Boys Basketball – Beach Survives Shore Scare, Wins 2nd CJ I Title
POINT PLEASANT BEACH – Over the last month, the Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball team has encountered increasingly challenging circumstances compared to a run of routs it rolled up during the first month-and-a-half of games.
Throughout the course of this season, however, the Garnet Gulls had never faced what they encountered Monday against Shore Regional in Monday’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I: a halftime deficit.
After the Blue Devils stormed to the halftime locker room with a four-point lead, top-seeded Point Beach came to life in the third quarter and outlasted No. 2 Shore, 67-61, to win their second straight Central Jersey Group I title, one year after winning the program’s first ever sectional championship.
“This is unbelievable,” senior point guard Matt Farrell said. “Since I got here, the goal has been to win state championships and sectional championships. Winning one last year was great, but I wanted to keep putting numbers up on our banner this year too, so to get another one is pretty special.”
Farrell and fellow senior Noah Yates each scored 20 points and the two backcourt mates led the second-half surge with 31 combined points after halftime. Yates scored 17 points in the second half, including an 8-for-8 performance from the foul line during an 11-point fourth quarter. Farrell, meanwhile, led a 25-14 third-quarter for Point Beach with 10 points after Shore held him to six in the first half.
Yates also added six rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, while Farrell handed out five assists.
“We’re a hard offense to keep down as long as we’re sharing the ball,” Farrell said. “We played selfish in the first half, and they were able to take advantage. In the second half, I looked to get into the paint more and we started to make the extra pass, we started helping out on the defensive end and things started to go our way.”
Point Beach shook off a slow start that included turnovers on four of its first five possessions and appeared to take control of the game with a 12-4 run that made the score 21-14 early in the second quarter. After a timeout, however, Shore made its big push with a 15-4 run to close the half, giving the Blue Devils a 29-25 halftime lead.
Junior Kevin Bloodgood led the Blue Devils effort with 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half.
“They are tough team to guard because they have five guys on the court who can score,” Yates said. “They make you guard every guy on the court and that creates some dilemmas for a defense.
“We’ve had to make adjustments at halftime a few times over the last couple of weeks, so this wasn’t anything new. It was a little different being down, but we knew we didn’t play well, and we expected to play better in the second half.”
Bloodgood also scored five points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to give Shore a 35-30 lead in the fourth before Point Beach responded with a 20-8 run over the final five minutes of the quarter. Senior Jeff Bryant got a hook shot to drop, followed by three-point plays by Yates and Farrell on consecutive trips to give Point Beach a 38-35 lead.
Farrell’s three-point play gave Point Beach the lead for good and began a run in which the senior point guard scored 10 straight Point Beach points to push the lead to 47-39. After a drive by Shore senior Matt Cosentino cut the Gulls' lead back to six, Yates knocked down a three to give Beach a 50-41 lead, its largest of the game, with under a minute to go in the quarter.
Shore scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to pull within three points, but would not get closer. Point Beach slowed the tempo of the game and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to close the game out.
While Bloodgood hurt the Garnet Gulls with three 3-pointers, no other Blue Devil hit a shot from beyond the arc. The three-point shot was instrumental in two of Shore’s three NJSIAA playoff wins, but the Blue Devils attempted only 12 three-pointers and shot 25 percent from behind the arc.
“Our focus was to take the three-point shot away and play help defense if they got to the basket,” Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. “They have five guys who can shoot the ball and when you defend that, it’s going to create some opportunities going to the basket. I would have liked to see us help more in the first half, and I think where we flipped the game a little bit was we started helping when their guys went to the basket.”
Shore stayed in the game by forcing a normally sure-handed Point Beach offense into 15 turnovers while shooting 23-for-39 (59 percent) on two-point shots. Seven of those misses were blocked shots by the Garnet Gulls – three by Yates and four by senior Dom Uhl.
“With all due respect to their other kids, we looked at them as a three-headed monster,” Shore coach Dave Emery said, referring to Farrell, Uhl and Yates. “We felt like we had five kids they had to account for, and we wanted to try to take advantage of the favorable matchup, wherever it was.
“Credit Point Beach. They had a couple kids really step up and make some plays and the difference turned out to be their size. Sometimes size does matter in a game, and it was definitely a factor today.”
Uhl played fewer minutes than his normal workload due to a lingering cold, according to Catania. The 6’7” University of Iowa recruit did not start the game and scored only five points, but he grabbed seven rebounds, handed out three assists and slowed down Bloodgood in the second half while also turning back the four shots in the paint.
“Dom wasn’t at full strength, but he gave us a huge lift in the second half,” Yates said. “He dominated the game with his rebounding and shot-blocking, and it took away a lot of what Shore was able to do in that first half.”
“Dom hasn’t really been doing much in practice beyond the walk-throughs, so we’ve been taking it day by day with him in the games,” Catania said. “To his credit, he gave it a go in the first half and he came to me at one point and said, ‘Coach, I’m just a step slow.’ But he wanted to keep playing and to his credit, he knows himself enough to know when he’s not all there, and he figured out how to compensate.”
With Uhl less than 100 percent, Bryant and junior guard Mike Frauenheim stepped up in the scoring department by combining for 20 points. Bryant had 12 points and five rebounds, while Frauenheim hit two threes and finished with eight points.
“It’s awesome being part of a group like this,” said Frauenheim, who is in his first year at Point Beach after transferring from Immaculata and has picked up his scoring with Uhl limited during the tournament. “From the time I started here, these guys have been great teammates and friends, and they’ve made it easy to fit in. With the talent we have, I just have to contribute, play hard and let the game flow. It’s really just going out there and playing to win.”
Point Beach will play South Jersey Group I champion Pitman Wednesday in the Group I semifinal at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. The Panthers boast three standout players of their own – 6’8” Villanova recruit Tim Delaney, Lafayette-bound guard Eric Stafford, and St. Anthony transfer Darnell Foreman, who scored 26 points in Monday’s win over Schalick.
The Garnet Gulls will look to clear the South Jersey hurdle and get back to the Group championship game at Rutgers University, where Point Beach claimed its first ever Group I title last year.
“I know the expectations on the outside are for us to be the favorite and for teams to be gunning for us, but honestly, we really don’t look at it like that,” Catania said. “We constantly remind our guys to prepare for each game and make the most of today. We expected a very tough game from Shore today, just like we expect to play a really good team on Wednesday and before we can get to the ultimate goal, we have to be all in on winning this game.”
Point Beach 67, Shore 61
|Point Beach (29-1)|
Shore (61): Dan Pillari 2 3-4 7, Matt Cosentino 3 2-3 8, Dan Largey 4 0-0 8, Jack Byrne 6 0-0 12, Kevin Bloodgood 11 1-2 24, Clayton Coffey 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 6-9 61
Three-pointers: Bloodgood 3
Point Beach (67): Matt Farrell 7 5-6 20, Mike Frauenheim 2 2-2 8, Jeff Bryant 6 0-0 12, Chris Schifano 1 0-0 2, Noah Yates 4 9-9 20, Dom Uhl 2 1-1 5, Matt Van Nostrand 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 17-18 67
Three-pointers: Farrell, Frauenheim 2, Yates 3