*WOBM bracket*

TOMS RIVER - In a gym that has often made great shooters look mortal over the years, Toms River North sophomore long-range bomber Mike Nyisztor has a distinct advantage that other shooters who enter Pine Belt Arena do not - he practices every day there because it doubles as the Mariners' home court.

"We always have the upper hand because we practice here,'' Nyistor said. "Every practice we get up at least 100 shots each, and it really helps us out."

In Monday night's WOBM Christmas Classic semifinal against rival Toms River South, Nyisztor only needed nine shots to put on a show as he drained eight 3-pointers on nine attempts on his way to a career-high 26 points to lead the way in a 73-57 victory that put the fourth-seeded Mariners (4-0) into their third WOBM Classic final in four seasons. They will try to win their second WOBM Classic title in the last three years when they face second-seeded Red Bank Catholic at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday back at Pine Belt Arena.

The No. 1 option for Toms River North in the WOBM Christmas Classic semifinals was sophomore guard Mike Nyisztor, who buried eight 3-pointers during a career-high 26-point night to put the Mariners into the final. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Nyisztor's career-best eruption came one game after he drained the game-winning 3-pointer against defending champion Manchester in the quarterfinals. The depth-perception issues and tight rims that often beset opposing shooters at Pine Belt Arena were no match for Nyisztor when he squared up and got a good look from deep.

"(Nyisztor) is the type of kid where you always try to see if he's open,'' said junior Pat Marinaccio, who had 17 points in the win. "If you give him the ball in his spot, he's going to knock it down almost every time."

One game after RBC's Liam Byrne buried six threes in a semifinal win over Freehold Township, Nyisztor one-upped him by nailing more 3-pointers in one game than he had ever made at any level of basketball in his career. He wasted no time getting rolling, as he went 4-for-4 from behind the arc in the first quarter for a 22-13 lead thanks to catch-and-shoot opportunities in transition, skip passes, and kickouts off penetration by Marinaccio, sophomore point guard Darrion Carrington, senior guard Evan Martin and others.

"All through practice, everyone always dishes me the ball, so I get a lot of shots up in practice,'' Nyisztor said. "I just like to play off everyone else. When Pat drives, he just gets me more open. Everyone gets me the open shots, and I just try to hit them."

The Mariners' shooting cooled off in the second quarter, but they were able to take a 36-29 lead into halftime thanks to Martin, who scored seven of his 14 points in the period, going 4-for-6 from the foul line. Toms River South stayed in striking distance thanks to seven combined points in the quarter by the standout senior guard tandem of Tymere Berry (15 points) and Khaleel Greene (10 points).

Nyisztor got it going again in the third quarter, canning three 3-pointers and hitting a pair of free throws to help push the lead to 53-40 heading into the fourth.

Meanwhile, the Mariners' defense held Greene and Berry to a combined two points in the quarter, forcing them to settle for pull-up 3-pointers or contested jumpers in the lane, one game after Berry put 25 points on top-seeded Manasquan to upset the Warriors in the quarterfinals.

Toms River North coach Rory Caswell rotated multiple defenders on Berry while also occasionally jumping in and out of zone looks. Nyisztor also had a pair of blocks on weakside rotations.

"Mike Husni and Evan Martin did a great job on (Berry) today, and everyone played good helpside defense,'' Marinaccio said.

With the Indians worried about Nyisztor's long-range attack, it opened things up in the lane for senior center Jordan Craig (10 points, 8 rebounds) and also provided room for Marinaccio to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Those two combined for all the points in an 11-3 run to start the fourth quarter that ballooned the lead to 64-43 with 4:41 left in the game and all but sealed the win.

"Once (Nyisztor) starts knocking down a few shots, then Jordan's open and that creates things for everyone else on the court,'' Marinaccio said.

Marinaccio had nine of his 17 points in the final period and then Nyisztor put the cherry on top by splashing home his eighth 3-pointer to make it 73-53 in the final minutes to the roar of the Mariners' home crowd.

"It just felt great to hit one more for everyone,'' Nyisztor said.

Now the Mariners look to continue the momentum they generated with a strong finish last season and remain unbeaten by knocking off RBC for their fourth WOBM Classic title in the tournament's 31-year history.

"If we play like we did today, we shouldn't have a problem tomorrow,'' Marinaccio said.


Box score

Toms River North 73, Toms River South 57

TR South (57): Berry 6 3-5 15, Greene 4 2-3 10, Schwartz 3 0-0 8, Hearne 1 2-2 4, Laing 3 0-1 6, T. Fall 4 0-2 9, Schiffer 1 0-0 3, Parker 0 0-0 0, Gillespie 0 0-0 0, Montenegro 0 0-0 0, Lofton 0 0-0 0, Peterson 0 0-0 0, Gural 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 7-13 57.

TR North (73): Husni 0 0-0 0, Martin 4 4-6 14, Carrington 1 0-1 2, Petrick 0 0-0 0, Storino 0 0-0 0, Blum 2 0-0 4, Nyisztor 8 2-3 26, Thelemaque 0 0-0 0, Marinaccio 5 7-19 17, Brannagan 0 0-0 0, Manning 0 0-0 0, Craig 5 0-2 10, Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0, Wrightson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 13-21 73.

TR South  13 16 11 17 - 57

TR North   22 14 17 20 - 73

Three-pointers: (TRN) Nyisztor 8, Martin 2; (TRS) Schwartz 2, T. Fall, Schiffer. Fouled out: (TRS) T. Fall.