The Shore Daily, 2/26/15
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*Note: Friday night's girls and boys SCT championship games at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at Monmouth University will be broadcast live on the radio on 1310 a.m. and 1160 a.m., and the audio will be streaming online right here on ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
It wasn't necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing basketball in Wednesday night's boys basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals at Brookdale, but we're at the point of the season where teams aren't worried about style points. It's just survive and advance.
If you're a Christian Brothers Academy fan, it was a wonderful night, as the Colts turned in a first half for the ages, probably the best half of an SCT semifinal game in the 78-year history of the tournament. They led Toms River North 39-5 at the break, leaving the crowd at Brookdale in disbelief and finishing one point shy of giving me the perfect headline of "Colt 40-5." The Colts led 25-0 midway through the second quarter after a 19-0 first quarter and were grabbing every rebound, seemingly blocking every other shot, and scoring at will. I've been covering Shore basketball for 15 years and I was a player in the Shore before that, and I have never seen anything like that.
When 6-foot-7 junior Jack McGuire is rebounding, blocking shots and scoring in the lane for CBA, the Colts are unbeatable by any team in this area because of the already formidable tandem of Jack Laffey and Pat Andree. Once McGuire, who is a first-year starter, begins to add strength to finish with contact in the lane consistently, he will really take off. He and Andree should be a fearsome duo next season. Some of the Ivy League and Patriot League schools that have recruited Andree are starting to get McGuire on their radar as well, according to coach Geoff Billet.
I'm not going to pile on Toms River North. You've got to remember that these are kids playing because they love the game, not for a paycheck. It was essentially the combination of things snowballing badly for the Mariners in missing their first 17 shots and CBA playing its best half of the season, which added up to a nightmare for North. The good news for the Mariners is that they are still the No. 1 seed in South Jersey Group IV in the upcoming NJSIAA Tournament, so a deep run there can help bury the memory of last night's performance.
CBA actually shut a team out for an entire half in an SCT quarterfinal game back in 2006 when they beat Colts Neck 35-11 with a 22-0 second half, but that was different. Colts Neck wasn't even trying. It held the ball for four or five minutes at a stretch before shooting as everyone in Brookdale booed. I was working for the Asbury Park Press back then, and it remains the worst game I have ever covered, not even just because of the final score, but because Colts Neck essentially gave up before the opening whistle.
Head coach Lou Piccola's reasoning was that the Cougars just couldn't compete with a loaded CBA team led by star Dan Werner, so they held the ball the whole time to try to maybe steal the game by stalling. Last night was different, as both teams were going all out. CBA was just that much better, while Toms River North looked much worse than it actually is.
The second game between Neptune and Rumson-Fair Haven was like something out of the peach basket era, as the Bulldogs won 37-29 in a game that remained at 32-27 for seemingly eons down the stretch. They won with less points than CBA scored in the first half of its game. Again, style points don't matter at this juncture of the season, wins do, and Rumson got the win even though it wasn't pretty.
Plus, those types of games in the SCT are not uncommon in recent years. Don't forget that Lakewood beat Point Beach 39-33 in the 2013 SCT final and Neptune beat Colts Neck 37-33 in the 2012 final. Even Rumson's only trip to the SCT championship before this year ended with a 44-35 loss to Raritan in 2011. For all the better athletes, sophisticated scouting and more intricate plays, things seemingly haven't changed that much since Keyport beat now-defunct Atlantic Highlands High School 31-22 in the first SCT final in 1937.
Senior forward Morgan Maguire has become a crucial player for Rumson during this tournament and he had 10 points, including some key buckets last night, and kept Neptune's forwards off the offensive glass.
Junior star Brendan Barry has gone from averaging 23 points per game in the regular season to 13 in the SCT, so Maguire's emergence as a complementary scorer has been important. Obviously, Rumson is playing better teams in the SCT and Barry gets extra defensive attention, but it seems like all the constant double teams of the season may be wearing him down physically a bit as a lot of his shots have been off the front of the rim in the last two games. He still has range from the parking lot, though, and hit about a 25-foot bomb last night. As Rumson coach Chris Champeau says, he's OK with Barry launching it from the volleyball stripe, which is the line a few feet past halfcourt that is usually only used in volleyball games.
Neptune clearly has adopted the rugged defensive mentality instilled by coach Joe Fagan, so the next thing is just improving the offense. With the way they defend, the Scarlet Fliers should make some noise in the state tournament starting next week.
Things are now all set for tomorrow, with the girls final between St. Rose and Manasquan at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Rumson-CBA game at 8:30 p.m., both at Monmouth University. The St. Rose girls are now up to No. 13 in the nation, according to MaxPreps, with Manasquan checking in at No. 24. They are also ranked 1-2 in New Jersey, and this is the third time they are facing off in the SCT final in four seasons after splitting the first two. Meanwhile, CBA is gunning for its 17th SCT title and first since 2010, while Rumson will try to slay Goliath and win its first SCT championship in school history.
Speaking of "survive and advance," that was the theme of last night's Region VI pre-quarterfinals that set up the brackets for this weekend's Region VI Tournament at Pine Belt Arena.
Raritan freshman Russell Benson had a big win as the 10th seed at 120 to reach Friday's quarterfinals, while Wall's Josh Glantzman and Long Branch's Joey Jasio also picked up solid wins. Bob Badders has the full wrap-up here.
In commitment news, Wall senior two-way lineman Conor Lyden will continue his career at Gettysburg College, according to coach Dan Curcione.
More on Thursday:
- Powerful story about South Brunswick senior football star Dontae Strickland, whose team lost to Manalapan in the Central Jersey Group V final, having to live in a hotel room with his parents and siblings for his entire high school career after his dad lost his job. He persevered to earn a scholarship from Syracuse.
- A student at Eastern Kentucky tweeted the university president that the only way he was showing up for class last week was if the president came and shoveled the snow from his driveway. The president took him up on the challenge.
- A deeper look at that NYC girls basketball playoff game that one team won 117-8 two days ago.
- Trenton Catholic Academy boys basketball won a big showdown with Ewing in the Mercer County Tournament.
- There has been a scorpion invasion at several MLB spring training camps in Arizona.
- The homeless high school girls basketball player from Oklahoma profiled in a Sports Illustrated story has progressed in her life and says she has "so many reasons not be sad any more."
- A freshman for Florida State scored 30 points in barely over four (!) minutes vs. Miami last night.
- Cat Zingano-Ronda Rousey on Saturday night. Should be a good one. Buffalo Wild Wings at the Monmouth Mall is the spot.
- Look out, my Northwestern Wildcats have won four straight Big Ten games for the first time since 1967 after taking down a 19-win Indiana team. Northwestern has NEVER made the NCAA Tournament, a fact that continues to boggle my mind for a Big Ten school, but Chris Collins seems to have things headed in a good direction.
On tap for tonight: Nothing tonight. Maybe I will actually interact with my wife, friends and other members of society for a change. Tomorrow is a full day with the two SCT finals and the Region VI wrestling quarterfinals, so things will get back into gear soon enough.
I will end with the RFH Dawgpound, which went to the nuclear option last night by pulling out the most hideous face they could find to distract Neptune's free-throw shooters.