Jersey Mike’s Week 5 Boys Basketball Team of the Week: Ocean
It had been more than a half-century since the Ocean Township boys basketball program won a Shore Conference division championship and when the Spartans took the shore bus ride to Shore Regional on Tuesday, Jan. 31, they had a chance to end one of the Shore's longest championship droughts.
Ocean grabbed a halftime lead and while the Spartans could not pull away from a game Shore team that beat them on Jan. 12, they held off the Blue Devils best efforts and put an end to a 50-plus year wait by winning the Class C South division title.
For the first time since 1970-71, Ocean is a Shore Conference division champion and the Spartans clinched it with a 53-47 win at Shore last week. For ending the half-century-long drought, Ocean is the Jersey Mike's Boys Basketball Team of the Week.
Ocean rode a strong outing from senior Brandon Loughlin -- its only senior in the starting lineup. Loughlin scored a game-high 18 points in one of the program's most meaningful wins in the last several decades, including 16 in the second half to bring it home.
The strength of the sophomore class is what makes Ocean an exciting team to consider for the rest of this season and beyond and its dynamic duo from the Class of 2025 delivered, as usual, in the win at Shore. Zayier Dean scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, while classmate Ron Richardson netted eight of his 14 before halftime to get the Spartans off to a good start.
The win over Shore guaranteed Ocean a share of the division championship and there was still an opening for the Spartans to win the division title outright. Ocean handled Middletown North in a non-divisional game on Feb. 2, but the result of that game was inconsequential in deciding the final Class C South standings.
That same night, the Spartans' eyes were pointed toward Toms River, where Donovan Catholic hosted Shore seeking to, much like Ocean did two nights earlier, earn a share of the division championship by upending the Blue Devils.
The game pushed into overtime and after grabbing the lead, Shore knocked down its free throws to finish off a 51-46 win that official gifted Ocean a division title all its own.
Ocean's magic nearly carried into this week's Shore Conference Tournament, with the Spartans going on the road and taking a five-point lead into the fourth quarter at Southern Regional. Dean tied the game with a shot in the lane with 50 seconds left and Ocean was seconds away from moving into overtime with a chance to advance, but Southern earned a trip to the free-throw line with one second left, made one of two and denied the Spartans.
Ocean's attention now turns toward the NJSIAA Tournament, in which the Spartans are currently slotted as the No. 8 seed in the Central Jersey Group III bracket with two days left until the state cutoff.
2023 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Winners
Week 1: Raritan
Week 2: Southern
Week 3: Middletown South
Week 4: Lacey
Week 5: Ocean