BRICK – Top-seeded Point Beach entered the Shore Conference Tournament as perhaps the Shore’s most explosive offensive team, a star-studded group dazzling crowds with dunks, long-range shooting and pinpoint passing.

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However, in the biggest games of the season, the Garnet Gulls have turned to their defense to push them toward a second straight berth in the SCT championship game and save them from uncharacteristic offensive struggles.

One game after holding Jackson Memorial to 43 points in a double-overtime win, Point Beach stifled fourth-seeded Matawan in a 53-39 victory in the SCT finals on Wednesday night at Brick Memorial. The Garnet Gulls also shot 16-for-17 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 23-for-26 for the game to help bring home the win over a Huskies team that was trying to reach its first SCT final since 1964.

Point Beach senior Dom Uhl had a team-high 14 points, all in the second half, to help power a win over Matawan that put the Garnet Gulls back into the SCT final. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Point Beach senior Dom Uhl had a team-high 14 points, all in the second half, to help power a win over Matawan that put the Garnet Gulls back into the SCT final. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“On defense, we know if we play hard, we can get a lot of stops because we’re so talented and we’re big,’’ said senior point guard Matt Farrell. “That was definitely a big thing at halftime. Coach (Nick Catania) was not happy with the way we were playing offensively, so he said defense was going to have to win it, and that’s what we did.”

“That’s the first thing on our board in the keys to the game is defend,’’ Catania said. “We want to defend and rebound. That’s what’s going to win in these types of environments. We struggled shooting the ball tonight, and we struggled shooting it the other night. That’s going to happen.”

The victory sets up a championship showdown with second-seeded Christian Brothers Academy, which has had some great battles in the SCT with Point Beach in recent years, at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Monmouth University. The Garnet Gulls are looking for their first SCT title in program history, while CBA will go for its 17th conference championship.

Senior swingman Dom Uhl led three scorers in double figures for Point Beach with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Farrell and senior guard Noah Yates each added 11 points. Farrell also had six assists and seven rebounds, making him what is believed to be the first player in Point Beach history to pass 500 career assists. Junior guard Jason Dunne led Matawan with a game-high 15 points and junior guard Joe Piscopo added 12 points in the loss.

The Garnet Gulls survived a night in which they shot 13-for-43 (30 percent) from the field and 4-for-24 from 3-point range thanks to their outstanding foul shooting and their defense. They limited Matawan to 14-for-40 (35 percent) shooting and forced 10 turnovers while only letting the Huskies attempt eight free throws. Behind Uhl, they also controlled the defensive backboards, routinely holding Matawan to one shot per possession.

Senior point guard Matt Farrell had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists to help send the Garnet Gulls to a second straight SCT final. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Senior point guard Matt Farrell had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists to help send the Garnet Gulls to a second straight SCT final. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“Coach always tells us that defense wins games, and after halftime, we always try to get three straight stops,’’ Uhl said. “(Matawan) has great shooters, and we just tried to contest them.”

“The defensive gameplan was there for us,’’ said Matawan head coach Tom Stead. “We just needed the third scorer. That’s what got them ahead of us. I thought Piscopo did a fantastic job on Farrell. He held him to one field goal. Not too many people can say that in the state of New Jersey. Our two guards played great, and their three guys played great, and that’s the difference.”

The first half was ugly, as Point Beach led 15-13 at the break despite shooting 4-for-25 from the field and 2-for-16 from 3-point range. Matawan jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first quarter behind eight points from Dunne, but Point Beach held the Huskies to only two second-quarter points, forcing six turnovers and limiting Matawan to 1-for-7 shooting from the field.

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“We’re playing bad basketball,’’ Farrell said. “Actually not bad basketball – horrible. We’re playing horrible basketball. We need to get back to the way we were playing. We’re not sharing the ball. We shared the ball in the second half, and we went up 12 or 13.”

“In the first half, that’s not our offense,’’ Catania said. “We’re going too much iso, too much trying to break people down. We talked about that at halftime. That’s not what makes us who we are. We’re not good like that. We got to play together (and) use our skill sets to get other guys good shots.”

Uhl, a 6-foot-8 Iowa recruit, was scoreless at halftime on 0-for-4 shooting. He immediately jump-started his game to begin the third quarter when he cut backdoor and was fouled in the lane. He later threw down an alley-oop slam and ended up shooting 8-for-9 from the foul line and scoring all 14 of his points in the second half as Point Beach started to find ways to attack Matawan’s zone through the high post and backdoor cuts.

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“I tried to be more aggressive and get them in foul trouble,’’ Uhl said. “Coach just told me to go to the basket more.”

“We took him out in the first two minutes (of the game),” Catania said. “He wasn’t ready to play. To his credit, most kids sulk when you do that, but he responded big time. He grabbed probably every rebound after and really helped us win this game.”

After going 0-for-6 from the field in the first half, Yates also got it going in the third quarter by scoring seven of his 11 points. Point Beach had the lead as high as seven in the period, but Matawan closed the gap to 31-28 heading into the fourth quarter as Piscopo and Dunne hit three 3-pointers in the quarter to keep the Huskies in it.

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Point Beach put the game away with a 14-6 burst to start the fourth quarter that pushed the lead to 45-34 with 2:05 left in the game. The Garnet Gulls went 11-for-12 from the foul line during that stretch with contributions from Mike Frauenheim, Jeff Bryant and Chris Schifano, who finished with a combined 17 points in the win.

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“They weren’t guarding those two guys or Bryant, and (when) people are going to do that, those guys have got to step up and make shots,’’ Catania said. “And they did, to their credit. They were tough.”

“If a kid is three feet off you, you’ve got to take that as disrespectful,’’ Farrell said. “They came out, and they were hesitant shooting the basketball. We shoot every day, so you’ve got to have confidence. Once everybody starts getting involved, we just keep rolling.”

Point Beach closed out the win by going 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final 1:05 to set up the clash with CBA. Both teams have not lost to a Shore Conference opponent all season, so something will have to give on Saturday. The Colts knocked off defending SCT champion Lakewood, which beat Point Beach 39-33 in last year’s championship game. The SCT title is the one gap in the resume for a Point Beach group that won the program's first sectional and Group I titles last season in advancing to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

“Last year still hurts,’’ Farrell said about the loss to Lakewood. “We got our athletic director telling us we’ll get a big banner in our gym, so we want to get this one bad. We’ll be ready.”

“I think everyone is fired up,’’ Bryant said. “I think we’re all looking forward to achieving that goal for the first time ever in our history.”

As for Matawan, the Huskies will look to regroup for the upcoming NJSIAA Tournament, where they are the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II.

“We enter a whole new season next week,’’ Stead said. “We go back to work on Friday. I told them to think about the fact that they have the opportunity to win a sectional championship in your own building. You’ve got to get this out of your system, not let it affect you and be mature about it and say, ‘You know what, we’re closing the chapter on a great run, and now it’s time to start another one.’’’

Box score

Point Beach 53, Matawan 39

Matawan (39): Piscopo 4 0-0 12, Dunne 5 2-6 15, Planes 0 0-0 0, Tomkins 2 0-0 4, D. Gyjrigi 0 0-0 0, Tawiah 2 2-2 6, Vella 1 0-0 2, Ore-Onitolo 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, M. Gjyrigi 0 0-0 0, Hennessey 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 4-8 39.

Point Beach (53): Farrell 1 8-8 11, Yates 4 1-3 11, Uhl  3 8-9 14, Bryant 3 2-2 8, Frauenheim 1 2-2 5, Schifano 1 2-2 4, Van Nostrand 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 23-26 53.

Matawan  11 2    15 11 – 39

Pt. Beach    5   10 16 22 – 53

Three-pointers: (M) Piscopo 4, Dunne 3; (P) Yates 2, Farrell, Frauenheim. Fouled out: None.


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Pre Game - 1st Half

Half time - 2nd Half - Post Game

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