after it lost its coach and all its experienced players.
Impact Newcomer: Everyone
Lakewood will boast an entirely new squad this year, so everyone is a newcomer and everyone is important for the Piners to remain competitive. Vargas and Scretching have been in the program and have earned the chance to lead the team, while there are also freshmen in the mix to set the course for the future.
X-Factor: Embracing the challenge
With so little experience back from 2020, this season is going to be a learning process – one that will take place during a pandemic. Winning won’t come as easy and teams will try to beat Lakewood after years of taking a beating from Lakewood. The new Piners players will try to embrace more of an underdog role and begin the process of reshaping the program.
Jan. 26 at Howell, 3:45 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs. Howell, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Brick Memorial, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs. Brick Memorial, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 vs. Central, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Central, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 vs. Jackson Memorial, 1 p.m.
Feb. 18 at Jackson Memorial, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 23 vs. Brick, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Brick, 6:30 p.m.