At the end of the 2017-18 season, Matawan High School boys basketball coach John Giraldo knew he would have to replace three starters from a 20-win team. It was the fourth starter Giraldo and his group of returning players weren't banking on losing.

Junior Darrell Rogers spent three months hospitalized after collapsing at an AAU practice in May due to cardiac arrest, leaving Matawan without a talented point guard for this season while Rogers recovers from the incident.

The Huskies are happy Rogers is able to attend some of their games and there is no denying his role as a source of inspiration for his teammates based on the way they have been performing so far.

Matawan opened the season with a come-from-behind win over a Neptune squad ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 and has continued to ride the wave since. Last week, the Huskies won the Huskies Holiday Classic on their home floor to extend their six-game home-court winning streak to open the season and earn the first Jersey Mike's Team of the Week award of 2019.

After rolling to a 69-46 win over Freehold Boro in the first round, Matawan went down to the wire in the semifinals against Carteret, which reached the championship game of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Playoffs last season. Junior Ethan Okello came through with the game-winning shot in the final seconds to give his team a 54-53 win and secure a spot in the final.

After trailing top-seeded and unbeaten Old Bridge by 10 in the third quarter of the championship game, Matawan surged in front in the fourth quarter before the Knights pushed it to overtime. Okello again delivered the winning score, converting a putback with 1:23 left in overtime to give the Huskies a 52-50 win.

Junior center John Beukers blocked three shots in that overtime and finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, while junior Niles Haliburton capped an all-tournament performance with 15 points on five three-pointers.

Matawan's home winning streak came to an end Thursday night with a 58-51 loss to Middletown South and the Huskies lost to St. John Vianney in overtime on the road in the second game of the season, but a 6-2 start with four new starters - three of whom are juniors - is about as much as Giraldo and his squad could have hoped for heading into the season.


More From Shore Sports Network