TOMS RIVER - The mark of a winning program is that when the faces change, the results don't.

On Tuesday at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River, not all of the faces in the Toms River North starting lineup were familiar, but the Mariners secured a result that has become all too familiar for its opponents in the Shore Conference Class A South.

The Mariners - ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - beat Brick, 62-47, Tuesday for their 47th straight win in divisional play dating back to February of 2015.

Junior Jakari Spence scored a game-high 24 points and also posted six assists and three steals to lead the Toms River North effort. Classmate Najae Hallenbeck and senior Nick Duncsak each added 12 points, with Hallenbeck grabbing 12 rebounds and Duncsak pulling down six to go with two blocks.

Toms River North junior Najae Hallenbeck goes up for two of his 12 points vs. Brick. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Toms River North junior Najae Hallenbeck goes up for two of his 12 points vs. Brick. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

That trio of Spence, Hallenbeck and Duncsak all played major minutes last year and started at points during the season for a Toms River North team that began the year with five senior starters. All three are starters now and juniors Colin Baker and Mike Vansprang now join them in the starting lineup as they try to continue Toms River North's dominance in Class A South.

"We're definitely a new group," Toms River North coach Rory Caswell said. "We have a couple of young kids who didn't play a lot of varsity last year who are getting a lot of experience. I was happy with my kids (in a 70-63 loss) at St. Augustine (on Saturday). We didn't win and we're not happy about that, but they really competed against a great program and tonight we were very happy with three of our quarters."

Tuesday, Toms River North once again had the look of a team bent on overwhelming the competition in the division again this year. The Mariners won every division game in 2017-18 by at least 10 points and led by double-digits for almost the entire second half on Tuesday.

The Mariners led a low-scoring affair, 22-15, at halftime and 24-18 early in the third quarter before blowing it open. Toms River North went on a 12-0 run to push the lead to 18 before the end of the third and stretched it as high as 42-22 early in the fourth. The two teams played a frenetically-paced fourth quarter after three defense-heavy quarters, with Brick outscoring Toms River North 26-24 over the final four minutes.

Senior Shane Williams led the Green Dragons with 21 points and 11 rebounds, senior Jalen Jackson had 14 points, four assists and four steals and junior Anthony Maniscalo poured in 12 points on four three-pointers in the loss.

"The word we used in the locker room was 'contain' them, because you are not going to totally shut down two kids like that," Caswell said of Williams and Jackson. "We threw a defense at them that wasn't exactly a junk defense, but it was designed to give them different looks. We started in our zone and once they started getting comfortable with that, we went to more of a match-up 3-2 and keyed on them. The kids did a really nice job with it and that's about the time we pushed our lead to 20."

Brick was one of three teams (Brick Memorial and Toms River East) to finish tied for second in the division with Toms River North last season and with Williams and Jackson back in the starting lineup after all-division seasons, the Green Dragons figured to be near the top of the list of A South teams with a chance to end Toms River North's streak.

"It was good to see us defend the way we did for three quarters," Caswell said. "We started slow offensively but I was happy with what we showed in our defensive intensity. We just have to close in the fourth quarter better than we did tonight and I think we'll be fine."


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