Boys Basketball – Jersey Mike’s Week 8 Team of the Week: Freehold Twp.
Last year, the Freehold Township boys basketball failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament and it was not hard to figure out why. The Patriots had little senior influence, they played in a deep, talented Shore Conference Class A North division loaded with senior talent and on top of that, they played most of the season with their best player either out or hobbled due to injury.
After last year’s disappointment, coach Brian Golub had no intention of letting his now-senior-laden team lean on those same excuses. Last year was last year and this year, the Patriots entered the season healthy and with plenty of experience, albeit as a 9-13 team from a year ago.
The struggle of 2017-18 has led to the success of 2018-19, with the Patriots rolling at 19-3 and back in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time since winning the conference tournament in 2006-07. Its SCT wins over Brick Memorial and Holmdel are the culmination of a long season of consistency that both helped Freehold Township earn a favorable No. 4 seed and find a way to win when challenged by a hot team during the quarterfinals.
After fighting off a furious comeback by Holmdel and reaching the SCT semifinals for the first time in 12 years, Freehold Township is the latest Jersey Mike’s Team of the Week.
One of Freehold Township’s earliest announcements of its return to prominence was an 81-46 win over Brick Memorial in the WOBM Christmas Classic opening round. In its first SCT game, Freehold Township had to deal with that same senior-laden Mustangs team, now intent on proving that first game was a fluke. In some ways, Brick Memorial was successful but ultimately, Freehold Township controlled the game and rolled to a 69-58 win.
In the next round, the Patriots faced a Holmdel squad not so different from themselves. The Hornets are a guard-heavy outfit with balanced scoring and a deep bench – the only difference is Holmdel relies on almost no senior talent. The latter part of the season, the Hornets have blossomed into a team that can do some serious tournament damage over the next 13 months and high-profile teams like Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven found out the hard way in February losses to Holmdel.
For the first 10 minutes of its SCT quarterfinal game against the Hornets, Freehold Township appeared as though it would have no such trouble against the No. 12 seed. The Patriots stormed out to a 26-9 lead and maintained a 34-17 advantage with a little more than two minutes left in the first half.
All of a sudden, Holmdel woke up and by the end of the third quarter, Freehold Township found itself in a 37-37 game and fighting for its SCT life.
In the fourth quarter, Freehold Township played like a team with the senior advantage. They scored the first six points of the quarter and re-established a 10-point lead with under four minutes to go.
The game wasn’t over, though. Holmdel made one last push and twice cut Freehold Township’s lead to two, even regaining possession with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. After surviving a possession in which the Hornets missed three potential game-tying three-pointers, Freehold Township bumped the lead back up to four on two free throws by senior Seth Meisner with 11 seconds left. The Hornets cut the Patriots lead back to two at 58-56 with four seconds left and senior Cristian Corcione answered with a free throw to push it to 59-56.
Corcione missed the second of two shots from the line and Holmdel’s scramble to get off a tying shot ended with junior Derek Chan coming up short on a half-court.
2019 Team of the Week Winners
Week 1: Matawan
Week 2: Wall
Week 3: Red Bank Catholic
Week 4: Toms River North
Week 5: Middletown South
Week 6: Ocean
Week 7: Red Bank