The Toms River North boys basketball team has done its part in making the WOBM Christmas Classic one of the most competitive annual holiday tournaments in New Jersey over the last decade, but in the time, the Mariners have been forced to watch some other team hoist the championship trophy -- often at their own expense.

To close 2023, Toms River North reclaimed the championship of the tournament played in its home gym and did it against a program that has been the torch-bearing public school program of the Shore Conference over the past five years.

The Mariners closed out their first WOBM Christmas Classic championship since 2014 by knocking off then-unbeaten and top-seeded Manasquan, 63-53, in the Ruhnke Bracket championship.

Prior to that game, Manasquan looked like the clear No. 2 team in the Shore Conference behind St. Rose but with the Dec. 30 result at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River, Toms River North took its turn in the No. 2 spot and earned the Week 2 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Award.

Beating Manasquan in the championship game alone was worthy of the Team of the Week award, but Toms River North preceded that win with two others of note. The Mariners topped Colts Neck in overtime, 68-56, to hand the Cougars their first loss of the season, which came days after Colts Neck routed Red Bank Catholic by 31 points.

In the tournament semifinals, Toms River North battled past a Central Regional team that has been one of the Shore's best defensive units in the early part of the season and also figures to challenge Toms River North for the top spot in Ocean County throughout the year. Round one went to the Mariners, 40-39.

In the championship game, Toms River North started fast, withstood a response by Manasquan, regained the lead just before the half and pieced together an impressive second half that helped the Mariners pull away with the 10-point victory.

Senior Micah Ford earned tournament MVP with his 21 points and seven rebounds, while senior Owen Baker and junior Sherrod Nelson notched All-Tournament Team honors. Baker opened the tournament with a career-high 34 points in the win over Colts Neck.

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