What used to be the Class B Central division changes over to A Central and the mantra remains the same: smaller schools fighting for their spot in the Shore Conference. 

Last season, Keyport and Point Beach continued their winning ways, emerging as the clear threats at the top of the division. After clinching a share of the division, both teams emerged as candidates to take home a sectional title. On a potential collision course in the Central Jersey Group I final, both teams saw their seasons conclude in the semifinals -- Point Beach against Shore Regional and Keyport against eventual sectional champion Eagle Academy.

For most small-school programs, there is even more stress on staying together and carrying over the chemistry. While Keyport and Point Beach look to establish themselves as the main threats defending the A Central, Asbury Park, Henry Hudson and Keansburg have the talent and depth to make a splash in 2024. With key graduations taking place as well, the A Central looks to be one of the more competitive divisions throughout the upcoming season.

1. Point Pleasant Beach

After getting a normal season under their belts in 2021-22, Point Beach made the most of the situation and took over as one of the top threats inside last year's Class B Central. Head Coach Ed Goodman continued to establish himself and his program, winning 16 games and tying for the division in a neck-and-neck race with Keyport. The Garnet Gulls made their mark inside Group I, making it to the sectional semifinal and being taken down by fellow conference rival in Shore Regional.

Senior John Coakley will have to take his game to new heights in order to get the Garnet Gulls where they were a season ago. Coakley will look to take over the forward position full-time after the Garnet Gulls graduated Stephen Seaman. Coakley had multiple 20-point games last season and can shoot the three-ball from time-to-time. If the Garnet Gulls see themselves as divisional champions and state contenders, Coakley will need to shine just as he did a year ago.

The Garnet Gulls will have to find a dynamic playmaker to replace guard Kevin Burns, who averaged 19 points, 10.77 rebounds and 5.42 assists. Junior Scot Crowley will return to the scene and will be one of the Garnet Gulls’ starting guards after finding his way as a prolific threat last season. Sophomore guard Jacob Edgecomb will return as one of the key starters after averaging just shy of 10 points per game. Freshman Tyler Preston looks to make an immediate impact inside the A Central as the Garnet Gulls look to return to form with a wide-open division looming.

Point Beach freshman Jacob Edgecomb. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Point Beach sophomore Jacob Edgecomb. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

Head Coach: Ed Goodman, fourth season
2022-23 Record: 16-10 (7-1, T-1st in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Kevin Burns (6-2, Guard), Kyle Kolans (5-10, Guard), Stephen Seaman (6-0, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jacob Edgecomb, So., 6-1, Guard

John Coakley, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Scot Crowley, Jr., 6-2, Guard

Danny Cavanaugh, Fr., 6-3, Guard

Tyler Preston, Fr., 5-7, Guard

Off the Bench

George Breckenridge, Fr., 5-10, Guard

Tommy Wagner, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Jimmy Borowski, Sr., 6-0, Guard


2. Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson comes into the new season with high hopes and strong aspirations to establish themselves as the new threat inside the division. While the Admirals didn’t win a game inside the division in 2022-23, the program made significant improvements, raising their win total from four the prior season to 12 a year ago. The Admirals took advantage of their non-divisional matchups and worked to improve each game.

The Admirals will have to pick up the offensive slack after Jax Ross graduated. Ross led Hudson last season from the back court, averaging 14.22 points per game. Junior Jack Fitzpatrick returns as one of Hudson’s starting guards, establishing himself as a major threat with a team-high 16.16 points a year ago. Sophomore Mike Fitzpatrick will look to make a name for himself after a strong showing throughout his freshman season.

Seniors Jeremy Way and Damyon Sparks-Edwards look to continue as the veterans they’ve made themselves to be inside the starting lineup. The Admirals will be getting a new face inside their starting lineup as junior Kevin Pharo made the transfer from Monmouth Regional to Henry Hudson. With a division wide open and a plethora of returning talent, the Admirals will look to make their move early.

Head Coach: Brian Kelly, fourth season
2022-23 Record: 12-13 (0-8, fifth in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Jax Ross (5-10, Guard), Luke Jaccodine (6-4, Center)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Mike Fitzpatrick, So., 6-0, Guard

Jeremy Way, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Jack Fitzpatrick, Jr., 6-3, Guard

Damyon Sparks-Edwards, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Kevin Pharo, Jr., 6-4, Forward (Transfer from Monmouth)

Off the Bench

Joseph Newell, Fr., 6-3, Forward

Billy Quinn, So., 5-9, Guard

Phinn Kozic, Jr., 6-2, Forward

Arris Wood, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Dylan Melnyk, Jr., 6-2, Guard/Forward

Blakely Smith, So., 5-10, Guard


3. Keyport

Keyport built a foundation over the last few seasons while playing in Class B Central. With only one starter returning, the foundation will have to be redefined entering the new season. The itch to return is at as strong as ever for Keyport, as the Raiders look to build on a trip to the Central Jersey Group I semifinals, where they lost to No. 1 seed Eagle Academy. Losing 6-8 four-star recruit Nas Hart -- who has been offered scholarships by Seton Hall and Northern Illinois -- to College Achieve in Asbury Park has changed the dynamic of the roster, but there is reason to believe the rebuild will lead to imminent success for the Red Raiders and there’s no better way to get it started than inside the A Central division.

The Red Raiders will be taking some massive hits, losing four major pieces to the success from last season. Keyport will look to replace forward Max Judson, who averaged just under 17 points per game. Senior Ryan Burns will look to take over that spot as starting forward throughout the season for Keyport. Senior guard Mike Nichols will return to the starting lineup after a strong junior campaign, looking to fill the shoes of 2023 graduate Terrek Mimes and Mike Ford, whose family moved out of state, according to coach Phil Recco.

Junior Andrei Matthews is projected to be in the starting lineup as one of the “go-to” guards for Keyport after a commendable sophomore season. Juniors Dominico Dispenza and Brayan Rodriguez come on the court for Keyport rounding out the starting lineup. Dispenza showed significant strides of improvement last season and looks to have that translate in the starting lineup. While Keyport may seem to be in a rebuild, the pieces are there for the Red Raiders to be well alive in the hunt for a divisional title when it’s all said and done.

Keyport junior Mike Nichols. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Keyport senior Mike Nichols. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

Head Coach: Phil Recco, 19th season
2022-23 Record: 17-7 (7-1, tied first in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Max Judson (6-4, Forward), Terrek Mimes (6-2, Guard); Nas Hart (Jr., 6-8, Forward) – transferred to College Achieve Asbury Park; Mike Ford (Sr., 5-10, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Brayan Rodriguez, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Dominico Dispenza, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Andrei Matthews, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Mike Nichols, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Ryan Burns, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Off the Bench

Darius Applewhite, So., 5-9, Guard

Mekai Henderson, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Damion Purnell, Jr., 5-8, Guard

Tariq Walker, Jr., 5-11, Forward


4. Keansburg

Keansburg comes into the new season with a new head coach and a full reset to their lineup, looking to have their first winning season in 11 years. After improving upon their 6-15 record from a season ago, the Titans made strides in the right direction for the program's future. While a fresh starting five will set the foundation for the future, the Titans have a golden opportunity to make themselves known inside what seems to be a division up for grabs.

The Titans will look to replace their leading scorer in Mike Alonso, who averaged 14.69points in the 16 games he played. Senior Jabdiel Borges will look to lead that role, entering with a tall task of replacing the top scorer from last season. Sophomore Matthew Cerreta will look to make a name for himself as the other projected starting guard for a Titans offense that looks to find their chemistry early with a brand new group.

Junior Ja’zier Wynn will look to take over the role from last years leading shot blocker for Keansburg in graduate Jordan Bey (1.41 BPG). Wynn will be joined by sophomore A’son Young, looking to become a strong tandem for the Titans over the course of the upcoming season. Junior Isaiah Massey rounds out the starting five and will take over the duties as the opening day center. There is promise that runs through the Keansburg lineup and its younger core. The Titans will look to come out strong out of the gate to stay in the divisional race early on.

Head Coach: Ryan Waltz, first season
2022-23 Record: 8-12 (2-6, fourth in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Mike Alonso (5-8, Guard), Jahiem Hill (6-0, Guard/Forward), Jordan Bey (6-0, Forward), Na’Sun Lee (5-7, Guard), Isaiah Goodman (6-0, Center)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jabdiel Borges, Sr., Guard

Ja’zier Wynn, Jr., Forward

A’son Young, So., Forward

Isaiah Massey, Jr., Center

Matthew Cerreta, So., Guard

Off the Bench

Milan Mraz, So., Guard

Noah Noggy, Sr., Forward

Matt Rock, Jr.

Kyshier Redding, So.


5. Asbury Park

Coach Kenny Ludwig returns for his second season as the head coach of the Blue Bishops and he’ll be working with a very young roster to set the program in the right direction. The Blue Bishops were able to improve upon a 4-12 record and turn it into a six-win season in 2022-23. Asbury Park will need to replace Davon Foster and ShaBorn Goodman, the Blue Bishops’ star guards who led the way before graduation.

Coming into the new season, Coach Ludwig has a lot of trust in his freshmen. Projected to start are freshman guards Ryan Monroe and Anthony Stevens. They’ll be accompanied by freshman Lamere Kyles who looks to make an immediate impact as their third guard. Coming off the bench will be sophomore Ziamir Robinson, who will play key minutes when any of the three starters need a minute on the bench.

Senior Shyhiam Barnes and freshman Kahborii Laboo will round out the starting five, looking to set the standard as strong newcomers for a Blue Bishop program that looks to transform into a threat across the shore. Freshman Satif Cooper will look to provide vital minutes off the bench, another face that’ll try and bring Asbury Park to a winning record. If the pieces can come together and the Blue Bishops can build a foundation early on, they’ll be competitive and will be holding their own against the entirety of the division.

Head Coach: Kenny Ludwig, second season
2022-23 Record: 6-11 (4-4, third in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Davon Foster (6-0, Guard), ShaBorn Goodman (5-10, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Shyhiam Barnes, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Kahborii Laboo, Fr., 6-0, Forward

Lamere Kyles, Fr., 5-9, Guard

Anthony Stevens, Fr., 5-10, Guard

Ryan Monroe, Fr., 5-10, Guard

Off the Bench

Satif Cooper, Fr., 5-11, Forward

Ziamir Robinson, So., 5-9, Guard


Class A Central Starting Five (With 2022-23 Stats)

Jack Fitzpatrick, Henry Hudson (16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.7 steals)

Jacob Edgecomb, Point Beach (9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists 1.0 steals)

John Coakley, Point Beach (9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 blocks)

Mike Nichols, Keyport (8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals)

Damyon Sparks-Edwards, Henry Hudson (4.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks)


Breakout Players to Watch

Mike Fitzpatrick, Henry Hudson

Dominico Dispenza, Keyport

Danny Cavanaugh, Point Beach

A'Son Young, Keansburg

Lamere Kyles, Asbury Park


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