Boys Basketball – Top-Ranked Manasquan is the Latest COVID Shutdown; Showdowns with Ranney Canceled
Three days before it was scheduled to take on the Ranney School in a battle of the top two boys basketball teams in the Shore Conference, Manasquan - the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - has shut its boys basketball program down for two weeks due to a case of COVID-19, athletic director Pete Cahill confirmed in an email to Shore Sports Network.
No other Manasquan programs are affected by the current protocol impacting the varsity boys basketball team.
Manasquan is the 15th boys basketball program from the Shore to shut its varsity program down since the first day of practice on Jan. 11. St. Rose - Manasquan's opponent Friday night - has not been told that they will have to shut down as of Saturday night. Monday's scheduled game at Barnegat has been canceled but two games vs. Ocean this week remain on the schedule.
Tuesday was set to mark the first of two meetings during the week between Manasquan and Ranney - which have played each other in each of the past two Shore Conference Tournaments, including the 2019 championship game. Thursday's game at Ranney has also been canceled, but Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said he expects the teams will reschedule one of the games for later in the season.
Bilodeau said he has not been told exactly what day his team will be permitted to resume basketball activities, but Saturday, Feb. 13 would mark two weeks from Saturday's shutdown. If Feb. 13 is indeed when Manasquan resumes its season, the Warriors will have lost four scheduled games - two vs. Ranney and two vs. Ocean. Its first scheduled game after Feb. 13 is a home game vs. Wall.
While four games represent one third of Manasquan's schedule, it is about the best-case scenario when it comes to losing games during a two-week shutdown when compared to other teams facing similar circumstances.
Rumson-Fair Haven and Freehold Township were both recently shut down not because of a case within their own team but because the team they most recently played had a player who was either exposed to or tested positive for the coronavirus. Rumson has six games affected by its shutdown - the second meeting against Red Bank, two each vs. Long Branch and Shore Regional and one vs. Middletown North.
Freehold Township, meanwhile, is also slated to lose six games to its shutdown, which was the result of a case of the virus in the program. In addition to the cancellation of the second game vs. Manalapan last week, Freehold Township also had two games vs. Marlboro and one vs. Barnegat knocked off the schedule without any current plans to reschedule. The Patriots already had two games vs. Middletown South canceled due to a shutdown at Middletown South and after they picked up a game vs. Red Bank to fill the opening in the schedule, Red Bank canceled due to its program shutdown.
Manalapan will also have to shut down as a result of playing Freehold Township and will miss out on six games as well: the second Freehold Township game (the scheduled 2021 home opener), two vs. Marlboro, two vs. Freehold Boro and one vs. Neptune.
A number of Shore Conference programs are slated to resume their season after earlier shutdowns, with Wall - the first team to shut down back on Jan. 13 - returned to practice at the end of this past week and is scheduled to open its season Tuesday at home against Neptune.
St. John Vianney returned from its early shutdown and opened its season Saturday with a win over Toms River East.
Brick, Henry Hudson, Point Pleasant Beach, Marlboro, and Point Pleasant Boro are all expecting to open their seasons before the end of the week, with Point Boro scheduled to open on Saturday vs. Freehold Boro and the rest of that group ready before then.
Monmouth Regional shut down just before opening night and is scheduled to open its season on Monday, Feb. 8 at Red Bank Catholic.
Lacey was among the early teams to shut down and just had its shutdown extended by another two weeks. If the Lions open as scheduled on Feb. 11 at Toms River North, they will have lost five games due to the shutdowns, with one of the two affected games vs. Southern being rescheduled for Feb. 13.
The NJSIAA has remained steadfast in ending the basketball season on March 6 with a maximum of 15 games played per team. The Shore Conference will end its regular season on Feb. 27 and begin its postseason on March 1, with a committee of coaches to seed the entire conference on Feb. 26 and place teams in corresponding playoff pods to compete in an eight-team-tournament format over the season's final week. There is no games-played minimum requirement for playoff seeding.
Edit: This story was updated to include Monmouth Regional among the Shore Conference boys basketball teams to shut down for two weeks, making the total among boys teams in the conference 15, not 14. It was also updated to reflect that Freehold Township's shutdown was the result of a case on its own team, not because of an exposure to a positive case on Manalapan.