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A season ago, the Class A North division of the Shore Conference was home to two Shore Conference Tournament semifinalists, including the SCT champion, and while the division is down to only five teams following Shore Conference realignment, it remains one of the Shore’s best.

Any division with Christian Brothers Academy is certain to have talent and the rising tide of CBA has lifted many of the Class A North boats over the years – some of which even sailed farther than CBA in recent years. Marlboro was that team last season and with the Mustangs graduating all five starters from that special team, there is an opening for a challenger to CBA as the Colts gun for the top spot.

Only four other teams will be battling for first place along with CBA, so there are not many options from which to choose. There is, however, one obvious contender in a division that will feature three teams undergoing a makeover.

In predicted order of finish

1. Christian Brothers Academy

Despite entering last season with an unproven overall roster, CBA not only had its usual, competitive season near the top of the Shore Conference rankings, but the Colts climbed to the No. 1 ranking at the Shore for the first time since 2016. As it turned out, CBA did not finish No. 1, but the Colts did manage to reach the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals while starting just one senior. With four starters back this season and an influx of promising freshmen making an early play for varsity time, there is plenty of reason for optimism in Lincroft.

CBA’s core of returning starters starts with the senior duo of Will Bradley and Joe White. Bradley was a Shore Sports Network Third-Team All-Shore player as a junior, while White has established a reputation as the best lock-down defender in the conference while continuing to develop an all-around game on offense. Junior Peter Noble came on strong over the course of his sophomore season as a ball-hander and big-shot-maker, while 6-foot-4 Justin Fuerbacher showed a wealth of poise while starting as a freshman.

Just as Fuerbacher did a year ago, several other freshmen could be ready to make an impact this season for CBA. The fifth starter spot will likely belong to one of CBA’s senior centers – Colin Torres or Brian Williams – but coach Geoff Billet will have the option to go with a smaller lineup that features freshmen guards Charlie Marcoullier or Connor Andree, with senior Dan Sprake another option as a guard alongside the returning four starters. The possibilities will make CBA a tough matchup again in Class A Central and will be the Colts’ best hope to go toe-to-toe with other SCT favorites Manasquan and St. Rose – the latter of whom CBA could meet twice before the SCT.

CBA sophomore Peter Noble. (Photo: Tom Smith |
CBA junior Peter Noble. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Head Coach: Geoff Billet, 16th season
2021-22 Record: 17-7 (8-4, second in Class A North)
Key Losses:
Pat Lautato, 6-1, Guard; James Durney, 5-10, Guard

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Peter Noble, Jr., 6-2, Guard

Will Bradley, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Joe White, Sr., 6-3, Guard

Justin Fuerbacher, So., 6-4, Forward

Colin Torres, Sr., 6-3, Center


Off the Bench

Brian Williams, Sr., 6-5, Center

Charlie Marcoullier, Fr., 5-10, Guard

Connor Andree, Fr., 6-4, Guard/Forward

Will Higgs, Fr., 6-9, Center

Dan Sprake, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Anthony Biondolillo, Sr., 6-0, Guard


2. Freehold Township

If Manasquan, St. Rose and CBA are the three surefire bets to reach the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, there is one spot that is up for grabs among a whole host of teams and Freehold Township might be at the top of that group. The Patriots were a very tough out last year in Class A North, which required them to battle Marlboro, CBA and a tough Howell team, not to mention the depth the division has to offer. With one of the conference’s top players back as well as a third-year varsity point guard, the Patriots will carry plenty of confidence into 2023.

Senior Jayden Holmes-Cotter was the only player in the Shore Conference to average 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in 2021-22, parlaying his eye-popping numbers, solid 6-6 frame and tireless work ethic into a Second-Team All-Shore selection. Classmate Malachi Harris will be back to run the point and feed the big man after dishing out 3.4 assists per game a year ago. The rest of the starting lineup will be players in new roles, although senior James McCarthy and sophomore Nick Cardone return with varsity experience. Cardone will make an impact as a perimeter scorer and McCarthy offers some complementary size alongside Holmes-Cotter.

Juniors Andrew Silverman, Brandon Norero and Tyler Lapman will help cover the opening in the starting five, as well as the first two spots off the bench. Freehold Township’s best teams have boasted depth, but it could be a bonus on this year’s squad given the presence of a dominant frontcourt player. With the Shore Conference looking very even after the top three, a player like Holmes-Cotter could be a major difference-maker in settling the final four of the Shore Conference Tournament, as well as in the often-unpredictable Central Jersey Group IV bracket.

Freehold Township junior Jayden Holmes-Cotter challenges a shot by Donovan Catholic senior Jalin Butler. (Photo: Richard E. O'Donnell)
Freehold Township junior Jayden Holmes-Cotter challenges a shot by Donovan Catholic senior Jalin Butler. (Photo: Richard E. O'Donnell)

Head Coach: Brian Golub, 28th season
2021-22 Record: 15-11 (7-5, third in Class A North)
Key Losses:
Ryan Keegan, 6-0, Guard/Forward; Sean Keegan, 5-10, Guard; Josh Ibaretta, 6-0, Guard; Bobby O’Brien, 6-3, Guard

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Malachi Harris, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Nick Cardone, So., 5-10, Guard

Andrew Silverman, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Jayden Holmes-Cotter, Sr., 6-6. Forward/Center

James McCarthy, Sr., 6-4, Forward


Off the Bench

Brandon Norero, Jr., 6-1, Forward

Tyler Lapman, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Jayden Levy, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Sean Harris, So., 5-9, Guard

Jordan Dulnuan, So., 5-10, Guard

Davon Stephenson, Jr., 6-7, Center

C.J. Svboda, Jr., 5-10, Guard


3. Marlboro

CBA, Freehold Township and Marlboro have been the mainstays in Class A North over the past six or seven seasons, but the Mustangs might have some questions to answer heading into the season in order to get back into the Top 10 picture, let alone the top of Class A North. All five starters from Marlboro’s 28-wins, Shore Conference Tournament championship, Group IV runner-up team graduated and its first substitute off the bench – current senior A.J. Schwartz – suffered a season-ending leg injury while playing quarterback for Marlboro’s playoff-drought-busting football team in the fall. Factor in a new head coach in James Reuter – the first new coach at Marlboro in a decade – and there is likely to be an adjustment period.

As far as playing time goes, the most experienced returnee to the Mustangs lineup is senior Ryan Mendes – another football player who played for quick stretches last year when the starters needed a quick break or encountered foul trouble. Junior Brave Haugh is the new starter with the highest ceiling and at an athletic 6-6, he was the only player on Marlboro’s history-making team to throw down an in-game dunk. Seniors Sohan Eleti and Alex Frank and junior Steven Scimone round out the starting five and will be tasked with running the backcourt.

The injury to Schwartz, as well as second-straight season-ending knee injury for talented senior Jack Levine, have put Marlboro behind the eight-ball to open the season. It will be especially challenging considering all the inexperience on hand, but most of Marlboro’s new contributors got a chance to play against a state-championship-level team each day in practice and will finally get their shot to apply those lessons in practice to the real thing this year.

Marlboro junior Brave Hague challenges a shot during the 2021 WOBM first round vs. Toms River East.(Photo: Richard O'Donnell Photography)
Marlboro junior Brave Hague challenges a shot during the 2021 WOBM first round vs. Toms River East.(Photo: Richard O'Donnell Photography)

Head Coach: James Reuter, first season
2021-22 Record: 28-3 (11-1, first in Class A North)
Key Losses:
Jack Seidler, 6-5, Forward; Jon Spatola, 5-8, Guard; Zack Molod, 5-11, Guard; Jay Ratner, 6-3, Forward; Vincent Spatola, 5-10, Guard; A.J. Schwartz, Sr., 6-1, Guard (Injured, out for season); Jack Levine, Sr., 6-5, Forward (Injured, out for season)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Sohan Eleti, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Alex Frank, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Ryan Mendes, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Steven Scimone, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Brave Haugh, Jr., 6-6, Forward


Off the Bench

Daniel Elmasri, Jr., 6-1, Guard

Lucas McEvoy, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Cooper Laitman, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Corey Shanin, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Daniel Crasto, So., 5-11, Guard

Nicholas Epp, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Avinash Sabbella, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Nicholas Raffone, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Joshua Brown, Jr., 6-1, Guard


4. Howell

In a different division or a different NJSIAA section, Howell could have hung a banner in the gym with the team it has last season. The Rebels went through some ups and downs and playing in a division that included Marlboro, CBA and Freehold Township, the Rebels had to be on top of their game every night. Not only did Howell have to play Marlboro twice during the regular season, but they also had to square off with the Shore’s No. 1 team in the NJSIAA Tournament. Howell led by nine early in the fourth quarter before a furious finish by Marlboro knocked the Rebels out and shifted the focus to 2022-23.

Last year’s group was a senior-heavy one for Howell, which brings back just one starter: forward Damien Padilla. On a team build on its guard play, shooting and up-and-down pace, Padilla was a critical piece to the puzzle because of his size, strength and willingness to battle in the paint for rebounds and rim protection. The dynamic could be different this year now that he will be more of a focus, so it will be up to new backcourt starters Chris Meehan and sophomores Jalen Zamot and Zach Padilla to take some pressure off. Junior D.J. Orloff will also help Damien Padilla on the inside, giving Howell another 6-6 body to take up space on defense and crash the glass.

With Padilla back in the fold and some quality guard prospects ascending to the varsity level this year, Howell still has an opportunity to claim a top-three finish in the division and get back to both postseason tournaments. With Damien Padilla the only senior in the mix this season, there could be a present-for-future tradeoff, but the Rebels can set themselves up nicely for the next two seasons with a strong showing in 2022-23.

Howell senior Damien Padilla. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Howell senior Damien Padilla. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Head Coach: Patrick Ramsay, 10th season
2021-22 Record: 14-11 (6-6, tied fourth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Zach Emery, 5-10, Guard; Joe Dupuis, 6-3, Guard; Dylan McVeigh, 5-8, Guard; Nick Gallo, 6-0, Guard; Abdul Al-Shrouf, 6-0, Guard; John Diab, 6-4, Forward; Marc Tango, 6-0, Guard

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Damien Padilla, Sr., 6-5, Forward 

D.J. Orloff, Jr., 6-6, Forward

Chris Meehan, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Jalen Zamot, Jr., 5-9, Guard

Zach Padilla, So., 5-10, Guard


Off the Bench

Gavin Carr, So., 6-3, Forward

Mark Fagan, Fr., 5-9, Guard

Joe Vella, So., 6-3, Forward

Luke Giroud, Jr., 6-2, Guard

George Canfield, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Jack Ra, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Brent Caiazzo, Jr., 6-0, Guard


5. Manalapan

Manalapan is another A North team looking to replace an entire starting lineup, with last year’s group battling its way to the top-half of the standings of an ultra-competitive Class A North division. The Braves also have a new head coach, with former St. John Vianney head coach Matt Conklin taking over after longtime coach Rick Garretson stepped down. That’s a lot of new parts in the program and that new cast will be tasked with battling two ready-made contenders in CBA and Freehold Township and two more teams (Marlboro and Howell) looking to do what Manalapan is trying to do with their respective rebuilds.

Among the new rotation members, seniors Jake Buchman and Jake Heitzner are the lone returnees from last year’s rotation. Buchman and classmate Zach Mangini will be the top scoring threats in the backcourt, while junior Anthony Leger followed in Heitzner’s footsteps in transferring from Mater Dei Prep, which closed its doors after the 2021-22 school year. A group of seniors are in play for the fifth starting spot, with Kassan Scott, Dylan Sullivan, Jacob Albom and Dan Bressler battling for time.

Rounding a new group into form with a new head coach will be a challenge for Manalapan, but the Braves won’t be the only team in Class A North overcoming those challenges. CBA will be a hard team to top, but the Braves routinely give Freehold Township a good battle and should be primed to do more of the same against a tough Class A North field again this season.

Head Coach: Matt Conklin, first season
2021-22 Record: 9-11 (6-6, tied fourth in Class A North)
Key Losses:
Mike Bimonte, Sr., 6-2, Guard (RS); Mike Cerreto, Sr., 6-3, Guard; Gabe Blackwell, Sr., 6-5, Center (RS); Anthony Conforth, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R); Jimmy Bruno, Sr., 6-2, Guard/Forward (RS)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jake Buchman, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Anthony Leger, Jr., 6-3, Guard (Transfer from Mater Dei)

Zach Mangini, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Jake Heitzner, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Kassan Scott, Sr., 6-0, Forward


Off the Bench

Dylan Sullivan, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Jacob Albom, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Dan Bressler, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Omar Hadid, Sr., 6-3, Forward

Georgie Papadakis, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Phil Pearlman, Jr., 6-2, Forward

Alex Salonna, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Omar Khan, Sr., 6-0, Guard


Class A North Starting Five (With 2021-22 Stats)

Will Bradley, CBA (11.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 52 three-pointers)

Joe White, CBA (7.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals)

Jayden Holmes-Cotter, Freehold Twp. (20.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks)

Damien Padilla, Howell (7.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 blocks)

Peter Noble, CBA (9.7 points, 2.2 assists, 1.8 steals)


Breakout Players to Watch

Justin Fuerbacher, CBA

Brave Haugh, Marlboro

Nick Cardone, Freehold Twp.

Jake Buchman, Manalapan

Chris Meehan, Howell


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