The Class A Coastal division is an established division with a new name. What was formerly known as Class A Central has undergone a name change, but it will still be home to a collection of teams capable of making statements this season. 

As the new season tips off, Holmdel returns what looks to be the deepest starting lineup inside the division. Matawan returns a strong starting cast after reestablishing itself as a threat across the conference. Freehold Boro had growing pains a season ago but brings back a formidable starting lineup that can make noise.

While Long Branch and St. John Vianney are each projected to have one returning starter on the hardwood to open up the season, both programs have a long-standing history of success. The biggest question mark in the division is Raritan: the Rockets are coming off a 21-win season and an undefeated finish inside the division, but appear to being heading into a rebuilding year with five new starters. Familiar faces will shape the newly-named A Coastal while newcomers step into the spotlight.

In predicted order of finish

1. Holmdel

The Hornets have enjoyed a strong amount of success under coach Sean Devaney and look to continue the trend into 2024. Losing talented guard Evan Romano to St. Rose and current senior James Vallillo to a foot injury set Holmdel back at the start of 2022-23, the Hornets proved found themselves in competitive matchups throughout the season. Holmdel came within four points of moving on to the Central Jersey Group II semifinals, taking Bound Brook down to the wire before its season ended with an overtime loss.

Holmdel returns a tandem of prolific guards in Ben Kipnis and Nick Seeloch, both of whom averaged over 17 points per game last season. With both returning to the starting lineup, the Hornets will ultimately run their offense through the two high-scoring guards. Sophomore Jack Vallillo will be the accompanying guard after finding his range during his first season on the floor.

James Vallillo is healthy to open the season and is in his fourth season as a varsity player. Junior Daxx Corneiro returns to the starting lineup after picking up the slack in Vallillo's absence. Factor in a capable bench and Holmdel is positioned to return to the top of the standings while battling a host of challengers. The opening schedule will provide the Shore feedback on how far the Hornets can potentially go, but the pieces are there for strong 2024.

Holmdel junior Ben Kipnis gets a step on SJV senior Kyle Verriest. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Holmdel senior Ben Kipnis gets a step on St. John Vianney's Kyle Verriest. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Holmdel at a Glance

Head Coach: Sean Deveney, 18th season
2022-23 Record: 10-13 (6-4, tied second in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Matt Baker (6-2, Center), Drew Pollock (5-11, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Nick Seeloch, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Jack Vallillo, So., 5-11, Guard

Ben Kipnis, Sr., 6-2, Forward

James Vallillo, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Daxx Corneiro, Jr., 6-0, Forward


Off the Bench

Ire Adesina, Jr., 6-0, Forward

Connor Brown, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Luke Schneider, Sr., 6-3, Center

C.J. Karis, Jr., 5-9, Guard

Joe Curreri, Jr., 6-0, Guard


2. Matawan

After starting last season 0-4, the Huskies found themselves needing to find their identity and sure enough, they did. Matawan clawed back to a .500 record and picked up wins in both the SCT and state tournaments on the way to a 14-14 finish. The Huskies were competitive all season long inside the division while re-establishing themselves as a threat behind a sophomore-led nucleus.

Junior forward Chauncey Brown returns to the spotlight for the Huskies after averaging 17.5 points a season ago and finishing in the top 10 in the Shore Conference with 57 made 3-pointers. He’ll be joined this season by his brother, freshman Christian Brown, who looks to provide an immediate spark off the bench. The Huskies will return their 6-foot-7 big man onto the floor in Jayden Elijah, who just capped off another strong All-Shore season on the football field as a high-profile recruit on the offensive line. Junior Amir Martinez returns as the Huskies starting point guard, who provided valuable minutes all throughout 2022-23. Sophomore Trevor Cole will join the starting five with senior Chris Galasso, who both played varsity minutes a year ago.

While the Huskies will look to develop Christian Brown off the bench, senior guard Cameron Cooper will return to the scene after emerging as an asset on both sides of the court. The Huskies will also depend on BrianCharles Gagneron to provide important minutes throughout stretches of games. With the depth returning to Matawan, the division seems within reach if the Huskies can stay within themselves and find the chemistry that sparked them on their late-season surge.

Matawan at a Glance

Head Coach: Matt O’Brien, second season
2022-23 Record: 14-14 (4-6, fourth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Colin Haluska (6-4, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Amir Martinez, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Chris Galasso, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Chauncey Brown, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Trevor Cole, So., 6-4, Forward

Jayden Elijah, Jr., 6-7, Center


Off the Bench

Cameron Cooper, Sr., 6-0, Guard/Forward

Colin Chechel, Sr., 6-2, Forward

BrianCharles Gagneron, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Christian Brown, Fr., 6-0, Guard

Ben Morales, So., Guard


3. Freehold Boro

The record of the Colonials doesn’t indicate how much progress the program made throughout the last season, with four of their losses coming by two possessions or fewer. A strong array of juniors and seniors who have become program staples for the Colonials return to the scene, looking to take the program to new heights. As the division starts to take shape, the Colonials know that the talent is there to reach uncharted territory this upcoming season.

Junior Brian Tassey comes back as the leading scorer for the Colonials (14 points per game) and established himself as one of the top shot-blockers across the conference (2 per game). Senior guard Christian DiGiso work hand-in-hand once again with Tassey after averaging 13.5 points a season ago. DiGiso also came a long way as a defensive machine, averaging 2.2 steals. Senior Sam Cranwell comes back for the Colonials looking to provide an assortment of tools, including a strong three-point game.

Senior guard Will Hon will look to break out for the Colonials after showing promise throughout last season's campaign. Junior Aidan Hamlin-Woolfolk is projected to round out the starting five, looking to use his 6-foot-5 frame to his advantage. The Colonials experienced the heartbreak of close losses throughout last season, but with a polished returning roster and newcomers that look to feed off of the veterans, expect the Colonials to take a jump inside the conference.

Freehold Boro at a Glance

Head Coach: Ben DiBiase, 14th season
2022-23 Record: 8-16 (1-9, sixth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Mike Bisaha (5-10, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Christian DiGiso, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Will Hon, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Brian Tassey, Jr., 6-4, Guard/Forward

Sam Cranwell, Sr., 6-1, Guard/Forward

Aidan Hamlin-Woolfolk, Jr., 6-5, Forward


Off the Bench

Qua’Mir Everett, Jr., 6-4, Forward

Damier Lester, So., 6-0, Guard

Mike Cush, So., 5-11, Guard

Haidyn Reed, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Jason Matthews, 6-1, Forward

Cade Cascone, 5-9, Guard


4. St. John Vianney

It’s always tough to get a true grasp on the outlook of a parochial program going into the season unless the program has an experienced roster returning. The Lancers find themselves in an interesting position, hitting the ground with multiple key graduates and a transfer to replace. That being said, there are pieces to the puzzle that can ultimately equate to a successful season. Coach Ryan Finch comes back for his eighth season, looking to continue to build the foundation that has made the Lancers successful over his first seven years.

The Lancers return their premier shot-blocker in senior forward Emanuel Domingo (2.76 blocks per game as a junior). Domingo was one of his team's top scoring threats a season ago while being the most dependable player on the glass for SJV. Freshman Dan Lavan looks to replace graduate Connor Howard as an impact scorer and junior Alex Jurado will find himself with a larger role, coming into the spotlight as one of the starting five to open up the year.

The Lancers will eventually have an impact senior transfer in Dylan Costa in the lineup following a 22-period of ineligibility as a senior transfer. Costa was one of the top threats for Johnson a season ago, averaging 10.2 points per game. He’ll be joined by senior Mark Augello, who himself has transferred from Freehold Township to St. John Vianney. While the court will have new faces for the Lancers, their shot-blocker returns with a potential star transfer just over the horizon. There’s a strong amount of promise circulating within this Lancer group, and a strong start could set the tone for a promising 2024.

St. John Vianney at a Glance

Head Coach: Ryan Finch, eighth season
2022-23 Record: 11-14 (6-4, tied second in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Connor Howard (6-3, Guard), Kyle Verriest (6-1, Guard), Jordan Winnik (6-2, Guard), Joe DeBlasio (6-1, Guard); Aiden Ur (Jr., 6-3, Guard) – transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Dylan Costa, Sr., 6-3, Guard (Transfer from A.L. Johnson)

Alex Jurado, Jr., 6-1, Guard

Mark Augello, Sr., 6-2, Guard (Transfer from Freehold Twp.)

Dan Lavan, Fr., 6-0, Guard

Emanuel Domingo, Sr., 6-7, Forward


Off the Bench

Justin Togans, Fr., 6-2, Forward

Deon Jackson, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Anthony Vaccaro, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Jimmy Elliott, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Mateo Bare, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Jesse Plunkett, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Nick Babino, Sr., 5-11, Guard


5. Long Branch

After a five-win season in 2022-23, Long Branch is looking to take that jump back to where the program was in the middle of the last decade. While the record translated to only those five wins, the Green Wave saw themselves in a number of games that came down to the final possession. The season also ended with promise, with Long Branch winning back-to-back games to close out things out and head toward 2024 with a foundation to build upon.

The Green Wave will have to replace its top scoring threat in graduate Bruce Gooding (16.2 points per game) and look to start with sophomore JaMaii Covin taking over that role. He’ll have junior Havier Gonzalez and senior Richard Rivera to lean on, looking to take every ounce of knowledge and run with it for Long Branch. Both Gonzalez and Rivera found themselves on the court from time to time throughout last season, bringing back experience that the Green Wave will need in order to have a successful campaign.

Senior Jahki Willis will find himself in the starting lineup, giving Long Branch another familiar face on the court. He’ll have returning starter senior Peter Da Cruz to work with, looking to ultimately create a strong tandem down low. Long Branch has a proud winning tradition and with the roster that coach Darnell Tyler has cultivated, the expectations should return for the Green Wave.

Long Branch at a Glance

Head Coach: Darnell Tyler, fourth season
2022-23 Record: 5-19 (3-7, fifth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Bruce Gooding (6-2, Guard), Anubis Roman (6-2, Forward), Amari Menter (6-2, Forward), Roberto Perez (5-7, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Havier Gonzalez, Jr., 5-7, Guard

Richard Rivera, Sr., 5-10, Guard

JaMaii Covin, So., 6-0, Guard

Peter Da Cruz, Sr., 6-6, Forward

Jahki Willis, Sr., 6-2, Forward


Off the Bench

Jermandy Rosado, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Joseph Corley, Jr., 6-1, Forward

Joshua Da Cruz, So., 6-1, Forward

Quinton Fisher, So., 5-10, Guard


6. Raritan

Raritan soared to new heights last season, winning 21 games in Denis Caruano's final season after 18 years as head coach. Raritan won last year's A Central title by going an undefeated 10-0 inside the division and made it to both the SCT and Central Group II semifinals, losing both to SCT and Group II champion Manasquan. While the season was one for the ages for the Rockets, the new season will come with a fresh starting five as the Rockets are hampered with key graduations from last year's lineup. It will be a season of finding their footing and figuring out who they are as a team, but never count out the Rockets to soar high.

Junior Sean Burnett comes into the new season as one of the Rockets starting guards, replacing graduate Michael Diller (9.4 points, 4.8 assists, 2.9 steals last season). Cam Gabloff comes onto the court as a sophomore, filling the shoes of graduate Billy Tigar (10.1 points). Senior Alex Garguilo returns after playing valuable minutes during the Rockets incredible run. As he comes onto the as a starter, he’ll be able to take over the role that Matt Agar had a season ago.

Sophomore Ian Mullan comes into the season as the starting center for the Rockets, giving first-year coach Marc Rosner a chance to form a new blueprint for the offense. Mullan will need to take over the role that Jack Coleman possessed in order to get the Rockets to where they were. Junior Alan Warren will round out the starting five with senior Ryan Pietrowski coming off the bench to establish himself as a threat. While the Rockets bring in a brand new starting five, Raritan does not look to be in a full-on “rebuild” mode. The Rockets look to be competitive and in the thick of it for the long haul, but their success will be dependent on how quickly and how well the newcomers can fill the starting lineup voids. The Rockets exceeded expectations last season, so what’s to say this season isn’t the same?

Raritan at a Glance

Head Coach: Marc Rosner, first season
2022-23 Record: 21-3 (10-0, first in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Jack O’Leary (6-2, Forward), Mike Diller (5-10, Guard), Billy Tigar (6-0, Guard), Matt Agar (6-1, Forward), Jack Coleman (6-4, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Alex Garguilo, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Cam Gabloff, So., 6-0, Guard/Forward

Sean Burnett, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Alan Warren, Jr., 6-2, Forward

Ian Mullan, So., 6-2, Forward/Center


Off the Bench

Ryan Pietrowski, Sr., 6-4, Forward/Center

James Dillon, So., 5-9, Guard

Xavier Nunez, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Cole Tisher, Jr., 6-0, Center

Anthony Fazioli, So., 5-10, Guard


Class A Coastal Starting Five (With 2022-23 Stats)

Nick Seeloch, Holmdel (17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.26 steals)

Chauncy Brown, Matawan (17.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals)

Jayden Elijah, Matawan (13.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 2.2 blocks)

Ben Kipnis, Holmdel (17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.56 steals, 1.1 blocks)

Christian DiGiso, Freehold Boro (13.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.2 steals)


Breakout Players to Watch

Jack Vallillo, Holmdel

Trevor Cole, Matawan

Dylan Costa, St. John Vianney

Alex Garguilo, Raritan

Peter Da Cruz, Long Branch

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