By The Shore Scout

It’s only fitting that the Shore Conference Tournament final is a showdown between Christian Brothers Academy and Point Beach. They’re the two best teams in the Shore. I’ll give my thoughts on what should be a terrific game, but first some random thoughts on the tournament action so far.

Noah Yates and Point Beach will try to win their first Shore Conference Tournament title in program history when they take on CBA on Saturday at Monmouth University. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I really missed the quarterfinals being at Brookdale. Long Branch is a nice facility, and everything was well run, but I missed the atmosphere at Brookdale. I used to enjoy going up to the “top” between games and running into old friends and talking hoops. It had a nice atmosphere and there was enough room that you didn't feel like you were stuck in a packed gymnasium all day. Hopefully they get the games back there next year….The game of the tournament so far was Jackson Memorial’s gutsy effort against Point Beach, a double overtime thriller that had more than a few Beach fans looking a little pale for a while. Jackson’s frontcourt duo of Jesse Hill and Eric Carter got most of the attention for Jackson this year, but the two biggest shots of the game came from their junior guards, C.J. Blue and Gino Palummo. Both of those kids weren’t afraid to take tough shots at crunch time. That’s a good sign for coach Joe Fagan heading into next year…Speaking of junior guards: I thought coach Tom Stead of Matawan hit the nail on the head when he remarked after the game against Point Beach that they could have used a third scoring option. I agree completely. Matawan may have come up a little short but juniors Jason Dunne and Joe Piscopo were terrific. Piscopo’s on-ball defense against Beach’s Matt Farrell was outstanding. Farrell’s only field goal was a three. That’s testimony enough that Piscopo did a heck of a job keeping Farrell out of the lane, where he is very dangerous. Piscopo is a bulldog, a tough competitive kid who’s not afraid to let loose from deep. Dunne is his alter ego, a smooth player with a more languid approach and a quiet confidence who can glide through the lane and finish and can also stroke the trey. Both of them are very good.

Randy Holmes has done another great job with Lakewood. To me, one of the signs of a great coach is that he gets his kids to play hard ALL of the time. Holmes’s teams play very hard year after year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to get a kid like Dan Niblack transferring in from Jackson Liberty either. Niblack is a hard-nosed player who can beat you in a lot of ways. He's had a huge impact on Lakewood’s season and came close to willing his team to a victory against a good CBA team.

Just how good is CBA? I think they're good enough to beat Point Beach, but I don't know if they can pull it off. For one thing, the best player on the floor is going to be Matt Farrell and I don't like betting against the best player in a big game. In order to win, CBA needs to contain Farrell. If he’s allowed to get into the lane where he can score or dish off to Jeff Bryant and Dominique Uhl for easy layups then CBA is done. That’s job one.

Senior Louie Pillari and CBA will try to knock off top-seeded Point Beach and stamp their return to the top of the heap in the Shore Conference by taking home their 17th SCT title and first since 2010. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Job two for CBA is to win the battle of the boards. Patrick Andree, Jack Laffey and Louie Pillari have to score inside and box out defensively. CBA must get putbacks and be the more physical team. For Beach, they’ll rely on the big three of Farrell, Uhl and Noah Yates and hope they get some production from Jeff Bryant and Chris Schifano. Yates is extremely competitive and not afraid to take a big shot while Bryant has shown a nice touch around the basket. Mike Frauenheim did a nice job for Beach coming off the bench against Matawan and could be an X-factor.

It should be a great final. I think it will come down to the final minute and the game could be decided on the foul line. If it does, I like Point Beach's chances. After weeks of leaning towards CBA in this eventual showdown, I'm changing gears and picking Point Beach. Beach wins 65-62.