Boys Basketball – 2023 Hoop Group Board Walk Showcase Preview
The Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase is the premier day of basketball at Jersey Shore during the high-school basketball regular season and Saturday marks a five-game event that could mark the turning point of the season for a number of teams. Four of the eight Shore Conference teams playing on Saturday at Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College are ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and two of them face off against unranked Shore teams looking to make a statement.
Among the ranked teams at the Showcase are St. Rose and Manasquan – the top two teams in the rankings and the heavy co-favorites to win the Shore Conference Tournament this season.
Two out-of-area teams are part of the festivities as well, with an accomplished Gill St. Bernard’s program taking on, arguably, the Shore’s most prestigious program.
The Boardwalk Showcase is set to tip-off shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be wrapping up around 9 p.m. – a full day of basketball that is sure to provide several highlights.
2023 Hoop Group Boardwalk Classic Lineup
At Collins Arena, Brookdale Community College
Ranney vs. Holmdel, 12:40 p.m.
The leadoff game Saturday afternoon will be between two teams trying to steer clear of the .500 mark and position themselves for a late-season surge as their respective rosters become complete. Ranney opened the season with four straight losses, but enter Saturday winners of four straight – including Thursday’s big, 54-42 road win over Rumson-Fair Haven. Holmdel, meanwhile, kicked off its season with a big division road win over St. John Vianney and finished third at the Husky Classic over winter break, but a loss to Matawan earlier this week has them reeling somewhat heading into the Boardwalk.
Ranney is led by senior point guard Isaac Hester – a two-time All-Shore guard who has all but carried the team on his back in the early going this season. Hester is averaging 26.5 points per game with at least 21 points in each of Ranney’s games, including the 1,000th point of his career. Junior Drew Buck has been Ranney’s second scorer at 15 points per game, giving the Panthers two capable scorers while they await Patrick School transfer Jahlil Bethea to become eligible next weekend.
Holmdel has its own duo that has led the scoring effort in juniors Ben Kipnis and Nick Seeloch – both of whom are averaging above 18 points per game. Holmdel opened the season with another returning junior starter, James Vallillo, sidelined with a foot injury and in his absence, sophomore Daxx Corneiro has stepped up as a third scorer at 9.4 points er game.
No. 9 CBA vs. Gill St. Bernard’s, 2:20 p.m.
Both CBA and Gill St. Bernard’s head into Saturday coming off big rivalry games at home, with Gill coming off a win and CBA coming off a loss. GSB shocked Rutgers Prep Thursday on a game-winning three-pointer by senior Nick Losado at the buzzer. On the same night, CBA let a six-point lead with under a minute to go slip away and fell, 71-70, to Freehold Township in double-overtime.
Losado and fellow senior Mario Castro-Sanchez are the top two seniors on a Gill St. Bernard’s team that is off to a 6-2 start, with Castro Sanchez leading the way at 21 points per game.
For the second straight year, CBA owns a balanced scoring distribution behind returning starters Will Bradley, Joe White, Peter Noble and Justin Fuerbacher. Bradley again leads the team in scoring, White leads the defense and Fuerbacher has taken a step forward as a sophomore. Freshman Connor Andree is coming off a breakout game in which he scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting for CBA, which will try to avoid dropping under .500 for the third time this season.
No. 2 Manasquan vs. Hightstown, 4 p.m.
The marquee game at the Boardwalk Showcase was scheduled to be Manasquan vs. Don Bosco and standout junior Dylan Harper, but Don Bosco withdrew from Saturday’s showcase in order to participate in Friday’s Iverson Classic against Camden at Kean University. With Rumson-Fair Haven also withdrawing from the event, Hightstown too was left without an opponent, so the Rams were paired up with Manasquan in the 4 p.m. time slot.
Manasquan has either blown out the competition (the Patrick School, Ranney, Toms River South, Brick Memorial, Toms River East and Point Pleasant Boro) or lost competitive games to state-ranked teams (Linden, St. Rose and Roselle Catholic) during its 6-3 start. Sophomore Darius Adams will be one of the headline players of the showcase and leads the Warriors in scoring. Juniors Ryan Frauenheim and Alex Konov are off to strong starts shooting the ball and sophomore Griffin Linstra has become Manasquan’s most versatile player on both ends.
Hightstown enters Saturday on a two-game skid after starting the season 6-1. The first of the two losses was to Robbinsville, the team Manasquan routed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship game last March. The Rams boast three players averaging double-figure scoring, led by seniors Robert Eaves (17.9) and Keena Reiss (17.4).
St. John Vianney vs. No. 1 St. Rose, 5:40 p.m.
The Shore’s No. 1 team takes the floor in the fourth game of the day, with the top-ranked Purple Roses taking on a St. John Vianney team that has endured an uneven start to the season and will be looking to make a statement on a big stage. St. Rose has won eight straight games to open the season and has yet to add three of its six transfers to the rotation, which the Purple Roses can do for the first time next weekend. St. Rose has not run every single opponent off the floor thus far, but has already taken the form of a dominant defensive squad that will make it hard for the Lancers – and any other opponent – to score.
Brothers Matt and Jayden Hodge have starred for St. Rose thus far, with Jayden leading the team in scoring and Matt leading the defensive effort while boasting a well-rounded game as the team’s point forward. Sophomore Bryan Ebeling is another European transfer off to a solid start in the States, while freshman Tyler Cameron is already making significant contributions for the young Purple Roses.
St. John Vianney will be trying to avoid falling below .500 on Saturday and will try to use its depth and balance to disrupt St. Rose. Sophomore Aiden Ur leads the team with 15 points per game while senior Connor Howard has backed him up with 13 per night. Emanuel Domingo – a 6-foot-5 transfer from Sayreville – is averaging 9.4 points, nine rebounds and 3.4 blocks and will attempt to protect the rim against the Roses’ high-fliers.
Red Bank Catholic vs. No. 8 Red Bank, 7:20 p.m.
The Boardwalk Showcase closes with a crosstown rivalry played on the outskirts of said town. Both teams enter with five wins and two common losses to St. Rose and Colts Neck. Red Bank Catholic has an edge on the Bucs with a 3-0 division record in the Class B North standings, in which Red Bank is off to a 1-2 start. Saturday’s game will be the first of three meetings between the two teams and will not count toward the division standings.
RBC graduated three starters from last season and lost two others to transfers, but has benefitted from last year’s deep rotation. Juniors Colin Cavanaugh and Tyler Burnham were starters for stretches last season and have been the team’s top scorers, with Cavanaugh averaging 17 per game and the 6-6 Burnham posting 12.8 per game. Sophomore Ryan Prior – a University of Virginia baseball commit – is the third scoring option and has starting to find his scoring touch after debuting as a 6-5 sharpshooter off the bench as a freshman.
Red Bank has one of the season’s eye-opening wins to date, with the Bucs rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat CBA in the Buc Classic semifinals. The Bucs dropped their next two games to St. Rose and Rumson-Fair Haven before getting back in the win column Thursday against Wall. Seniors Collin Teter and Nick Valentino lead a balanced offensive effort, with juniors Braydon Kirkpatrick and Jameson Ackerman taking a step forward in their first year as starters. The other key first-year figure at Red Bank is coach George Sourlis, who is already making his presence felt at his new home after three decades running the highly-successful Rumson-Fair Haven girls program.