Boys Basketball – Shore Conference (NJ) Postseason Day One Preview
Monday marks the start of the much-anticipated Shore Conference Postseason, which will feature 42 of the Conference’s 47 teams and will be played as four separate tournaments and two additional groups in which teams will be matched up with one another. If the event runs as scheduled, each of the 42 teams will get three games this week.
Before each night of games, we will preview the matchups of the day in each of the six pods and Monday’s schedule is unique because 32 teams begin in pursuit of a pod championship. That number will be cut in half each day until there are four champions remaining at the end of the week, while the teams that lose each day continue to battle for the remainder of the week in the consolation rounds of the Playoffs.
Below is a look at each game in each pod to be played on Monday, with a prediction offered up to make things a little more interesting.
Pod A (Championship Pod)
The background of Pod A is pretty simple: the team that makes through Friday night’s final round without a loss will capture the unofficial Shore Conference championship in 2021. With the specter of COVID-19 still very much present, there is a possibility that not every game gets played, but should the week reach its conclusion without incident, then one of these eight teams is three wins away from the title.
It starts on Monday with the opening round, which features a rematch for the top seed and three other unique matchup – albeit one of them a rivalry game.
No. 8 Neptune (2-5) at No. 1 Manasquan (9-0), 5:30 p.m.
After a two-week shutdown, Neptune returned to the court this past week and immediately had to contend with Manasquan for two games. The Scarlet Fliers held their own for the first 26 minutes of the first game, trailing the No. 1 seed by five points heading into the final six minutes before Manasquan pulled away for a 17-point win. Game two of the series was a 16-point difference, but came after Manasquan opened up with a 31-8 start.
Manasquan is likely to be without head coach Andrew Bilodeau for a fourth straight game due to a health issue but to this point, their head coach’s absence – at least in person – has not slowed the Warriors down. They just completed a 4-0 week, with wins over Trenton Catholic and Life Center to close out the week following the sweep of Neptune. Jack Collins had another big week, Ben Roy continues to play like the Player of the Year, Connor Walsh and Andrew Solomon have controlled the paint and Casey Mulligan has been the defensive force his team has needed him to be.
For Neptune to have a chance, the Scarlet Fliers will have to find a way to put a complete game together, which they have not been able to do against the many good teams their schedule. Even in beating Wall for its first win, Neptune fell behind by 10 points in that one before coming back. Still, the Fliers have shown flashes of having the capacity to take this game to the final minutes with a chance to win thanks to a high-upside defense and a guard in Sam Fagan who can catch fire.
Prediction: Manasquan, 63-47
No. 7 Southern (10-1) at No. 2 Ranney (7-0), 5 p.m.
Over the past decade, Southern has had some rosters that had the makings of a Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal squad – particularly with current Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki leading the way – but never could get over the hump in that span. While this year’s team entered expectations to win its pod and make a big for the top spot in Ocean County, this year’s run to the championship pod was a surprise. The addition of Jaden Anthony to the returning core of Jay Silva, Luke Infurna and Nick Devane has helped put Southern over the top and with a 10-game winning streak and three full days to prepare for a first-round matchup with team that has not played in 12 days, the Rams are as well-situated as can be.
The one thing working against them is that opponent. Ranney is 7-0 and was barreling through its opponents when a COVID scare forced the team to pause for four days last week before returning to practice on Friday. Isaac Hester is a Player of the Year candidate averaging and Elijah Perkins is right there with his sophomore teammate as the other half of a dominant backcourt duo. Ranney also has plenty of size to make Silva’s job very difficult on Monday and it will likely take career shooting performances from Anthony and Infurna to keep it close. Ranney’s Achilles Heel so far has been foul shooting (5-for-23 against Marlboro) so that could be something to watch if Southern is to stay close.
Prediction: Ranney, 61-46
No. 6 Holmdel (7-1) at No. 3 Marlboro (7-3), 4 p.m.
These are exciting time for both the Holmdel and Marlboro boys basketball programs, with Holmdel reaching the final eight in the Shore for the third straight year and Marlboro boasting the No. 3 seed in the tournament with a team driven by its junior talent. During the recent string of success for both programs, the two teams have not crossed paths, much less in a setting like this one.
Holmdel just came back from a 14-day shutdown with two games right off the jump – one a win over Donovan Catholic and the other a lop-sided loss to Red Bank Catholic. Now, the Hornets will get one day to prepare for a Marlboro team that appears to be hitting its stride, having won five straight since losing a 33-point blowout to CBA. One of Marlboro’s wins during that stretch was a payback victory at CBA and the Mustangs are coming off a rout of Neptune on Friday night.
Both teams are reliant on a dynamic duo on offense, with Marlboro leaning heavily on 6-foot-5 junior Jack Seidler and 5-8 junior guard Jon Spatola. Holmdel, meanwhile, has a pair of 6-5 seniors in Alex Baker and Ryan Bradley, giving them the athletes with size that might be able to handle Seidler. The key for both, then, will be how effectively they can slow down at least one half of the duo while also getting other players involved. Juniors Jay Ratner and Zach Molod have each had their moments throughout the year as third options, while Holmdel senior Kyle Polivka has been an offensive x-factor.
Marlboro’s defense appears to be coming around lately while Holmdel’s is still a work in progress. Holmdel has an advantage in seniors but that might be nullified by Marlboro’s experience from last year, as well as the fact that the Mustangs have been able to stay together an improve while the Hornets have been shut down. Under better circumstances, this would almost certainly be a classic – and it still could be. For that to happen though, Holmdel has to whip itself into shape very quickly.
Prediction: Marlboro, 76-67
No. 5 Red Bank Catholic (9-0) at No. 4 CBA (8-3), 6 p.m.
The marquee game of Monday night pits two rivals who, for some reason, did not work out a date to play one another during the 2021 regular season in order to continue the recent tradition of the Founder’s Cup. Red Bank Catholic won the rivalry game for the first time last year, which ignited the Caseys’ run to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals to match their deepest run ever – last accomplished in 1994.
Red Bank Catholic has carried the momentum of last year’s SCT run into this season with a team that looks like it could be one of the school’s best ever – if not this year, then next year. Alex Bauman has been on a different level this season, averaging 17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a 6-5, 240-pound point forward who can bully opposing power forwards in the post. Cyril Arvanitis and C.J. Ruoff have both been dependable shooters and scorers as well, senior Max Croke is a defensive stopper and Zach Meeks and Gio Panzini have played beyond their years as freshman, but Bauman is the matchup nightmare.
CBA has plenty of quality defenders but no one who can physically match Bauman. Senior Mike White and sophomore brother Joe are the defensive stoppers and Joe is the kind of hard-nosed defender who would welcome the challenge of guarding Bauman – even as a sophomore. The x-factor for CBA will be its shooting, which was lights-out this week in two romps against Manalapan. Containing RBC’s scoring and matching the Caseys physically will be hard, but CBA has the firepower with White, Colin Farrell, Dane Moran and Pat Lautato to match the Caseys in scoring. On top of that, the Colts are the more senior-driven team. Will all of that be enough against the red-hot Caseys?
Prediction: Red Bank Catholic, 64-60
The second pod in the Shore Conference Playoffs will be a chance for at least two teams to make a bid for a spot in the final Shore Conference Top 10 in 2021 while also proving that, perhaps, they might have deserved more consideration for a spot in the top pod.
No. 8 Howell (7-4) at No. 1 Manchester (8-2), 7 p.m.
In a rarity, it will be two brothers squaring off in a postseason game, with Manchester coach Ryan Ramsay hosting brother Pat and the Rebels. Manchester is coming off a close call at Jackson Memorial – a team Howell just slammed by 25 points two days earlier. Despite the seeds, this is a tossup game between two junior-heavy teams. If Manchester is motivated to make a run to the Top 10, the Hawks will be a dangerous team this coming week. Prediction: Manchester, 52-49
No. 7 Central (7-2) at No. 2 Wall (5-7), 5 p.m.
Wall was the first team out of Pod A in our projections and the committee had the Crimson Knights two spots out of No. 8. They responded by hammering Middletown North on Saturday and should be a determined team given their postseason reputation of the past two years (back-to-back Central Jersey Group III champions). Central has piled up wins but has not faced a team nearly as complete as Wall is and it will be a tough task to switch gears by Monday. Prediction: Wall, 70-54
No. 6 Barnegat (9-3) at No. 3 Toms River North (9-3), 6:30 p.m.
This might be the most even matchup of the entire Monday schedule, with both Barnegat and Toms River North preaching their 12-game regular-season maximums and going 9-3 in those games. Both have also been inconsistent – showing some aptitude with quality wins but also slipping up against teams seeded well below them. At its best, Barnegat has been slightly more dynamic offensively, but the Bengals’ dry spells have also been extreme as well. Toms River North, meanwhile, should have the edge on the glass and in the paint, but that is nothing new for Barnegat. If the best version of both teams show up, advantage Bengals. Prediction: Barnegat, 49-47
No. 5 Mater Dei Prep (6-3) at No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven (6-4), 7 p.m.
There is a good chance the 4-5 game in Pod B turns out to be the most competitive game on Monday night. Both of these teams have resided in the Top 10 for most of the year and are both eager to make a statement – first by winning this game and then by winning the pod. Rumson got tested by Red Bank Catholic this week, so the Bulldogs should be appropriately battle-tested to face the Seraphs, who have not played since Feb. 19. Mater Dei, though, also tested itself with the Patrick School and Don Bosco, so Monday won’t be anything Mater Dei hasn’t seen. Prediction: Rumson, 56-54
The Shore’s third-tier pod is loaded with teams with something to prove and there is a pretty good case to be made that the top half of Pod C is every bit as good as – if not better than – the bottom half of Pod B.
No. 8 Donovan Catholic (4-7) at No. 1 Matawan (6-5), 4 p.m.
A rematch of a game played a little more than a week earlier, Matawan put Donovan Catholic away in the first meeting. Andre Wells is having a dynamite season, but Donovan Catholic has come around lately with a win over Toms River North and a strong showing at Holmdel, save for a rough third quarter. Prediction: Matawan, 65-56
No. 7 Jackson Liberty (6-6) at No. 2 St. John Vianney (6-5), 5:30 p.m.
Jackson Liberty has cooled off with two straight losses following a five-game winning streak and managed only 35 points in Saturday’s loss to Point Boro. St. John Vianney also scored only 35 on Saturday, but it was enough to beat St. Rose on the road. Prediction: St. John Vianney, 53-45
No. 6 Keyport (8-2) at No. 3 Middletown North (6-6), 4 p.m.
Keyport’s biggest test during the season came in the form of two games vs. Mater Dei Prep and the Red Raiders could not quite keep up. This pod gives them a chance to show they belong in the middle-class of the Shore and perhaps even the upper part of the middle class and Middletown North – a team with a major win over Montgomery and some real junior firepower – is a great litmus test for another junior-heavy team in Keyport. Prediction: Middletown North, 73-66
No. 5 Colts Neck (4-7) at No. 4 Lacey (5-3), 3:30 p.m.
This just feels like the ultimate Monmouth-vs.-Ocean clash. Colts Neck has grinded it out in a balanced pod all year, while Lacey has the makings of a dynamic young team dominated by sophomores and poised to ascend toward the top of Ocean County. For Lacey to hit the ground running for 2021-22, it could really use a strong showing this postseason. Prediction: Lacey, 51-47
The teams that made it to Pod D get a chance to play a tournament to end their season and since there is not much separating any of the teams seeded Nos. 1 through 8, this should be the most unpredictable of the four pod tournaments.
No. 8 Freehold Boro (5-6) at No. 1 Red Bank (2-7), 4 p.m.
Despite some struggles heading into the postseason seeding, Freehold Boro seems like a mis-seeded team. The Colonials have a handful of excruciating losses that contributed to the sub-.500 record but they still have a game-changing 6-6 forward in Jiasion Carpenter and a quality guard in Ryan Neely leading the way as seniors. Red Bank is better than its record too, but this is a tough draw as a No. 1 seed. Prediction: Freehold Boro, 55-49
No. 7 Monmouth (4-6) at No. 2 Manalapan (3-6), 3:45 p.m.
Monmouth is one of the hardest teams in the field to figure out, while Manalapan has basically been pretty steady – competing in games against unranked opponents and struggling to keep up with the likes of CBA and Marlboro. Manalapan looks a little steadier heading into Monday but the Falcons remain a wild card on the other side. Prediction: Manalapan, 58-50
No. 6 Point Boro (3-6) at No. 3 Ocean (7-5), 6:30 p.m.
Both teams are coming off streak-busting results on Saturday, with Point Boro snapping a three-game skid with a 15-point win over Jackson Liberty while Ocean saw its six-game winning streak end with an 18-point loss at Brick Memorial. Point Boro has been tested against better competition this season and it should show. Prediction: Point Boro, 57-46
No. 5 Raritan (7-4) at No. 4 St. Rose (1-6), 3:45 p.m.
It was only a year ago that these two teams were division rivals in Class A Central and locked up in tight battles. Raritan has won five straight with a young team, while St. Rose is far more battle-tested with a loss to Ranney and two each to Wall and Manasquan. Throw in the experience and the home court and it’s a slight edge to St. Rose in a close game. Prediction: St. Rose, 43-41
The remainder of the Shore Conference postseason will be pre-set matchups rather than a tournament format. Pod E is the Ocean County portion of the match play and all three Day 1 games are matchups that have not yet happened this season.
Brick (4-5) at Toms River East (1-11), 5 p.m.
Brick has taken an obvious step forward this season and has a few young pieces to build around going forward. Toms River East has struggled to find its identity but should have a chance to win a game or two this week to go out on a high note. Prediction: Brick, 54-48
Brick Memorial (6-6) at Pinelands (2-9), 7 p.m.
If Brick Memorial could have stayed healthier, the Mustangs could have made a play for a top-16 spot. Without junior center Luke Braaten, the Brick Memorial has been far more ordinary, although the Mustangs were sharp in a Saturday win over Ocean. Pinelands’ record, meanwhile, masks the fact it has played just about every opponent tough. Expect something similar on Monday. Prediction: Pinelands, 48-46
Jackson Memorial (1-6) at Toms River South (3-9), 6:30 p.m.
After getting run over by Howell Thursday in its first game in more than two weeks, Jackson Memorial bounced back with a near-upset of Manchester on Saturday. The Jaguars appeared to be building a little bit of momentum before their shutdown and now they have added Lakewood transfers Samir Padilla and Respect Tyleek into the mix. Toms River South enters having lost six in a row. Prediction: Jackson Memorial, 48-43
The last pod is a round-robin style pool in which all four member teams will face one another over the course of the season’s final week. Like in Pod E, all the teams in Pod F will be taking on an opponent Monday that they have not yet faced in 2021.
Keansburg (3-8) at Shore (4-5), 7:30 p.m.
With wins over Long Branch and Monmouth heading into the postseason, Shore is starting to figure some things out. Keansburg has added some balance to its offense lately but will need a big close to the season from Davon Jackson to make some noise in the pod. Prediction: Shore, 62-46
Long Branch (2-9) at Asbury Park (5-6), 4 p.m.
After pulling off two wins over Monmouth this week that allow for some level of relief, Long Branch will have a chance to build on its success in a pod that has some winnable games. Having to go play at Asbury Park is a tougher draw but it is one Long Branch should be prepared for based on its schedule. Prediction: Long Branch, 65-61