Boys Basketball – Breaking Down the Down-to-the-Wire Division Races in the Shore Conference
The final week of the regular season before the Shore Conference Tournament has arrived and it comes with multiple Shore Conference division races going down to the wire. The week will end with several teams trying to secure spots in and jostle for position within the Shore Conference Tournament, but Monday and Tuesday will determine the winners in six of the eight division championships in the Shore, with another likely being decided by Thursday. Here is a look at where each of the division races stand heading into Monday.
Class A North
Christian Brothers Academy has locked up no worse than a share of the division championship, while Freehold Township has already earned the public division championship. The Patriots are still alive for a share of the overall title, but will have to beat a Marlboro team that already beat Freehold Township once, plus get an upset performance from Howell against CBA. Despite Howell’s 0-7 division record, don’t write off the Rebels: they took CBA to the wire in the first meeting between the teams, but the Colts appear to be hitting their stride over the last two weeks and will be the home team on Tuesday.
Teams Still in Play: CBA (6-1), Freehold Township (5-2)
Freehold Twp. at Marlboro, 4 p.m.
Howell at CBA, 5:30 p.m.
Class A Central
The Class A Central race was over last week, when Raritan locked up its first division title in 11 years. The Rockets have yet to lose a game in 2022-23 and can complete a 10-game sweep of A Central and win the division by four games Tuesday with a win over St. John Vianney.
Class A South
There are three divisions with more than two teams still in play for a piece of the title and Class A South is the first of those two. By surviving a double-digit comeback by Toms River East on Friday, Toms River North clinched no worse than a share of the division championship. The Mariners can make it seven outright division titles in 10 years simply by beating Southern Monday night in Toms River and they will have plenty of motivation beyond the division championship. Southern wiped out a 16-point deficit to beat Toms River North the first time the two Class A South rivals played.
Southern is also still in play for the A South title and a Rams win would not only end a four-game losing streak but would also guarantee a three-way tie for the A South title between themselves, Toms River North and one other team.
That one other team will be the winner of the other big Class A South game on Monday night, which will pit Jackson Memorial against Brick Memorial in Jackson. The Jaguars won the first meeting between the teams in Brick and they will be seeking their first division championship since 2013-14. Brick Memorial, meanwhile, is out to clinch a share of the A South title after winning it outright a year ago.
Teams Still in Play: Toms River North (7-2), Southern (6-3), Jackson Memorial (6-3), Brick Memorial (6-3)
Brick Memorial at Jackson Memorial, 5:30 p.m.
Southern at Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.
Class B North
Like Class A South, the Class B North race will be decided in two different locations, although with three teams still alive for the division championship instead of four. Just as Toms River North is guaranteed no worse than a share of the A South title, Middletown South controls its own destiny and can also win its first outright division championship in three years.
The Eagles will also be playing one of the teams trying to steal a share of the division title away and will have to deny their opponents that honor on the road. Colts Neck hosts Middletown South on Tuesday night and will be looking to complete a turnaround season within divisional play by clinching its first division championship since 2015-16. The Cougars are on their way to their first winning season in five years and with a win over the Eagles – who won the first meeting in Middletown earlier in the month – Colts Neck would complete the climb.
Meanwhile, in Rumson, there will be another game that could factor into the division championship race if Colts Neck can end Middletown South’s 13-game winning streak. Rumson-Fair Haven squandered a chance to control its own destiny when it lost at Red Bank Catholic on Thursday night, but can still snag a share of the B North championship if Colts Neck provides some help on Tuesday. Rumson will host Middletown North – still looking for its first win inside the division – and will be mindful of the threat the Lions pose despite their record. In the first meeting in Middletown, the Bulldogs nearly coughed up a double-digit lead and hung on for a two-point win.
Teams Still in Play: Middletown South (7-2), Colts Neck (6-3), Rumson-Fair Haven (6-3)
Middletown South at Colts Neck, 5:30 p.m.
Middletown North at Rumson-Fair Haven, 6:30 p.m.
Class B Central
Last Tuesday, Keyport erased an early 16-point deficit and a 12-point halftime deficit to upend Point Pleasant Beach and deny the Garnet Gulls a chance to wrap up the Class B Central championship for the first time since 2014-15. Instead, but Keyport and Point Beach stand to share the division championship if both can beat B Central opponents that each already beat once this season.
Unlike the three division races discussed above, the B Central race will be decided on two different nights. On Monday, Keyport will look to clinch its share of the championship when the Red Raiders host Asbury Park. The first meeting between the teams was competitive, with Keyport pulling out a 56-47 win over the Blue Bishops, who will be relishing a chance to play spoiler while also trying to secure a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament.
On Tuesday, Point Beach will either be looking to wrap up the outright title or match Keyport for a share of the B Central crown when the Garnet Gulls travel to Highlands to play Henry Hudson. The Admirals are also trying to clinch a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament this week, but have yet to win a game within Class B Central play and lost to Point Beach, 65-54, in Point Pleasant earlier this month.
Teams Still in Play: Keyport (6-1), Point Beach (6-1)
Asbury Park at Keyport, 4 p.m.
Point Beach at Henry Hudson, 5:30 p.m.
Class B South
Central appeared poised to roll through the Class B South division, but Lacey managed to keep beating the rest of the teams on the division schedule and give itself a chance to pull even with the front-running Golden Eagles if the Lions could pull off a road upset of Central.
Lacey did just that on Friday night, knocking off Central, 47-44, to throw the B South race into a tie with one game left for each team. Lacey will be seeking a share of its first division title in 11 years on Monday, when the Lions host Brick. The Lions beat the Green Dragons, 48-35, back on Dec. 19 and a season sweep would lock up no worse than a division title share for Lacey.
While Lacey does battle with Brick, Central will take to the road in search of its piece of the division title in Barnegat. Before the loss to Lacey, Central’s closest call in division play was a 53-48, home win over Barnegat in which the Golden Eagles had trouble shaking loose of a young, improving Bengals team that will now try to knock Central out of the division race.
Teams Still in Play: Central (8-1), Lacey (8-1)
Brick at Lacey, 6:30 p.m.
Central at Barnegat, 6:30 p.m.
Class C North
From the start of the season, the C North race figured to come down to the two games between division co-favorites St. Rose and Manasquan and the two games between the division rivals did not disappoint. St. Rose won the first meeting in December and Manasquan won the grudge match on Jan. 19 to climb back into a first-place tie with the Purple Roses.
Each team has survived a close call against another team, with St. Rose beating Point Boro, 30-28, and Manasquan pulling out a 51-45 win over Neptune. St. Rose will have to get by Point Boro again in order to earn its share of the division championship, this time with the Panthers going to Belmar to try to earn a signature win ahead of the Shore Conference Tournament in addition to denying St. Rose its big win.
Manasquan will try to earn its piece of Class C North against rival Wall, which is coming off a big, double-overtime win over Ocean to give coach Bob Klatt his 300th career win. Manasquan has won a division championship in each of the last 10 seasons, while St. Rose is out to win its first division championship since 2010-11.
Teams Still in Play: Manasquan (8-1), St. Rose (8-1)
Manasquan at Wall, 5:30 p.m.
Point Boro at St. Rose, 6:30 p.m.
Class C South
The Class C South race is the only one that could still be in play past Tuesday, although there is a scenario in which there can be a division winner by Tuesday. Ocean enters the week in first place by a half-game over Donovan Catholic and will have a chance to clinch the outright title on Tuesday if Monmouth Regional beats Donovan Catholic on Monday.
While a Monmouth win over Donovan Catholic could set up an outright clinch for Ocean on Tuesday, it could also lay the groundwork for a potential four-way tie. For that to come true, Shore would have to beat Ocean on Tuesday, then lose to Donovan Catholic on Thursday. Shore would then have a chance to clinch its share of the title at Lakewood on Feb. 6.
As for outright championship scenarios, only Monmouth, with its three losses, is out of play and the clinch scenarios are simple: each of the other three teams would win the division by winning out. Shore is looking for its first championship since 2014-15, Donovan Catholic since 2009-10, Monmouth since 2008-09 and Ocean since 1972-73.
Teams Still in Play: Ocean (7-2), Donovan Catholic (6-2), Shore (5-2), Monmouth (6-3)
Donovan Catholic at Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
Ocean at Shore, 5:30 p.m.
Shore at Donovan Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Shore at Lakewood, 5:15 p.m.