Boys Basketball – 2022-23 Shore Sports Network Year in Review
With the announcement of the winners of the 2023 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Final Vote, the boys basketball portion of the 2022-23 calendar at Shore Sports Network officially comes to a close. This past season delivered on many levels, and even beyond in many ways.
Here are some of the stories that made the 2022-23 boys basketball season at the Shore stand out.
The story of the season was Manasquan's excellence: the Warriors won their third Shore Conference championship in the last four years; their first ever NJSIAA Group II championship, which made them the first Shore Conference public school to win a state title since Point Pleasant Beach in 2013; and had the SSN Player of the Year for the third time in four years, with sophomore Darius Adams taking home the honor.
A few miles north along the Atlantic Coast, St. Rose began its boys basketball renaissance under second-year coach Brian Lynch. The Purple Roses boasted five transfers and two freshmen in the top seven of their rotation and went on to author a 24-5 season that included the program's first ever trip to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and its first NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B championship since 2004.
Both Manasquan and St. Rose will be returning the vast majority of the cast-members that made the rivalry between the two teams as intense as it was, which played out in the form of two regular-season, Shore Conference Class C North showdowns that the two rivals split. The Warriors are lined up to return Adams, Ryan Frauenheim, Griffin Linstra and Alex Konov, while St. Rose is set to bring back its entire top seven: Matt Hodge, Jayden Hodge, Gio Panzini, Bryan Ebeling, Peter Mauro, Evan Romano and Tyler Cameron.
The Manasquan-St. Rose rivalry did not culminate in a clash in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game thanks to one of the more memorable upsets in the last decade of the SCT. Ranney endured a slow start to its season while waiting for Patrick School transfer Jahlil Bethea to become eligible and once he joined the lineup, the Panthers flourished.
With Bethea, Isaac Hester and Drew Buck leading the charge, Ranney went 12-5 after Bethea's debut and cut down Ocean County standouts Jackson Memorial and Toms River North to reach the SCT semifinals as a No. 11 seed. It appeared Ranney's run was at its end with 1:56 left and the Panthers trailing St. Rose, 64-51, in the first semifinal game in Toms River, but then, lightning struck. Ranney closed the fourth quarter on a 14-1 run to send the game into overtime and shocked the Purple Roses with a 77-73 overtime win.
The other SCT semifinalist in 2023 was Raritan, which turned in the best season the program has seen since the Rockets won the 2011 Shore Conference Tournament championship. With an all-senior starting five that rarely came off the court in close games, Raritan posted a 21-3 season in which its only losses were two tournament games against No. 1 Manasquan and an early-afternoon showcase game vs. Cedar Creek in Barnegat just hours before the Shore Conference Tournament was seeded. Raritan had won the first 17 games of its season before the Cedar Creek loss and bounced back with impressive wins over Red Bank Catholic and Central Regional to reach the Shore final four for the first time in 12 years.
Freehold Township was home to a 20-win Patriots team, as well as two noteworthy individual stories. Senior Jayden Holmes-Cotter turned in a dominant season in which he led the Shore Conference in both per-game scoring (22.8 points) and rebounding (14.4). For the second straight year, Holmes-Cotter was the only player in the Shore Conference to averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The Patriots will not only bid farewell to Holmes-Cotter and fellow All-Shore senior Malachi Harris, but also longtime coach Brian Golub. After 28 seasons at the helm, Golub stepped down at the end of this season following a head-coaching career in which he led his alma mater to 418 wins, a Shore Conference Tournament title in 2007, a Central Jersey Group IV championship in 2019 and six more CJ IV championship-game appearances on top of the 2019 title.
Shore Regional joined Manasquan and St. Rose as the only other Shore Conference boys team to reach an NJSIAA sectional championship game. The Blue Devils rode a senior-heavy core along with standout junior Alex George to the Central Jersey Group I final, which went down to the wire before Newark's Eagle Academy pulled out a 43-39 win.
Shore fell one game shy of a division championship because Ocean finished off a history-making division title. Led by sophomores Zayier Dean and Ron Richardson, the Spartans won their first Shore Conference division championship since 1972.
Middletown South and Toms River North both returned to the top of their respective divisions, with the Eagles winning the Class B North title for their second division championship in four years, while Toms River North also climbed to the top of A South after two years out of the perch. The Mariners won six straight division championships from 2014-15 to 2019-20 and with a junior-heavy roster, they will be the A South favorites again in 2024.
Central wrapped up a breakthrough season that included 20 wins, its first division championship in more than a decade and its first trip to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals since 1994. With 17-point scorers and All-Shore guards Miles Chevalier and Jaycen Santucci due back in 2024, the immediate future remains bright in Bayville.
Finally, the 2022 Shore Conference Tournament champions got off to a slow start, but finished with a flurry. Marlboro graduated its entire 2021-22 starting five, which lead the Mustangs to a 28-3 record and the program's first ever titles in both the Shore Conference and Central Jersey Group IV Tournaments. Playing without senior leader A.J. Schwartz through the beginning of February, Marlboro fell just short of qualifying for the Shore Conference Tournament and watched Christian Brothers Academy capture the Class A North division championship.
Once Schwartz returned -- somewhat unexpectedly considering the nature of his leg injury suffered during football season in October -- Marlboro hit its stride, winning eight straight games to make it to the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals and climb to No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 to close out the year.
2022-23 Shore Sports Network End of Season Content
2023 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Teams: First | Second | Third
2023 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year: Darius Adams, Manasquan | Finalists
2023 Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year: Andrew Bilodeau, Manasquan | Finalists
2023 Shore Sports Network All-Freshman Honors
2023 Shores Sports Network All-Division Teams
Coaches' All-Shore and All-Division Awards
Shore Sports Network Final 2023 Top 10
2022-23 Shore Conference Stat Leaders
2022-23 Shore Conference Division Standings
Contributing Photographers to Shore Sports Network
Tom Smith - TSPImages.com
Ray Richardson - Ray Rich Photography