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OK, now the excitement is here after a first round with no surprises two days ago. What a night in the boys Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 on Thursday, with an upset on a last-second bucket on the girls side also thrown in.

We had coverage from six of the eight boys games, which featured three underdogs going on the road and knocking off top-eight seeds, led by 15th-seeded Point Beach, the defending SCT champion, taking out No. 2 Lakewood to get a measure of revenge after losing on a buzzer-beater to the Piners in the regular season.

SCT homepage with updated bracket and quarterfinals schedule

Senior Jesse Hill poured in 27 points, including the 1,000th point of his career, which wasn't determined until after the game, presumably after a three-way conference call with his two former schools, Donovan Catholic and Jackson Memorial, to get all the numbers added up. Hill has been on fire the last two weeks and everything seems to be coming together at the perfect time for the Garnet Gulls. Point Beach is now one win away from being the first No. 15 seed to reach the semifinals since Long Branch made the championship game in 1994.

Point Beach now faces another team that has played better and better as the season has gone on, Neptune, on Sunday in the quarterfinals. The Scarlet Fliers took home a road win over Manalapan and have now won 11 of their last 13 after a 3-7 start. Sophomore Barry Brown has really settled in as a key scorer, senior twin guards Keishawn and Kerry Kirkwood have been consistently productive, and senior forward Micah Kerr has cleaned the glass.

Hill was on the Jackson Memorial team that lost to Point Beach in last year's quarterfinals before joining them as a transfer. His coach from that Jackson team, Joe Fagan, is now the coach of Neptune. So everybody is back in the same round again, just spread out on different teams.

The player who hit that game-winning 3-pointer for Lakewood to beat Point Beach during the regular season, Tyreek Grayson, left the team this week for personal reasons, coach Randy Holmes told Matt Manley. That takes away a clutch scorer for the Piners heading into the state playoffs, where they are the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II. Lakewood's loss also meant that Class B South teams didn't win a single game in the SCT, finishing 0-5.

Freehold Township was able to hold off the Shore Conference's leading scorer, Tymere Berry, and Toms River South to reach the SCT quarterfinals. (Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ)

Matt apparently successfully cloned himself as he was also at Freehold Township's thriller over Toms River South and Neptune's win over Manalapan yesterday in addition to Point Beach-Lakewood. As I've said before, no one covers Shore Conference boys basketball better than Matt.

Toms River South-Freehold Twp. photo gallery by Sports Pix NJ

As for Freehold Township, the Patriots are back in the SCT quarterfinals for the first time since winning their only SCT title in 2007. They will take on Rumson-Fair Haven on Sunday. Nick Facendo's clutch runner helped bring it home for the Patriots.

I took in Wall's 52-51 thriller over Southern in the 5-12 game, which the Crimson Knights pulled out thanks to a driving lay-up by senior guard Trent Mitchell with 22 seconds left and a big defensive stop at the end.

That was the first time I've seen Wall in person this season, and their success is no fluke. Even though the Crimson Knights are the fifth seed, I felt like they still had to prove to people waiting for Cinderella to turn into a pumpkin that they could get it done in a tournament after winning their first outright division title since 1974.

Their biggest asset is balance. If one of their senior guard trio has an off night, like Ryan Janeczek did last night, the other two, Mitchell and Brendan Barcas, are right there to pick them up. Forward Joe Tashjy also is a nice finisher inside who can step out and hit the three. Barcas is also one of the best passers I have seen this season. He was threading bounce passes on the money to backdoor cutters and using ball fakes before whipping bullets to the baseline through Southern's 1-3-1 zone to create lay-ups and free throws. He effects the game in a lot more ways than just scoring.

Wall did a nice job of neutralizing Southern star Peyton Wejnert in the fourth quarter thanks to its defensive rotations and boxouts. Wejnert will often shoot right into double and triple teams, but he's quick enough to gather his miss and put it back in or get fouled. Wall limited that in crunch time. Southern also shot 6-for-14 from the foul line to continue a rough trend that cost the Rams dearly last night.

While Wall's "Crimson Crazies" did their usual thing in supporting the Knights, I applaud the group from "The Herd" that made the trip all the way from Exit 63 to support Southern. I can only hope that the student wearing the Gumby costume drove up the Garden State Parkway while wearing it as drivers did double takes when they saw him behind the wheel.

Wall's only trip to the SCT final was in that same 1974 season, and this could be the first time back to the quarterfinals since that same year. At the rate he's going, first-year coach Matt Kukoda might one day be the best coach under his own roof. (His wife, Lisa, is the coach of the nationally-ranked Manasquan girls team, which is the defending SCT and NJSIAA Group II champion).

There were two rivalry games yesterday between Red Bank Catholic and Christian Brothers Academy, and The Battle of Ridge Road between Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank. RBC rallied to make it a game in the third quarter, but CBA pulled away for a 15-point win in an electric atmosphere on its home court thanks to 18 points by junior Pat Andree, 17 by senior Jack Laffey, and John Salcedo burying four threes to chip in with 13. CBA continues to own RBC, having not lost to the Caseys since the 1988-89 season.

The Colts now face eighth-seeded Manasquan, which edged Colts Neck, in Sunday's quarterfinals. The Colt Crazies were also out in force yesterday, as RBC junior Eddie Hahn can attest.

(Photo by B51 Photography)

It was a great scene over at Red Bank as well, as Rumson avenged a regular-season loss by knocking out the No. 6 Bucs thanks to 14 points by senior forward Morgan Maguire and 12 by junior guard Brendan Barry. The Bulldogs now face Freehold Township in Sunday's quarterfinals.

Red Bank also may have been blinded by the Rumson student section going full preppy, as the RFH Dawg Pound did a great job yesterday. How did Rumson students find preppy clothes on such short notice?

(Photo by B51 Photography)

Toms River North knocked off Shore by six and is now one win away from reaching the SCT semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Senior guard Evan Martin stepped up with 23 points and Jordan Craig had 7 points, 12 boards and 5 blocks. The Mariners' match-up with Wall should be a good one as both have talented backcourts. Craig could be a big X-factor if he is able to score inside to open things up for Toms River North's shooters.

In the last game of the night, Manasquan beat Colts Neck by seven. After hearing about how good the Cougars' backcourt is, the Warriors' Jack Sheehan stole the spotlight with 13 points and 10 assists in the win, while forward Ryan Jensen did his usual stat sheet stuffing with 12 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks. This is the fourth straight season that Manasquan has reached the quarterfinals, which is a tribute to coach Andrew Bilodeau and the solid program he has built.

Next up is top-seeded CBA, where there is a great frontcourt match-up between Andree and Laffey against Jensen and Kyle Bradshaw. A player like Sheehan could potentially be a huge X-factor in the backcourt for Manasquan.

On the girls side, every game was an annihilation except one, as seven of the top eight seeds won by an average of 36 points. The thriller was No. 11 Freehold Township upending No. 6 Red Bank Catholic, 40-39, thanks to Sam Famulare's driving lay-up with four seconds left in the game. Senior Tori Wagner also set the school career record for blocks with 197, according to MSG Varsity's Gregg Lerner. Big win for the Patriots, who now have the tall order of dealing with No. 3 St. John Vianney on Saturday.

Speaking of the Lancers, guard Kelly Campbell had a triple-double in their 63-36 win over Matawan in which she also scored her 1,000th career point.

St. Rose, Manasquan and St. John Vianney are all strong favorites to advance on Saturday at Brookdale, while the most eagerly-anticipated game looks to be No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven against No. 5 Middletown South.


The District 22 Tournament kicks off tonight, while the other three Shore districts, 21, 23 and 24, will be held tomorrow at three different sites as the road to Atlantic City begins for all Shore Conference wrestlers.

Bob Badders has great in-depth previews of all four districts that you can find here.


Congrats to Toms River South defensive end Joe Odebode, an All-Class A South pick who signed with East Stroudsburg University on Thursday.

(Photo courtesy of Matt Martin)

Also, former Long Branch and Brick Memorial head coach Fred Sprengel is running a couple of upcoming camps at GoodSports in Wall for Shore Conference quarterbacks and linemen to check out. Info is below.

More on Friday:

On tap for tonight: Light night with just the first round of District 22 wrestling at Red Bank Regional before an action-packed weekend.

Districts 21 (Manalapan); 23 (Brick Memorial) and 24 (Pine Belt Arena) will all be held tomorrow.

Also, the girls basketball SCT quarterfinals are tomorrow, followed by the boys on Sunday. Full schedule here.