A year after a spirited division race between Ocean, Shore Regional, Donovan Catholic and Monmouth Regional that ended with Ocean on top as the division champion, the collection of teams formerly known as Class C South gets a name change to go with a major roster overhaul. The newly-named Class B Central underwent an offseason talent exodus driven by both graduation and transfers that resulted in every team graduating at least three starters and five of the six teams graduating at least their top two scorers from 2022-23.

The lone exception to the loss of a top scorer is Shore, which came up just short of a division title before making up for it with a run to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I final and a 21-win season. With that in mind, it is no coincidence that the Blue Devils enter the season as the favorite to repeat, but there are several teams in Class B Central that will have strength in numbers to counter when the Blue Devils have.

In predicted order of finish

1. Shore

Before Shore crossed the 20-win threshold and reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship game, the Blue Devils had to settle for second place in the Class C South championship race. They bounced back by rampaging into the sectional final and matched top-seeded Eagle Academy shot-for-shot before losing, 43-39 – ending Shore’s best boys basketball season since the Blue Devils won Centra Group I in 2015.

The Blue Devils take a significant hit with the graduation of five of the first six players in its 2022-23 rotation, but bring back their top all-around player from the sectional runner-up team. Alex George was an all-division performer as a junior and will lead an inexperienced group that will look to the four-year starter to shoulder much of the load. Shore welcomes in Moore Catholic transfer Dom DiFiore, who comes from the Staten Island school with some strength on the interior and with a skillset to be a second option on offense to complement George.

Seniors Joe Santi and Tyler Jackson, as well as junior Bryce Crowe, will add to the back court depth and 6-4 senior Gianni Fimefreddo provides coach Erik Mazur with some extra size to balance the lineup. Sophomore Finn Watson could also push into the rotation as a source of offense, as well as future promise. Shore boasted a guard-heavy team a year ago and will have the ability to play small again around George in 2023-24, while the addition of DiFiore adds some needed senior toughness for a team hoping to get back to a sectional final in March.

Shore junior Alex George. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Shore senior Alex George. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

Shore at a Glance

Head Coach: Erik Mazur, sixth season
2022-23 Record: 21-6 (7-3, tied second in Class C South)
Key Losses: Liam Gajewski (6-1, Guard), Brett Sweeney (6-1, Guard), Donovan Hughes (5-10, Guard), Richie Studer (6-3, Guard/Forward), Ben Levy (5-10, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Alex George, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Dom DiFiore, Sr., 6-2, Forward (Transfer from Moore Catholic, N.Y.)

Gianni Fimefreddo, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Bryce Crowe, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Joe Santi, Sr., 6-0, Guard


Off the Bench

Tyler Jackson, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Finn Watson, So., 6-1, Guard

Andrew Barnham, So., 6-2, Guard

Matt Decker, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Nick Bennett, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Brad Alcini, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Sonny Carasia, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Jasias Colon, So., 6-3, Forward

Riley Murphy, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Gus Nohilly-Hicks, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Rob Stock, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Maddox Paulin, Fr., 5-10, Guard


2. Donovan Catholic

On scoring alone, Donovan Catholic was reliant on its senior duo of Brian Farrell and Pete Farlekas, which combined for just under half of the Griffins’ points during the season. While that is a lot of offensive production from two players, it is not insurmountable and the returning cast of players consists of a number of players who showed considerable upside a season ago, when the Griffins made a bid for the division championship and posted another winning season.

The Griffins will lean on an experienced back court that includes three players who started last season. Ryan Jacobs stepped up as a sophomore and was the third-leading scorer on the team behind Farrell and Farlekas while also contributing on the boards and as a distributor. Seniors Jack Malek and Matt Gerrity also saw time as starters a year ago and classmate Chris Miranda will slide into the lineup to round out the four-guard lineup.

Farlekas was a force in the middle and in his place, Donovan Catholic will lean on 6-foot-5 Kai Pritchard after Pritchard got a taste of varsity action as a freshman. The Griffins have some size off the bench to back him up, with 6-5 junior James Gibbons, 6-2 forward Za’ier Day and 6-3 sophomore Frank DiMaggio all among the forwards that coach Mike Keaney can turn to for minutes. It all adds up to a balanced mix that has Donovan Catholic eyeing its first division championship in 14 years.

Donovan Catholic at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Kearney, 26th season
2022-23 Record: 12-11 (7-3, tied second in Class C South)
Key Losses: Brian Farrell (6-2, Guard/Forward), Pete Farlekas (6-4, Forward), Dylan Espineli (5-9, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jack Malek, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Ryan Jacobs, Jr., 6-2, Guard

Matt Gerrity, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Chris Miranda, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Kai Pritchard, So., 6-5, Forward


Off the Bench

Kevin Leny, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Za’ier Day, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Frank DiMaggio, So., 6-3, Forward

Derek Espineli, Jr., 5-7, Guard

James Gibbons, Jr., 6-5, Forward

Eli Ravenell, Jr., 6-0, Guard

John Sheehy, So., 6-2, Guard

Charlie Vidal, So., 6-3, Forward

Amare Walker, Fr., 5-11, Guard

Matt Worthy, Sr., 5-11, Guard


3. Monmouth

An early injury to dynamic wing Ta’haj Wiggins threw Monmouth’s season off-course and the Falcons never quite recovered. The silver lining of losing Wiggins is it gave other players a chance to assume more responsibility and this year’s Falcons squad is positioned to benefit from the trial-by-fire despite graduating seven seniors. Sophomore Jaylin Reeves played his way into a prominent role as a freshman, while senior Dan Kikta saw increased time while Wiggins was recovering. Both players will be key pieces in this year’s starting five, with Reeves likely to have the ball in his hands a good portion of the time.

Like Reeves, junior James Curley has been contributing at the varsity level since his freshman year and remains a top shooting option for the Falcons. Sophomore Ahmir Wiggins is the last of the five Wiggins brothers to pass through the program and will play on the wing, giving Monmouth a trio of perimeter players in Reeves, Curley and Wiggins that will play together for the next two seasons.

Andrew English rounds out the starting five and at 6-4, the senior center is the only player on the roster taller than 6-2. When English needs a breather or runs into foul trouble, it will drastically change Monmouth’s lineup, but the Falcons will be ready to go guard-heavy when necessary thanks to the prowess of Curley and Reeves. If Wiggins can make an impact similar to the impact his brothers made and his team gets luckier with its health, Monmouth is set up to challenge for a division title.

Monmouth at a Glance

Head Coach: Jeff Sfraga, seventh season
2022-23 Record: 11-14 (6-4, fourth in Class C South)
Key Losses: Ta’haj Wiggins (6-3, Forward), T.J. Thomassen (6-1, Guard/Forward), Jake Bauer (5-9, Guard), Caelin Szymanski (5-10, Guard); Kevin Pharo (Jr., 6-3, Forward) – transferred to Henry Hudson

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jaylin Reeves, So., 5-10, Guard

James Curley, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Ahmir Wiggins, So., 6-2, Guard/Forward

Daniel Kikta, Sr., Forward

Andrew English, Sr., 6-4, Center


Off the Bench

Dom O’Grady, Sr., 5-7, Guard

Nick Crossley, Sr., 5-7, Guard

Logan Conrad, Fr., 5-8, Guard

Collin Denton, 5-10, Jr., Forward

Pat Zito, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Xzavier Holley, So., 6-1, Forward

Michael Griffin, So., 5-10, Guard


4. Jackson Liberty

Jackson Liberty sported one of the Shore’s youngest rosters last year and that inexperienced showed in the Lions’ 2-20 record. The 20-loss season was somewhat out-of-character for the Lions, who had posted a record of .500 or better in three of the previous four seasons, including a 16-11 campaign in 2021-22. The struggles, however, were not entirely unprecedented: Jackson Liberty went 3-22 in 2019-20 after winning the Class B South championship a year earlier, then went 7-7 in 2021 in coach Don Connor’s first season as head coach.

Connor is optimistic that the Lions are due for a similar turnaround this season, but the degree of difficulty increase when junior guard and leading scorer Jayson King transferred to Central before the current school year. Even with the loss of King, Jackson Liberty has enough back from last year and enough room for improvement that the Lions can dream on a return to the postseason. Senior point guard Dylan Teopaco was a key cog in the 16-win 2021-22 season and was among the Shore Conference leaders in assists (5.3) and steals (3.4) per game. Classmate Lukas Latvys is also back in the starting back court and junior Corey Harnett is also back in the fold on the wing.

Seniors Charlie Callahan and Stivi Nole join the starting five, wit Nole also providing some length and size at 6-3. Senior Tommy Cito will bring energy off the bench and juniors Jesse and Kori Renouf also figure into the rotation in the front court. With an offseason to grow together following last season’s struggles, Jackson Liberty is a near-lock to show improvement in the win column. If the Lions can be adaptable enough without King, they could even stay in what should be a wide-open division race.

Jackson Liberty at a Glance

Head Coach: Don Connor, fourth season
2022-23 Record: 2-20 (1-9, tied fifth in Class C South)
Key Losses: Jayson King (Jr., 5-11, Guard) – transferred to Central

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Lukas Latvys, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Charlie Callahan, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Dylan Teopaco, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Stivi Nole, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Corey Harnett, Jr., 6-0, Forward


Off the Bench

Tommy Cito, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Jesse Renouf, Jr., 6-0, Forward

Kuri Renouf, Jr., 6-3, Forward

James Dressler, So., 6-1

Aiden Brown, So., 5-11

Mike Marchisotto, Fr., 6-0

Aidan Kelly, Fr., 5-11


5. Ocean

As much as Jackson Liberty suffered with the transfer of its leading scorer, it pales in comparison to the players Ocean lost that coach Ryan Pringle hoped to have back when last season ended. Zayier Dean and Ron Richardson were a talented duo as freshmen in 2021-22 and had big sophomore seasons for the Spartans last year, only to both transfer out of the program – Dean to Red Bank and Richardson to College Achieve Charter in Asbury Park. On top of that, another starter, junior James Sobieski, opted not to play basketball this winter. Throw in the graduation of 6-5 forward Brandon Loughlin and the defending division champions will have their hands full replacing all that talent and production.

Senior Keith Allen is the lone returning senior and he is coming off a breakout season in which he scored just under seven points per game while playing a supporting role alongside Dean and Richardson. Allen and sophomore wing Aidan Saint Louis are the likely perimeter scoring threats for Ocean, which will also turn to a pair of 6-4 seniors in Liam Yefet and Dev Simms to provide an edge in the paint and on the glass. Junior Noah Nguyen moves up the ranks to join Allen in the starting backcourt.

It will take a major effort for Ocean to overcome all the offseason losses it suffered and repeat as division champion, but the good news for the Spartans is they are not alone in losing impact players. There is no doubt Ocean has come back to the pack on paper, but if the Spartans can round into form quickly, the rest of the division may also have lost enough talent that the Spartans can work their way back to the top.

Ocean at a Glance

Head Coach: Ryan Pringle, fourth season
2022-23 Record: 16-10 (8-2, first in Class C South)
Key Losses: Brandon Loughlin (6-5, Forward); Zayier Dean (Jr., 5-10, Guard) – transferred to Red Bank; Ron Richardson (Jr., 6-4, Forward) transferred to College Achieve Asbury Park; James Sobieski (Jr., 5-9, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Keith Allen, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Noah Nguyen, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Aidan Saint Louis, So., 6-0, Guard/Forward

Liam Yefet, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Dev Simms, Sr., 6-4, Forward


Off the Bench

Lu Salvatore, Sr., 5-8, Guard

Niall Tantrum, Jr., 6-2

Vernon Taylor, So., 6-1

Mickey McGovern, So., 6-0

Jameson MacAllister, So., 5-9

Joey Critelli, Sr., 6-0

Ant Flesca, Sr., 6-0

Carmen Salvatore, Sr., 5-8

Ollie Aiello, Jr., 5-8


6. Lakewood

While last season was not a return to the golden age of Lakewood basketball, it was definitely progress. The Piners were decimated in the COVID-shortened 2021 season and while they are still feeling the ramifications of that season, last year’s three wins – including a win within the division – helped stabilize things enough that Lakewood can continue the necessary work to get back into contention. Coach L.J. Clark has experience building programs at Lakewood – both as the head football coach and as assistants in basketball and baseball – and part of the process is to keep morale up during the lean years.

Whether or not this year has better things in store for Lakewood remains to be seen and the season will not come without challenges. The Piners graduated four starters, including Derrick Marsh, who led Lakewood in scoring each of the past two seasons. Senior guard Zyhmier Anderson is the lone returning full-time starter, with junior backcourt-mate Rahmel Anderson also getting a chance to start a season ago.

Seniors Alex Colon and Anthony Tucker round out the starting back court that will operate around sophomore forward Cris Rosario. Two more seniors – Amir Enoch and Zach Kenrik – will come off the Lakewood bench, giving the Piners six seniors in their projected top seven. They will have to replace a fair amount of production and experience, but the older lineup gives Lakewood a chance to take another step forward this season.

Lakewood at a Glance

Head Coach: L.J. Clark, third season
2022-23 Record: 3-15 (1-9, tied fifth in Class C South)
Key Losses: Derrick Marsh (6-2, Guard), Jayvon Gonzalez (6-1, Guard), Solomon Brown (6-4, Forward), Keyon Tims (5-10, Forward), Jamir Rivera (6-4, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Zyhmier Anderson, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Rahmel Anderson, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Alex Colon, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Anthony Tucker, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Cris Rosario, So., 6-4, Forward


Off the Bench

Amir Enoch, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Zach Kenrik, Sr., 6-1, Guard


Class B Central Starting Five (With 2022-23 Stats)

Alex George, Shore (13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals)

Ryan Jacobs, Donovan Catholic (8.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 steals)

James Curley, Monmouth (8.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals)

Dylan Teopaco, Jackson Liberty (6.6 points, 5.2 assists, 3.4 steals)

Keith Allen, Ocean (6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists)


Class B Central Breakout Players to Watch

Dom DiFiore, Shore

Jaylin Reeves, Monmouth

Kai Pritchard, Donovan Catholic

Rahmel Anderson, Lakewood

Aidan Saint Louis, Ocean

More From Shore Sports Network