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After going a combined 33-18 during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Pinelands fell victim to an exodus of graduating talent and struggled its way to five wins a year ago. That would seem to be a bad sign for the Wildcats’ winning prospects in 2021, but there is recent precedent for a quick turnaround at Pinelands. Fifth-year coach Fred Johnson took over a program coming off its first ever Shore Conference Tournament appearance two years earlier and back-to-back double-digit-win seasons, then went 3-21 with an extremely young roster. One year later, the Wildcats were a contender for the Class B South title and finished third and second place in the standings in consecutive seasons.

Last year’s team was not quite as young as Johnson’s 3-21 team was, but it was similarly inexperienced at the varsity level. This year’s team will have some more seasoning, particularly in the back court with returning duo Josh Kline and Rian O’Rourke. Kline was a steady point guard last season while O’Rourke is an energetic junior guard with shooting ability who will play off of his senior teammate. Junior Darren Barreau is another solid guard who could slot in with Kline and O’Rourke in a three-man starting back court.

With 2020 big man Ryan Skeie graduating, 6-foot-4 sophomore Matt Cyphert will look to step as the focal point of the inside game for Pinelands. He and 6-3 classmate Brogan Duelly are two sophomores for Pinelands to build around on the inside and could possibly play together when Johnson needs more size on the floor. Football standout Andrew Jenkins is also likely to start and juniors Daniel McCarthy and Aidan Skeie are primed to pitch in off the bench for a Pinelands team hoping to get back closer to .500 and set themselves up for another turnaround.

Head Coach: Fred Johnson, fifth season
2019-20 Record: 6-18 (2-12, seventh in Class B South)
2020 Postseason Performance: Did not reach Shore Conference Tournament; lost in NJSIAA South Jersey Group III first round (Westampton Tech)

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

Josh Kline, Sr., 5-7, Guard (RS)

Rian O’Rourke, Jr., 5-8, Guard (RS)

Darren Barreau, Jr., 5-9, Guard (R)

Matt Cyphert, So., 6-4, Forward

Andrew Jenkins, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Key Losses

Ryan Skeie, 6-4, Forward

Anthony Falduto, 5-7, Guard

P.J. Losiewicz, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Bryce O’Rourke, 5-8, Guard

Andrew Barlett, 6-1, Forward

Ed Wilkinson, 6-5, Forward

Off the Bench

Brogan Dully, So., 6-3, Forward

Daniel McCarthy, Jr., 6-0, Forward

Aiden Skeie, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Tom Flanagan, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Andrew Falduto, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Chris Mitchell, Jr., 5-9, Forward

RS – Returning Starter

R – Returning Varsity Player

 

Player to Watch: Josh Kline

Kline was a bright spot in an otherwise-difficult 2019-20 season, which followed one of Pinelands’ best two-year runs as a program. In his first year as a starter, Kline checked in at just under 10 points per game and a shade over three assists per game and should help the Wildcats be a more functional offense in 2021.

Big Shoes to Fill: Andrew Jenkins

After missing last season due to injury, Jenkins is back in the fold after turning in a strong senior season on the gridiron for Pinelands. On the court, Jenkins will provide some toughness to complement the skill and upside of Cyphert and Duelly in the front court and the guard play of Kline, O’Rourke and Barreau.

Impact Newcomer: Matt Cyphert

Johnson is hoping that by Cyphert’s senior year, the Wildcats will be back in the running at the top of the Class B South division and that day could come sooner if the 6-4 sophomore hits the ground running. Between Cyphert and Duelly, Pinelands has some sophomore pieces with legitimate size around which to build and getting them confidence and experience will be an important part of 2021 for Pinelands on the court.

X-Factor: The small lineup

Pinelands’ best lineup could very well include Kline, O’Rourke and Barreau – all of whom are listed at 5-9 or under. That will put a lot of pressure on one of them to guard a bigger player, as well as Cyphert to protect the paint and rebound along with Jenkins and Duelly. Even with the potential pitfalls, if the three guards can provide a scoring boost, they will see plenty of time together.

Schedule

Jan. 26 vs. Barnegat, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 at Barnegat, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 1 at Manchester, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 vs. Manchester, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 vs. Lacey, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 9 vs. Point Boro, 7 p.m.

Feb. 11 at Point Boro, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 15 at Jackson Liberty, Noon

Feb. 17 vs. Jackson Liberty, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 19 at Southern, 6 p.m.

Feb. 26 vs. Raritan, 6:30 p.m.