POINT PLEASANT BEACH – Point Pleasant Beach boys basketball coach Nick Catania admits he does not take losses well, but he takes them better than senior point guard Matt Farrell.

For the past 11 months, Farrell and the Garnet Gulls have been sitting on a loss to Lakewood in last year’s Shore Conference Tournament final and Saturday in their home gym, the Gulls took another step toward a championship season by putting last year’s shortcoming to rest.

Senior Noah Yates hit six 3-pointers and finished with 21 points in Point Beach's 66-43 win over defending SCT champion Lakewood Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Farrell scored a game-high 23 points to go with five assists and Point Beach – the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – upended No. 5 Lakewood, 66-43 Saturday afternoon for its 11th straight win to open the season.

Along with senior teammates Dom Uhl and Noah Yates, Farrell was quieted by a swarming Lakewood defense in last year’s championship game, a 39-33 Lakewood win at Monmouth University. Saturday, all three had standout games against the defending SCT champions.

“Matt takes every loss to heart, whether it’s a playoff game or a fall league game,” Catania said. “He’s like a coach in that way because he’s always thinking about what we didn’t do right and what needs to get better for next time, and I think that mentality of always trying to get better with every practice and every game is something that’s really driven him and driven our team.”

 

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“We all took the loss personal last year,” Farrell said of the Lakewood game. “It definitely sat with us all year and it was a game coach has talked about from the start of the year and a game that all of us looked forward to playing. Lakewood lost some key guys and they aren’t really the same team, in all fairness, but it’s still the same jersey. You know you’re in for a battle against those guys.”

Yates finished with 21 points and shot 6-for-9 from behind the three-point line. He knocked down three of those threes in the second quarter to help stretch the Point Beach lead from nine to 15 by halftime.

 

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“With two players like Matt and Dom, it just opens up so many things for the other three guys on the court,” Yates said. “When one of those two guys has the ball, three or four guys are keeping an eye on them and it gives the other guys a chance to get open shots and the good thing about our team is we have a bunch of guys who are capable of hitting those shots.”

Uhl, meanwhile, finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, seven blocks and five steals, while shutting down Lakewood point forward Maurice Diawara in the first half. Diawara finished with 16 points thanks to a 13-point second half, with Point Beach mixing in more zone defense toward the end of the game.

 

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“I felt like this was a game where the team really needed me to step up in a lot of areas so I just tried to be active,” Uhl said. “Lakewood is very athletic and they are aggressive on defense and on the boards, so I really wanted to play hard in the first few minutes to help us get off to a good start.”

Uhl came out aggressive in the first quarter and scored six points while grabbing four rebounds in the first eight minutes. He threw down a two-handed dunk off a long lob from Farrell as part of a 13-2 run that gave the Garnet Gulls a 19-6 lead late in the first quarter.

 

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“Today you saw how Dom can take over a game in so many ways,” Catania said of the 6-7 Iowa recruit. “I’m so proud of the way he’s played over the last few weeks. He’s playing with energy from the opening tip and really controlling the glass. He’s flipped the switch lately and when he does that, it’s not hard to see why he’s going to be playing in the Big 10 next year.”

Yates dominated the second-quarter scoring, pouring in the final 10 of Point Beach’s 13 points in the quarter.

 

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While Farrell and Uhl are year-round basketball players who will be playing on Division I college basketball teams next season, Yates is a Yale football recruit who has worked himself into form. He has been a reliable secondary scoring option for Point Beach over the course of the last two seasons and Saturday’s hot streak netted him his highest scoring total of the season to date.

“Having coached Noah for three years now, this is the time of year when he starts to kick it into high gear,” Catania said. “He’s obviously a gifted athlete so it’s not hard for him to contribute even when he’s behind everybody else, but this is the time when he is finally all caught up, and it shows in a game like today.”

Farrell helped put the game away with 15 points in the second half. The senior trio combined to score 57 of Point Beach’s 66 points. Between the two teams, the bench accounted for only three points, which all came from Lakewood junior Ryan Lawrence.

Point Beach limited Lakewood senior center Ben Watson to eight points and eight rebounds thanks to the defensive effort of 6-7 senior Jeff Bryant, who scored six points of his own. Bryant's size allowed him to defend Watson while Uhl stretched to the perimeter and helped out to block shots.

 

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"Jeff did a really nice job against Watson," Catania said. "The key with him is just challenging every rebound and limiting the number of second chance opportunities he gets and between Jeff and Dom, I thought we really controlled Watson on the offensive glass better than we have in the past."

Since losing to Lakewood last season, Point Beach is 17-1 with an NJSIAA Group I championship to its credit. The only loss over the Gulls’ past 18 games was a double-overtime defeat to Group IV champion Atlantic City in the Tournament of Champions quarterfinals. During that stretch, Point Beach has not been held below 40 points and has scored below 60 only four times – all wins.

 

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Considered by many to be the favorite in both the Shore Conference and Group I Tournaments, Point Beach has outscored its Shore Conference opposition this season by an average of 34 points per game. With only Long Branch remaining as a top-10 opponent before the postseason, the Garnet Gulls could be poised for a long unbeaten run.

“We’ve played pretty good ball this year, but one thing about our coaches and the guys on this team is we’re always critiquing ourselves, trying to find ways to get better,” Farrell said. “This is a good win for us as a challenge outside the division, but we’ve got two tough road games in the division against Mater Dei and Keyport. That’s where our focus is going to be this week.”

 

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Box Score

Point Beach 66, Lakewood 43

1

2

3

4

F

Lakewood (9-3)

9

8

10

16

43

Point Beach (11-0)

19

13

15

19

66

 

Lakewood (43): Maurice Diawara 7 1-4 16, Naquese Joshua 1 0-0 3, Ben Watson 4 0-0 8, Dan Niblack 3 1-2 7, Amir Tyler 2 2-4 6, Ryan Lawrence 1 1-2 3, Haseem McGrady 0 0-0 0, Hassan Diawara 0 0-0 0, Sean Barksdale 0 0-0 0, Ryszon Barnes 0 0-0 0, Fejon Sutton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 5-12 43

Three-pointers: M. Diawara, Joshua

Point Beach (66): Matt Farrell 8 5-7 23, Noah Yates 7 1-2 21, Jeff Bryant 3 0-0 6, Dom Uhl 5 3-4 13, Chris Schifano 1 1-2 3, Mike Frauenheim 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 10-15 66

Three-pointers: Farrell 2, Yates 6