It is hard to imagine a division race being tighter than the one that played out in Class B North a season ago, when four teams battling it out for the top spot and three teams entering the final day of divisional play with a chance to win it. In the end, Middletown South prevailed by winning at Colts Neck when a loss would have meant a three-way tie between the Eagles, Colts Neck and Rumson-Fair Haven.

Fast-forward a little more than 10 months and the Class B North field looks almost as even as it was a year ago. Red Bank Catholic fell off in the division race in finishing fourth and now brings back the most experienced roster in the division. Red Bank Regional, meanwhile, added what might be the most significant transfer in the Shore Conference – an addition that could help the Bucs close the gap. Colts Neck, Middletown South and Rumson, meanwhile, all bring back rosters capable of completing the climb to the top of the division.

The five crossover games each of the Class B North teams will play against the Class A North field – Christian Brothers Academy, Freehold Township, Howell, Marlboro and Manalapan – actually count in the division standings and could be the difference in what figures to be a tight race to the finish.

In predicted order of finish

1. Red Bank Catholic

The talent on last year’s Red Bank Catholic team was undeniable, which the Caseys showed by coming within inches of upsetting St. Rose on opening night of 2022. The finish to the season did not quite match the promise of that opening-night performance, even if the Caseys had an overall solid team. One drawback of RBC’s 2022-23 rotation was that it was void of seniors – a characteristic that might have held RBC back last year but one that could work in the Caseys’ favor in 2024 now that most of the players in this year’s mix are seniors.

Red Bank Catholic finished last season leaning on six players for key minutes and not only are all six back, but all six started at different points last season. The most unique among the returnees is 6-foot-5 mountain Tyler Burnham – an offensive lineman with a nose for the ball and touch around the basket that he rode to an average of better than 14 points and nine rebounds per night last year. Burnham was one of three Caseys players to average at least 12 points per game, with senior Colin Cavanaugh (14.3) and junior Ryan Prior (12.1) also cracking that mark. At 6-4, Prior provides shooting, rebounding and passing for the Caseys offense.

Pasquale Sabino, Luke Iasparro and Sean Saxton are not among the double-digit scorers for the Caseys, but all three bring plenty to the court. Sabino is a long, physical wing and a good passer, Iasparro is the energetic floor general and Saxton another dangerous shooter and slasher. Altogether, the Caseys lineup complements one another and the group is likely to put up big offensive numbers. Defense will be the key to putting RBC over the top in 2024: if the Caseys level up on that end of the floor as a senior-heavy team, they have a chance to earn an elusive trip to the Shore Conference Tournament final.

Red Bank Catholic sophomore Colin Cavanaugh (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
Red Bank Catholic senior Colin Cavanaugh (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)

Red Bank Catholic at a Glance

Head Coach: Tyler Schmelz, eighth season
2022-23 Record: 16-12 (6-4, tied third in Class B North)
Key Losses: None

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Tyler Burnham, Sr., 6-5, Center

Ryan Prior, Jr., 6-4, Guard/Forward

Pasquale Sabino, Sr., 6-4, Guard/Forward

Colin Cavanaugh, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Luke Iasparro, Sr., 5-10, Guard


Off the Bench

Sean Saxton, Jr., 6-1, Guard

Alec Montana, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Brian Vecchio, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Kevin Frawley, Sr., 6-5, Center


2. Rumson-Fair Haven

Rumson-Fair Haven came out of the 2022-23 season feeling great about its chances to field a team that could contend with Manasquan for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship in 2024, especially when Shore Sports Network Player of the Year Darius Adams announced that he was transferring from Manasquan to national power La Lumiere during the summer. Then, Rumson got its own transfer news: top scorer and rising junior sharpshooter Luke Schorr transferred to Union Catholic to play for the reigning Non-Public A champions.

The loss of Shorr is a blow to Rumson’s upside as an offensive team, but the Bulldogs are still a hard-nosed squad at their core and will adjust to the roster alteration. Shorr’s transfer clears more minutes for a starting backcourt of Nick Rigby, Davey Carr and Sean Trinder – all of whom can score and dig in on defense. Rigby is the lone returnee to average double-figure scoring last year – 11 points to go with 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists – while Carr projects to pick up a chunk of the 15 points per game left behind by Shorr.

The Bulldogs will attack teams with a lot more size this season with a front court tandem of 6-8 sophomore Luke Cruz and 6-6 senior Andrew Goodes. While he is one of the taller players to pass through coach Chris Champeau’s program, Cruz fits the Rumson mold in that he can rain three-pointers like a guard. Goodes, meanwhile, is a traditional post scorer who will cause smaller teams problems. Rumson will have a mix of long, scrappy guards and wings filing off the bench to balance out the rotation and once the roles become more clearly defined, the Bulldogs will be a very tough out come postseason time and possibly the last team standing in Class B North.

Red Bank Catholic junior Tyler Burnham (55) challenges a shot by Rumson-Fair Haven junior Nick Rigby. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)
Red Bank Catholic junior Tyler Burnham (55) challenges a shot by Rumson-Fair Haven junior Nick Rigby. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)

Rumson-Fair Haven at a Glance

Head Coach: Chris Champeau, 15th season
2022-23 Record: 18-8 (7-3, tied second in Class B North)
Key Losses: Luke Mikolychak (6-3, Forward), Mason Yablonski (6-0, Guard); Luke Schorr (Jr., 6-2, Guard) – transferred to Union Catholic

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Nick Rigby, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Davey Carr, Jr., 6-3, Guard

Sean Trinder, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Andrew Goodes, Sr., 6-6, Center

Luke Cruz, So., 6-8, Forward


Off the Bench

Theo Carlston, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Riley Gill, Sr., 6-3, Guard

Leo Passalaqua, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Charlie Butters, Jr., 6-2, Guard

Matt Carroll, Sr., 6-6, Forward

Evan Keane, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Aaron Del Tin, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Carson Memmot, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Drew Cavise, So., 6-3, Guard

Nic Economu, Jr., 6-1, Guard

Brady Flaherty, Jr., 6-2, Guard

Blake Marchakitus, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Sean Yablonski, Jr., 6-0, Guard


3. Middletown South

Not only did Middletown South graduate two All-Shore guards in Dylan Csik and Pat Brown from its 2022-23 Class B North championship team, but the Eagles also bid farewell to coach Jimmy Cranwell, who stepped down after deciding to move out of state. Joe Mazzarella takes over a team that has a good deal of scoring to replace after graduating Csik and Brown, but is ready-made to win.

Senior Owen Richter got off to a fast start as a junior but an injury halted his hot start. Richter is back healthy this season and will be surrounded by a group that stepped up and delivered in his absence. Junior Brady Hahn earned minutes as a sophomore by stretching the floor and providing length on defense. Seniors Carmine Decrescnenzo and Ryan Denery are active, defense-first guards who will have a chance to flash more of their respective offensive games this season.

The x-factor for Middletown South is 6-7 forward Will Nugent, who figures to be even more of a focal point for the Eagles now that there is an offensive void to fill. Nugent put up a solid stat line of 7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and just under a block per game and those figures are primed to spike. Middletown South will send in senior Will Welsh and sophomore guard Matt Trimble off the bench to round out a senior-led rotation. With a breakout season from Nugent, plus a healthy season from Richter, Middletown South will be a difficult team to dethrone in Class B North.

Middletown South at a Glance

Head Coach: Joe Mazzarella, first season
2022-23 Record: 18-7 (8-2, first in Class B North)
Key Losses: Dylan Csik (5-9, Guard), Pat Brown (6-3, Guard/Forward), Matt Sliva (5-9, Guard), Alex Lescavage (5-9, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Carmine Decrescenzo, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Brady Hahn, Jr., 6-3, Guard

Ryan Denery, Sr., 6-3, Guard

Owen Richter, Sr., 6-3, Guard/Forward

Will Nugent, Sr., 6-7, Forward


Off the Bench

Will Welsh, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Matt Trimble, So., 6-0, Guard


4. Colts Neck

The Colts Neck program has not been around all that long and from its inception in 1999-00, it was a consistent winner. So when the Cougars went four straight seasons with a losing record from 2018-19 to 2021-22, it was not the norm and it weighed on the seniors that experienced all that losing during their first three seasons. That is what made last year’s 18-9 campaign so special for All-Shore senior Will Surdez and classmates Tyler Spencer and Eric Lavin. That trio went out on a high note and leaves behind a team that will miss their leadership, but has an exciting roster that should continue to win.

Senior Mike Belcher enters his third year as a starter and while he has not been a heavy scorer for the Cougars (6.6 points per game as a junior), he is a lockdown defender who fills up the stat sheet (7.3 rebounds, 1.56 steals, 2.4 blocks) and can score when needed. He complements his frontcourt make, Volodymyr Trotska, who fled Ukraine to the United States in 2022, overcame the language barrier and endeared himself to his new schoolmates while dominating on the court.

Sophomore Dillon Younger leads a promising group of new starters after flashing his potential coming off the bench as a freshman. Junior Bryce Belcher can provide a lot of what his brother does, which gives Colts Neck a high defensive ceiling when the Belchers are on the floor together. Juniors Jack Fried and Lukas Sloane will factor into the rotation – Fried as a guard or a wing and Sloane as a forward – while Dominic Beninato provides energy and senior leadership off the bench. Colts Neck will miss those seniors who pushed them into the postseason, but have the leadership and talent to play with every team in Class B North and Class A North this coming season.

Colts Neck junior Vova Trotsko shoots over Brick Memorial senior Eric Sliazis. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Colts Neck senior Vova Trotsko shoots over Brick Memorial senior Eric Sliazis. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Colts Neck at a Glance

Head Coach: Steve Jannarone, second season
2022-23 Record: 18-9 (6-4, tied third in Class B North)
Key Losses: Will Surdez (6-3, Guard/Forward), Tyler Spencer (6-0, Guard), Eric Lavin (6-0, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Dillon Younger, So., 6-0, Guard

Bryce Belcher, Jr., 6-1, Guard

Jack Fried, Jr., 6-1, Guard/Forward

Mike Belcher, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Volodymyr Trotsko, Sr., 6-6, Forward


Off the Bench

Lukas Sloane, Jr., 6-2, Forward

Dominic Beninato, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Zach Lavin, Sr., 5-9 Guard

Andrew Hankash, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Kyle Moore, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Dan Buoncore, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Nolan Duddy, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Liam Collura, So., 6-0, Guard


5. Red Bank

The first season of the George Sourlis Era at Red Bank started out about as well as it could have. The Bucs roared out to a 4-1 start, including a win over Christian Brothers Academy in the Albert E. Martin Buc Holiday Classic semifinals, hosted by Red Bank. That turned out to be the high point of the season and Red Bank went on to go 1-9 in its final 10 games, including a losing streak of eight games. Three of those losses were decided by four points or fewer and Red Bank lost its opening-round NJSIAA Tournament game at Nottingham in a close game, but the Bucs are coming back in 2023-24 looking for more than just moral victories.

Replacing top scorers Nick Valentino and Collin Teter will be a major undertaking and the Bucs will have a chance to do just that thanks to a major transfer. Junior Zayier Dean is coming off an All-Shore season at Ocean Township and will bring his quickness and scoring ability to a Red Bank back court that already has a proven, talented, left-handed playmaker in Braydon Kirkpatrick. Dean and Kirkpatrick are both well-rounded guards and either can play off the ball while the other runs the point.

The Red Bank supporting cast will also be guard-heavy, with the exception of rangy, 6-3 forward Liam Stack, who started in the front court with Teter last season. Senior Jackson Ackerman is another quick guard who can shoot, while Ryan Fisher also brings a defensive mindset that suits Sourlis well. The Bucs hope to have a deeper bench as well, with sophomore Matt Crystian among the underclassmen to watch. The pieces still have to come together, but the addition of Dean and the experience of Sourlis give the Bucs an opportunity to author a championship-caliber season while playing top-notch competition.

Red Bank sophomore Braydon Kirkpatrick. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Red Bank senior Braydon Kirkpatrick. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Red Bank at a Glance

Head Coach: George Sourlis, second season
2022-23 Record: 8-15 (3-7, fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Nick Valentino (6-1, Guard), Collin Teter (6-4, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Zayier Dean, Jr., 5-10, Guard (Transfer from Ocean)

Braydon Kirkpatrick, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Jameson Ackerman, Sr., 5-8, Guard

Ryan Fisher, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Liam Stack, Sr., 6-3, Forward


Off the Bench

Noah DeSalvo, Sr., 6-1

James Stark, Sr., 6-0

Trey Moore, Jr., 6-3

Anthony Moore, Jr., 6-2

Gavin Gilmartin, Jr., 5-10

Nick Walker, Jr., 5-7

Matt Crystian, So., 5-11

Bennett Lopez, So., 6-2

Justin Valentino, Fr., 5-10

Chris Doody, Fr., 5-10

Jake Pouso, Jr., 6-2

Josiah Johnson, So., 6-1


6. Middletown North

Middletown North finished a distant third in Class B North and with an 0-10 record in the division and just four wins all season, it is hard to dismiss everything that went wrong for the Lions as simply bad luck. With that being said, a difficult schedule for a young, inexperienced team played a significant part in Middletown North’s struggles. Of the Lions’ 19 losses, only four of them came against teams with a losing record and two of them were two-point losses to Red Bank. The other two were against Class A North teams Howell and Manalapan, which combined to win 20 games. Middletown North also battled to close losses against Marlboro (57-54), Rumson-Fair Haven (47-45), Colts Neck (71-66) and Middletown South (58-53).

For the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons, Middletown North has a new head coach, with Chris Hoffman taking over after Eric Youncofski coached his alma mater for one season. Hoffman will have a team that gained valuable experience last year and graduated a playmaker in Mac Colantino and interior player in Connor Down. The returning group includes top scorer Jason Quardt, plus a pair of guards in Luke Sheehan and Jack Walsh who give the Lions some size in their five-guard lineup. Seniors Derek Butler and Joe Berenger round out the all-senior starting five and Isiah Ellis is a 6-5 presence looming on the bench if Hoffman wants to matchup with a bigger front court.

Juniors Colin Byrne and Jac Colantino will be important pieces in the rotation, with Joe Grasso and Damien Merker providing more frontcourt depth. Braden Marcoutte is among the top sophomores on the roster and while getting them some playing time may be in the cards, the seniors on Middletown North showed last year that they are not far off from breaking through against quality competition – which the Lions will see every night playing against Class B North and A North.

Middletown North at a Glance

Head Coach: Chris Hoffman, first season
2022-23 Record: 4-19 (0-10, sixth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Mac Colantino (5-10, Guard), Connor Down (6-1, Center)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jason Quardt, Sr., 5-8, Guard

Derek Butler, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Jack Walsh, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Joe Berenger, Sr., 5-8, Guard

Luke Sheehan, Sr., 6-3, Guard


Off the Bench

Isiah Ellis, Sr., 6-5, Center

Colin Byrne, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Jac Colantino, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Joe Grasso, Jr., 6-4, Center

Braden Marcotte, So., 5-9, Guard

Damien Merker, Jr., 6-4, Center

Owen Robson, So., 5-11, Guard

Matt Dickie, So., 5-9, Guard

Jack Dambaugh, So., 6-3, Guard

Jack Kelly, So., 5-10, Guard

Eddie Lopez, So., 6-6, Guard

Nate Tyburczy, Fr., 5-9, Guard


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

Zayier Dean, Red Bank (17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals)

Tyler Burnham, Red Bank Catholic (14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks)

Volodymyr Trotsko, Colts Neck (13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks)

Ryan Prior, Red Bank Catholic (12.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.96 blocks)

Colin Cavanaugh, Red Bank Catholic (14.3 points, 3.2 assists, 1.86 steals)


Class B North Breakout Players to Watch

Luke Cruz, Rumson-Fair Haven

Dillon Younger, Colts Neck

Brady Hahn, Middletown South

Andrew Goodes, Rumson-Fair Haven

Will Nugent, Middletown South

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