NEPTUNE – One of the two teams at Neptune High School Saturday afternoon had endured three injuries in its lineup, a 23-point loss, and two narrow wins, while the other had just won its two biggest games of the season in its previous two games.

Senior Maurice Diawara led Lakewood with 19 points in the Piners win over Neptune Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

During the annual rivalry game between Lakewood and Neptune, it was hard to tell which team was which.

Lakewood – the No. 5 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – bounced back from a shaky, injury-riddled week by convincingly beating streaking Neptune, 65-42, to end the Scarlet Fliers’ four-game winning streak.

“Every year, this is a game for bragging rights in the Shore,” Lakewood sophomore Amir Tyler said. “We look at each other and one team is up, the other is down. One’s black, the other is white. One’s left, the other is right. That’s how a rivalry is. We feel like we work harder than them and that’s why we won today.”

Senior Dan Niblack and Tyler returned to full-time action Saturday after missing time due to injury this week. Niblack missed Thursday’s 51-43 win over Pinelands after undergoing root canal surgery, while Tyler sprained his ankle in a 58-56 win over Point Boro on Tuesday and played only three minutes against Pinelands, according to Lakewood coach Randy Holmes.

“You have to remind yourself all the time that you’re dealing with high school kids,” Holmes said. “Sometimes, you don’t know where their head is, how they're feeling, what’s going on in their lives and sometimes, that manifests itself on the court. Every week is a battle and this week is no different. Today was a new day and our guys played with a chip on their shoulder.”

Niblack scored 17 points while Tyler netted 12 points and headed the defensive effort against Neptune leading scorer Shakeem Richardson. Richardson scored 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

Senior Maurice Diawara led Lakewood with 19 points to go with seven rebounds. On top of combining for 48 points, the trio of Diawara, Niblack and Tyler helped ignite a first-quarter comeback that put Lakewood in control. After Neptune stormed out to a 10-1 lead, the Piners answered with a 16-4 run to close the quarter.

Lakewood stretched its lead to 12 with six quick points in the third quarter and after Neptune pulled to within 40-31, the Piners knocked the Fliers out with a 17-1 run over a stretch of just under seven minutes between the third and fourth quarters.

Tyler’s performance on both ends continues a run of strong play from the sophomore, who was not a starter at the beginning of the season. Holmes has envisioned that Tyler will provide for the Piners what Tyrice Beverette did during his four years in the program, capped by an All Shore Media Player of the Year award last year.

“Amir is the man,” Holmes said. “He is a special athlete and a special individual, and we knew that from day one when he was a freshman. It takes time to grow into that leadership role, but he’s already starting to become that leader. He’s only a sophomore, but guys look up to him as someone who has earned that respect in a short amount of time.”

One week ago Saturday, Lakewood lost to No. 1 Point Beach, 66-43, before battling for wins against Point Boro and Pinelands. The defending Shore Conference Tournament champions were not close to the top team in the Shore a week ago, but the Piners are hoping Saturday’s win at Neptune was a step in that direction.

“Point Beach is a team with great chemistry and a lot of experience, and we weren’t really ready to compete with them because we still don’t have that yet,” Tyler said. “We’ve been getting better and better and I think pretty soon, our chemistry will be a lot better and we’ll get to where they are.”


Box Score

Lakewood 65, Neptune 42






Lakewood (13-3)






Neptune (8-5)







Lakewood (65): Maurice Diawara 6 5-6 19, Naquese Joshua 1 0-2 2, Ben Watson 2 0-0 4, Dan Niblack 8 1-2 17, Amir Tyler 5 1-2 12, Hassan Diawara 1 1-2 3, Sean Barksdale 1 0-0 3, Haseem McGrady 0 2-4 2, Ryzon Barnes 0 0-0 0, Fejon Sutton 1 0-0 3. Totals: 25 10-18 65

Three-pointers: M. Diawara 2, Tyler, Barksdale, Sutton

Neptune (42): Shakeem Richardson 4 2-5 12, Kerry Kirkwood 0 0-0 0, Marque Ellington 0 0-0 0, Diondre Dunn 4 4-8 12, Myles Mooney 1 0-0 2, Michah Kerr 2 0-0 4, Sean McMillan 0 1-2 1, Alex Ennis 1 1-2 3, Cameron Calderon 0 0-0 0, Lamar Ford 1 1-3 3, Keishawn Kirkwood 0 0-0 0, Shane Nolan 1 1-2 3, Oshane Curate 1 0-0 2, Drew Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 10-22 42

Three-pointers: Richardson2