I have always thought of the Shore Conference Tournament as the highlight of the basketball season even though I was opposed to the change made several years ago to expand the field from 16 teams to all of those with a .500 or better record. I’ll admit to being “old school” and feeling the tournament should be a reward for having a good season and a .500 record is not something most teams celebrate.

This year 29 of the 47 boys teams qualified for the tournament while on the girls side 20 made it into the SCT. Of course that’s pretty much academic because after Tuesday’s opening round we are down to 16.Well,  almost.

Last night I went to see 20th seed Donovan Catholic plays at #13 Toms River East as I figured that would be the best opening night game and it did not disappoint. It turned out to be one of those games that you didn’t want to end and didn’t want to see anyone lose but of course it does not work that way in sports.

The home team Raiders led by as many as 11 points but Donovan battled back and tied the game in the 4th quarter and had a couple of chances to take the lead. With the game tied at 59 East junior Phil Lingat nailed a 15-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds left to win it and set up a third meeting with crosstown rival Toms River North on Thursday night in the round of 16 as the 4th seeded Mariners had an easy time with Henry Hudson. Lingat, who has had an outstanding season, finished with 18 points while Ryan West led the Raiders with 19. Riley Collins, who fueled the Griffins second-half comeback led all scorers with 22 points.

In another dramatic finish 14th seed Southern edged #19 Red Bank 60-58 on an Ethan Dubois basket with 10 seconds left as the Rams advance to face #3 Manasquan Thursday night. Peyton Wejnert scored 24 for Southern and now has 1,850 points in his high school career.

Other winners last night included Lakewood, Point Beach and Manchester as all the higher seeds came out on top. The game between St. John Vianney and Marlboro was postponed until today because of a leaky roof and top seeds Mater Dei Prep & CBA had byes.

On the girls side the top 11 seeds had byes into the round of 16 and joining them with wins Tuesday were Toms River North, Donovan Catholic, Toms River South, Wall and Middletown North.

For updated brackets and tournament information visit shoresportsnetwork.com.