Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Middletown North
A five-win season is not anything for a proud Middletown North program to boast about, but it was not a complete throwaway season. The Lions had a young roster that saw just one regular contributor – wing Matt Spencer – graduate, which gives new head coach Kevin Spies an experienced, hungry group to work with in his first season at the helm. With a good mix of seniors and talented juniors, there is a chance for Spies to win with this group in his first two seasons.
Guard Matt Kenny and forward Tommy Giannone lead the junior class and were the team’s top two scorers in 2019-20. Kenny is joined in the back court by seniors Vinny Pennino and Brendan Kelly, who will try to pick up the slack left behind by senior Quentin Soler. After playing big minutes each of the past two seasons, Soler was ticketed to start again at point guard this year, but an injury during football season knocked him out for the 2021 basketball schedule. Kenny and Giannone are locks for the lineup and the two best producers on the team and Pennino and Kelly should complement them with some shooting and defense.
Alex Bogues is a physical forward who is looking to reprise his role as a rebounder and inside scorer. Off the bench, the Lions have three juniors who could elevate to starters roles at some point. Lucas Cerbo is a tough guard, Brian Haddow is another guard with some scoring potential and Zach Searight is a 6-5 forward who adds some size to go with Bogues. With plenty of depth and some versatility, Middletown North has the makings of a team that could make a big jump this year, especially in a pod (Holmdel, St. John Vianney, Colts Neck, Raritan and Matawan) that gives them a nice mix of opportunity and winnable games.
Head Coach: Kevin Spies, first season
2019-20 Record: 5-18 (3-11, seventh in Class B North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Did not reach postseason
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.
Vinny Pennino, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)
Brendan Kelly, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)
Matt Kenny, Jr., 6-0, Guard (RS)
Tommy Giannone, Jr., 6-6, Forward (RS)
Alex Bogues, Sr., 6-4, Forward (RS)
Matt Spencer, 6-2, Forward
Quentin Soler, Sr., 5-9, Guard (Injured, out for season)
Off the Bench
Lucas Cerbo, Jr., 5-10, Guard (R)
Zach Searight, Jr., 6-5, Forward (R)
Brian Haddow, Jr., 5-10, Guard (R)
Malik Solimon, Sr., 6-0, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Matt Kenny
A starter since his freshman season, Kenny is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 15.4 points per game – the fifth-highest scoring average in the Shore Conference among players back for the 2021 season. The 5-10 guard can score in a variety of ways, but his shooting ability is what sets him apart and what opponents will key in on. With Soler out of the season, Kenny could also have the ball in his hands more this season as a playmaker.
Big Shoes to Fill: Vinny Pennino
Middletown North was already planning on finding a replacement for Spencer in the starting lineup and Soler’s injury has now doubled the number of open starting spots. Pennino would likely have started even if Soler were healthy, so now the senior sharp-shooter will have a greater role to play, especially if Kenny is going to have the ball in his hands more as a facilitator.
Impact Newcomer: Brendan Kelly
Kelly has elevated to the brink of an opening-night starting job after playing sparingly as a junior. With Middletown North looking to run out established starters in Kenny, Giannone and Bogues, plus a knock-down shooter in Pennino, Kelley is going to be the wild card in that starting group as the third guard.
X-Factor: A new voice
Mike Iasparro led Middletown North back to prominence during his 13 seasons as head coach, which included a Central Jersey Group IV championship back in 2012 and a No. 1 ranking in the Shore Conference during the middle of the 2010-11 season while current New England Patriots linebacker Shilique Calhoun was still on the team. In that regard, Middletown North did not really need to seek an upgrade, but with any coaching change comes a new voice that can sometimes strike a chord. Spies brings energy to the gym and if he can hit the right notes with a young team that has some potential, it could make a big difference.
Jan. 27 vs. Matawan, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Matawan, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Holmdel, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Holmdel, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Rumson-Fair Haven, 1 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Raritan, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. Raritan, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 vs. St. John Vianney, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 at St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Colts Neck, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. Colts Neck, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 27 vs. Middletown South, 1 p.m.
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