Boys Basketball – St. Rose Knocks Off Manasquan, Eyes Shore’s No. 1 Ranking
BELMAR -- Brothers Matthew and Jayden Hodge knew nothing of the rivalry between Manasquan and St. Rose in boys basketball up until they arrived from Belgium to play high-school basketball in the United States.
For the last 11 years, it has not been much of a rivalry beyond the proximity of the schools. Thursday night, however, with Manasquan ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and St. Rose ranked No. 2, the Hodge brothers and the revitalized Purple Roses reignited the rivalry and authored a historic night on the St. Rose campus.
Matthew Hodge scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and led an efficient display of three-point shooting that helped carry St. Rose to a 56-48 win over Manasquan. The win marks the first time St. Rose has defeated Manasquan since Feb. 12, 2011 and snaps a 15-game winning streak by the Warriors in the rivalry.
"As soon as I got here, the whole school was talking about the Manasquan game," Matthew Hodge said. "It's the best game of the year to everybody here, so it definitely feels like the big stage and the big rivalry. We came in hungry, knowing we didn't play our best game yet but that every game starts zero-zero."
Thursday's win also sets up St. Rose to ascend to the No. 1 ranking in the Shore Conference for the first time in recent memory. The Purple Roses have not so much as reached a Shore Conference Tournament final in their history and the last time they played for a postseason championship was in 2003-04, when St. Rose lost to St. Anthony in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state final for the second time in three years.
"I remember coming to (St. Rose home games) in the eighties to watch my brother Chris play," second-year St. Rose coach Brian Lynch said. "I was a young kid, I was standing in the corner, you couldn't even get a seat and I was like, 'Wow, this is incredible.' It felt like professional basketball to me.
"I haven't seen it like that since. There was a Jersey Shore Basketball League game that was pretty packed, but not like this. The energy in here was outrageous, so I think our school is really, really happy to see a lot of fans come back and support the program and watch good basketball. That was a fun game to watch against a hell of a team."
A sellout crowd jammed into the McCann Activities and Athletic Center Thursday to watch St. Rose's biggest home boys basketball game in more than a decade and while the Purple Roses were still without three transfers awaiting eligibility, the three transfers who were eligible -- as well as every role player to step on the floor for St. Rose -- were ready to play.
Jayden Hodge came out firing with a pair of first-quarter three-pointers, 10 first-half points and finished with 11 for the game -- all while chasing Manasquan sophomore standout Darius Adams on defense. While Adams finished with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds, it came on 6-for-17 shooting from the floor.
St. Rose's shooting, meanwhile, was on-point. The Purple Roses shot 10-for-17 from behind the three-point line and 18-for-27 from the free-throw line, which helped them overcome converting just four two-point field goals in the game.
Matthew Hodge led the three-point barrage by connecting on six of his seven attempts, including his last five attempts. Hodge drained a three with three seconds left in the second quarter and banked in another with three seconds left in the third -- the latter of which sent St. Rose into the fourth with a 37-28 lead.
St. Rose jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a three by Jayden Hodge and never trailed. Manasquan pulled even, 17-17, late in the second quarter, but Matthew Hodge hit threes on back-to-back possessions to send the Purple Roses to the locker room ahead, 23-17.
In the third, St. Rose led by as many as 10 points and never trailed by fewer than seven and in the fourth, the Purple Roses built its lead as high as 14.
While St. Rose found its shooting touch, Manasquan could not keep up. The Warriors shot 3-for-15 from three-point range and were 9-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Thursday's performance marked a season-high in scoring for Matthew Hodge, who struggled to find his shot in St. Rose's first three games and entered play averaging 12.7 points, even as his team jumped out to a 3-0 start with wins over Red Bank Catholic, Matawan and Wall.
"Matt was due for a big game," Lynch said. "Matt hasn't really had a breakout game and he was one of the best players in the state during the fall. He played the first few games kind of trying to figure stuff out and then today he really stepped up. He is an impact player, so when he has that kind of game, we always have a chance."
St. Rose also got key contributions from the rest of its starting five, starting with sophomore Bryan Ebeling and his 11 points -- buoyed by an 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line.
Freshman Tyler Cameron and senior Mike Conlon combined for 14 points from the other two starter spots, with Cameron scoring eight points and Conlon netting six. Cameron also took on the task of guarding Manasquan junior point guard Ryan Frauenheim, who finished with 12 points after pouring in a career-high 29 at Ranney on Monday.
"He really disrupted the rhythm of their offense by picking up Frauenheim early and really making him work," Lynch said of Cameron. "Now, there is nothing easy for them in transition. A guy like him -- who is a freshman, doesn't make any mistakes, plays great defense, slows down Frauenheim -- these guys really stepped up and did exactly what we needed them to do."
Conlon hit four clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, was active on the glass throughout and took a key charge in the fourth quarter as well.
"We were looking for guys to give us some energy, some rebounding and some toughness, and our senior, Mike, really gave us exactly what we were looking for," Lynch said. "We have our big three guys who can score, so we're really just looking for guys who can play a role and do the little things and I thought Mike was great in that role tonight."
Junior Alex Konov was the third Manasquan player to crack double-figure scoring, finishing with 10 points. The Warriors played without sixth-man Jack Dettlinger, who was in street clothes on the bench.
St. Rose is waiting on in-state transfers Gioacchino Panzini (Red Bank Catholic), Peter Mauro (Gill St. Bernard's) and Evan Romano (Holmdel) to become eligible in mid-January and the performance of Cameron and Conlon -- the two players likely to be keeping starting spots warm for Mauro and Panzini -- stepped up in a way that will keep them getting key minutes when the Purple Roses are at full strength.
As the schedule currently stands, the third game St. Rose will play with its full 2022-23 roster eligible will be a rematch with Manasquan on Jan. 19.
"With me and my brother coming over from Belgium and three freshmen, plus all the guys who didn't play varsity last year, it's a whole new squad," Matthew Hodge said. "Everybody has had to figure each other out and then we're going to get three new players in a few weeks. Tonight shows our potential if we just stay with the process and keep getting better and keep learning together."