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TOMS RIVER – Monsignor Donovan’s boys basketball players have not been shy about their intention to bring winning back to the program after a couple off years. Thursday’s game against Manchester – the No. 7 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – was a reminder that with the return of the Griffins as a top program also comes the return of their home court advantage.

Monsignor Donovan guard Eamonn Kearney in action earlier this season. Kearney scored 12 points - all in the second half - to help the Griffins beat Manchester on Thursday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Monsignor Donovan rallied to beat Manchester, 73-63, in front of an energetic home crowd at Gepp Gymnasium, ending the Hawks’ five-game winning streak. With the win, Monsignor Donovan becomes the lone 3-0 team in Class B South, a half-game ahead of defending division champion Lakewood (4-1, 2-0).

“The crowd was a huge factor for us, especially in the second half,” senior James Fata said. “We weren’t putting in the energy we needed in the first half to give them much to cheer about, but we came out and played hard in the second half, and they responded. Once it gets loud, we just fed off it and it carried through the end of the game.”

Manchester built its first-half lead to 28-13 midway through the second quarter before Monsignor Donovan came to life over the next seven minutes, exploding for a 32-13 run that put the Griffins ahead 45-39 in the early stages of the third quarter.

“We didn’t play well in the first half and for us to have a chance to get back in the game, we had to start doing the things that have worked for us so far,” Monsignor Donovan coach Mike Kearney said. “The first thing we had to do was start guarding them, and I think once we did that, we started to get some easy shots and the crowd started to get involved.”

With the scored tied at 39, seniors Sean Suskevich and Tom Cerami both converted drives to the basket as they were fouled and senior Alex Morte finished at the rim to push the lead to 45-39. Monsignor Donovan took a 54-51 lead on a 3-pointer by senior Kyle Carrington in the final minute of the third quarter and would not give it up the rest of the way.

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Monsignor Donovan stretched its lead back to six later in the fourth and Manchester answered with one last push to draw within a score. Sophomore Shavar Reynolds, who scored a game-high 19 points, drove for a lay-up as he was fouled and converted the foul shot to chop the Griffins' lead to 66-63. Monsignor Donovan sealed the game on a lay-up by Carrington off a backdoor cut and feed from Fata to make it 68-63.

Fata scored on a lay-up and Suskevich hit three free throws to cap the scoring.

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Nine different players scored for Monsignor Donovan and 11 played in the game. The Griffins wore down the Hawks with their depth and full-court pressure while also cleaning up their own game. After turning the ball over seven times in the first half, they turned it over only three times in the second half while shooting a scorching 19-for-25 from the field (76 percent) after the break.

“With the depth we have, the plan is always to try to wear teams down,” Kearney said. “We play 10 guys and for the most part, all of them can make plays on offense, which makes it tough on the other team. It’s not just the pressure either; it’s cutting hard, screening hard, boxing out hard. If you have 10 guys going hard every play it’s hard for a team that only uses five or six guys to maintain their energy against that.”

Fata led Monsignor Donovan with 17 points and hit three 3-pointers. He kept the Griffins in the game with 10 points in the first half and scored eight points in the last four minutes of the second quarter to help Monsignor Donovan close the gap to 35-27 at halftime.

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“We didn’t shoot the ball well early, but if we were going to get back in the game, we needed start defending and stop turning the ball over,” Fata said. “Our defense really sparked us and once we stopped committing the silly turnovers, we got better shots and we made them defend us. With so many guys who can score, we’re tough to guard possession after possession.”

Senior Eamonn Kearney (12 points), Carrington (11 points) and Cerami (10 points) all scored in double-figures and Suskevich also had nine points for the balanced Griffins offense. Carrington came off the bench for his scoring and overcame a 1-for-7 shooting first half to make three big shots in the second half.

Kearney also upped his game in the second half, scoring all 12 of his points after halftime, including eight points in the fourth quarter.

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“We have a team of guys that all believe in one another,” Kearney said. “When you have that, you have a chance to do some really good things. I know it sounds kind of sappy, but it’s the case with this team. With the way we’ve progressed, we’re continuing to get better and I think we’re going to keep getting better.”


Box Score

Monsignor Donovan 73, Manchester 63






Manchester (5-2, 1-2)






Monsignor Donovan (5-2, 3-0)







Manchester (63): Darius Barlow 4 3-3 12, Shavar Reynolds 6 6-7 19, Israel Almestica 1 0-3 2, Jordan Torney 4 5-6 13, KaShaun Barnes 5 0-0 13, Robert Planter 1 0-0 2, Devin Tomei 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 14-19 63

Three-pointers: Barlow, Reynolds, Barnes 3

Fouled Out: Almestica

Monsignor Donovan (73): Alex Morte 3 0-0 6, Eamonn Kearney 5 1-1 12, Tom Cerami 5 0-2 10, Sean Suskevich 2 4-5 9, James Fata 7 0-0 17, Kyle Carrington 4 2-2 11, Matt Migdon 2 0-0 4, Jimmy Cleveland 1 1-2 3, Zach Skesavage 1 0-0 2, Joe Law 0 0-0 0, Dean Wilk 0 0-0 0. Totals: 30 8-12 73

Three-pointers: Kearney, Fata 3, Carrington