Boys Basketball – Michigan’s 30 Leads No. 9 Brick Memorial Past Toms River North
TOMS RIVER -- With a 6-foot-7 shot-blocking extraordinaire in the paint, the Brick Memorial boys basketball team could play the role of bully in the Shore Conference Class A South division, which the Mustangs won during the 2021-22 season.
A year later, there is no 6-7, All-Shore center in Luke Braaten, but the Mustangs' expectations remain the same. They may not dominate as many teams in the paint, but they showed Tuesday night that they won't be dominated either.
Brick Memorial -- ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- absorbed an early surge from Toms River North Tuesday at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena and raced past the Mariners, 54-47, behind a 30-point effort by senior Josh Michigan.
Toms River North dominated the glass and the scoreboard for the first 10 minutes of action, building up a 21-11 lead on Brick Memorial with juniors Tareq Council, Micah Ford and Jeremiah Pruitt causing havoc on defense and on the backboards. All three juniors were key figures on Toms River North's 14-0, NJSIAA Group V championship football team.
"We went to our three-quarter-court trap to kind of change the pace," Brick Memorial coach Mike Pelkey said. "They were killing us on the boards and just being more physical than we were, so we just wanted to change things up, show them a different look and they started throwing the ball around a little bit."
Michigan turned Tuesday's tilt into more of a basketball game by catching fire as a scorer. He scored seven of Brick Memorial's 13 unanswered points to end the first half, then scored the first four points of the third quarter to key a 17-0 Mustangs run with 11 points.
Brick Memorial also held Toms River North scoreless for nearly a full eight minutes while building a 28-21 lead.
The Brick Memorial lead grew to as large as 34-26 and was 38-32 heading into the fourth quarter, but Toms River North had an answer. Back-to-back three-pointers by sophomore Sherrod Nelson and junior Owen Baker catapulted the Mariners into a 39-38 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs had an immediate answer in the form of six straight points, with Michigan hitting two free throws, senior Jeremiah Crispin scoring off a feed from senior Brian Starrett, and senior Dorian Alston hitting two more free throws that made it 45-39.
Michigan contributed one more six-point surge to push the lead up to 50-45 and Alston closed out the game by hitting four straight from the line. Brick Memorial shot 20-for-24 from the line as a team, with Alston going 6-for-6 and Michigan going 12-for-15.
Pruitt and senior Delani Hyde each led Toms River North with eight points, while Ford, Baker, Council and senior Isaiah Jones each added seven in the Mariners' balanced attack.
Brick Memorial's returning senior core provided the bulk of the production. In addition to Michigan's 30 points, Alston scored 12 points, Starrett posted six points, five rebounds and seven assists and Crispin put up six points and seven rebounds off the bench. Senior Eric Sliazis did not score, but had a big defensive game in the form of five steals.
"(Michigan and Starrett) were great and Dorian had a good game coming off a great game on opening night," Pelkey said. "Jeremiah Crispin and Eric Sliazis were in there banging on the boards, just being very physical. They are the grit guys and they don't get much press, but they deserve just as much."
With Braaten as the team's All-Shore standout, last year's Brick Memorial squad won the Class A South division title and reached the the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals, which the Mustangs lost at Robbinsville, 40-39.
Now, the Mustangs have a senior-loaded roster hoping to take this year a step further by playing for a sectional championship and advancing deep into the Shore Conference Tournament, in addition to repeating as Class A South champions.
"We want to try to get up and down a little bit more this year and use as many guys as we can," Pelkey said. "We have 11 seniors and every single one of them can play. It's not easy without (Braaten), but there are things we can do as a group that should help us win some games this year."