Boys Basketball – Jersey Mike’s Week 1 Team of the Week: Neptune
Nothing is guaranteed during the 2021 high-school basketball season and Neptune's star point guard and his head coach - who also happens to be his father - understand that full well. For Sam Fagan, nothing has been guaranteed in his high-school career.
That's why he and his Neptune squad played the first two weeks of 2021 as though it was their very short-lived chance to validate the work they have been doing during the offseason and, in the case of Fagan and his classmates, throughout their careers.
Unfortunately for Neptune, its two wins over Wall next week could be the highlight of their season, which was just shut down indefinitely after head coach Joe Fagan tested positive for COVID-19. Neptune has not announced when and if it will return to the court as a team.
If we have seen Neptune's best in 2021, the Scarlet Fliers exit the season (for now) as the first Jersey Mike's Team of the Week of the year.
A 2-2 start to the season might seem forgettable at first glance, but when a team opens with two games against the team currently ranked No. 15 in the state and follows that pair of games with two more against the two-time defending NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III champions, it is not just any four games.
After hanging tough against Ranney - the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - in two week-one losses, Neptune swept last week against rival Wall - currently the No. 9 team in the rankings and No. 6 when the season opened. Wall defeated Neptune three times in 2019-20, including in overtime in the Central Group III championship game.
The first rematch on Feb. 3 was Neptune's first crack at revenge and the Scarlet Fliers came through by rallying from a 26-16 first-quarter deficit to score a 67-64 win. Junior Oneil Campbell led Neptune with 19 points and Fagan poured in 12 to lead the way.
The next night, the Scarlet Fliers played the game at their paced and pounded their way to a 43-42 win over the Crimson Knights, with Fagan scoring 17 points to lead the way.
Fagan started as a freshman and that has turned out to be his healthiest, most complete season. A serious leg injury suffered in December of 2018 wiped out most of his sophomore season and as a junior last year, he showed flashes of returning to form - including a 40-point state playoff game - while getting his leg strength back.
Fagan and fellow seniors Everett Cheavers, Andre Harris, Bryson Byrd and Nasir Collins are hoping the Team of the Week award is not the final highlight of the season and that they can get another chance to shine in their last season at Neptune.
As long as Neptune can return, it will have a chance to qualify for the Shore Conference postseason pod that contains the top-eight-ranked teams in the Shore Conference, as chosen by a committee of coaches. The Scarlet Fliers are currently the No. 6 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.