Before we get to the basketball stuff from the beginning of this week, two quick non-basketball tidbits that I forgot to get to in my previous post.
Congrats to Shore Regional senior left-handed pitcher Rob Corsi, who has committed to Duquesne and received an academic and athletic scholarship. Corsi plays for Shore but attends Communications High School in Wall and carries a 3.7 grade-point average, according to Shore coach Jeff Karpell. Good to hear about Corsi, who went 8-1 with a 1.51 ERA last season for the Blue Devils, who won the Class B Central public title. Corsi has one of the best curveballs in the Shore Conference, a nasty 12-6 job that was his out pitch last year.
Also, I ran into former Lacey quarterback Warren Smith at the WOBM Classic over the weekend and am happy to report that he has landed at the University of Maine after spending his freshman season at Iona. Smith was the starting quarterback as a true freshman this past fall for the Gaels, who abruptly folded their program immediately after the season, sending Smith and numerous other former Shore players scrambling for a home. Iona had played Maine during the season and the Bears coaching staff was impressed with Smith, and Smith said he was offered a scholarship to join the team. He is immediately eligible because it is not a Division I-A program, and the Bears are a big step up from Iona, so congrats to Smith.
Now, on to some hoops, and I’ll start with the boys first. Scroll down if you want to jump right to the girls hoops news.
I took in Freehold‘s 60-49 win over Neptune, and Christian Garcia was as advertised. He has packed on more size, which makes him much more trouble in the paint than he was a year ago, yet he still has retained enough quickness to beat people off the dribble. Neptune had no answer for him. Senior Andrew Gerbehy also did a good job slashing to the rim off the dribble as well. Perhaps the most surprising thing is how well Freehold was breaking down Neptune off the dribble, which you don’t see a whole lot against Neptune’s quickness and trademark man-to-man defense, which is a little scary for the Scarlet Fliers because that’s not necessarily an easy thing to correct if Freehold is just quicker off the dribble. Neptune couldn’t hit anything from 3-point range and will probably just want to forget this one and move on, while Freehold, like I thought in the preseason, is a team with the potential to win the Shore Conference Tournament. The key is having guards who can handle pressure, and Freehold seems to have that with Gerry Plescia, Lance McKenzie and Gerbehy, plus Garcia can also handle the ball. Between Garcia and Gerbehy, the Colonials have two players who are match-up nightmares because of their ball-handling ability plus their height (Gerbehy) and size (Garcia). Will Howarth also is going to be a weapon for them because he is a forward with 3-point range and could be a good zone buster when they face teams that sit in a 2-3 or a 3-2 because they can’t match Freehold’s speed or quickness.
- Jeez, isn’t varsity high school basketball supposed to be hard for most freshmen? A lack of experience hasn’t stopped Colts Neck from a strong 2-0 start, as the Diaper Dandy crew routed Marlboro on Tuesday night after closing out a 10-point win over the No. 4 team in the All Shore Media Top 10, Middletown South, in their opener. The highly touted trio of freshmen Hunter Wysocki, Brian Kenny and Sean O’Reilly has been strong so far, and Wysocki in particular has drawn praise. Cougars coach Lou Piccola told me he was excited about this group during the offseason but figured it might take a little time because they are so young. So much for that. Kyle Mobbs has also stepped right in as the team’s top scorer after seeing limited minutes behind a veteran group last season that all graduated, leaving the Cougars with no returning starters. It’s definitely interesting to see that freshmen trio choosing to go to Colts Neck when in the past you could’ve probably penciled them in at Christian Brothers Academy, so the Cougars’ recent success obviously has caught the eye of a sending district that CBA has mined for talent for years. As for Middletown South, I can’t say I’m entirely shocked because I had a feeling that the Eagles guards would struggle early on before new point guard Pat O’Connell, a Red Bank Catholic transfer, becomes eligible on Jan. 19. The good news is that some of the stuff that really hurt the Eagles, like an avalanche of missed free throws, can be corrected. Then it just comes down to finding a rotation of guards who can handle pressure and allow Kyle Cancillieri and Matt Callori to establish post position and go to work rather than having to handle the ball. If they don’t find that, they are in serious trouble. I had Garret Thiel as one of the top five players in the Shore last season because he did a lot more for that team than just stuff the stat sheet, so the real challenge is finding someone the team can lean on during critical times during big games. The Eagles did come back and knock off Middletown North on Tuesday to right the ship, so we’ll see where they go from here.
- The newcomers combined with the returners on Point Beach are already paying dividends, as Jarelle Reischel and Jose Diaz each had 20 points in a 66-63 win over St. Rose on Tuesday night. First of all, when was the last time Point Beach beat St. Rose? Unless there’s a game slipping my memory, that might be the first time in like 10 years or more that that has happened. It certainly helps to have Reischel, a 6-5 sophomore swingman who is a transfer from overseas and was a starter on the U-17 national team in Germany. In a small-school division like B Central, Reischel should be able to have his way against most teams, which makes the Garnet Gulls a bona fide contender to win it all. A victory over perennial divisional standard-bearer St. Rose, which has already beaten Asbury Park, was a big one for Point Beach.
- Holmdel is looking like a dark horse contender for Class A Central honors after escaping with a one-point win over Long Branch in their opener in a nondivisional game and then taking down Rumson-Fair Haven, 51-40, on Tuesday night. Junior guard Erik Shirvanian lit it up from behind the arc, while Rumson could not find any rhythm offensively. Holmdel is one of those teams that doesn’t necessarily have the firepower to blow many teams out, but they have the ability to win close games against favored opponents and are well-coached. They also have a nice inside-outside tandem with Shirvanian and forward Mike Kelly. Meanwhile, Rumson, despite returning a veteran cast, has not been able to get on the same page offensively early on and can’t get Matt Blumel and James LeCardi both going in the same game. I don’t know if there’s squabbling over who is getting touches or what, but things are looking a little ominous for the Bulldogs in a season in which they have high expectations after winning 17 games last season.
- Lacey remained tied at the top of Class A South after pulling one out against Jackson on Monday, and the Lions have now won two overtime games out of their three games this season, so that shows some mental toughness from a group that is a mixture of seniors, transfers and a freshmen and sophomore who see significant time. Also, great job so far by new coach Ryan O’Rourke, and, as I’ve talked about here in a previous post, the addition of guard Mike Pierce from Lakewood has been paying dividends. Jackson Memorial continues to push teams to the brink and if the Jaguars can keep their confidence despite some close losses to Toms River North and Lacey, they could really be a thorn in the side of opponents in Class A South.
- Just when everyone was starting to pile on Central, the Golden Eagles went out and took down Monsignor Donovan in overtime as Ibn Moye was spectacular as usual. That is quintessential Class B South – get too high on a team, and someone chops them down a day later. Start bagging on a team, and they surprise a favored team the next day. I still think that if Lakewood really plays up to its potential, it’s the Piners’ division, but they have to prove they can get it done night in and night out. Still, that’s a beastly combo between Jacob Grant and Jarrod Davis.
- I thought the Asbury Park-Mater Dei game would be closer, but the Blue Bishops really took it to the Seraphs in an 82-54 win. It’s clear that Asbury has simply reloaded despite graduating nearly all of its offense, and Lamar Young, Joe Anderson and Darius Osborn have vaulted from role players to players who can take over a game. No team in Class B Central can match their speed, so it’s more shot selection and turnovers that will determine their fate.
- Two teams that look improved from last season are Howell and Matawan. Both lost on Tuesday, but they pushed Freehold Township and Raritan, respectively, to the end, so they both are worth keeping an eye on. Raritan, which won six games all of last season, also already has two wins in its first three games. It’s clear that when senior guard Chris Monahan is hitting from outside and junior Bennett Jackson is finishing around the rim, this is a different team.
- A team that might have been underestimated in the preseason was Shore, which looked like it lost a decent amount to graduation but pushed Manasquan to the end in its opener and then routed St. John Vianney on Tuesday night. The Blue Devils look like they have more scoring punch than in recent seasons, and they always dig in and defend, so they could be trouble in Class A Central after making the jump up from Class B Central. If players like senior Mike Pillari are going to put up 25-point nights, they will be trouble because junior Rich Vivian has proven to be a consistent scorer.
- Southern is 3-0 after cruising past Brick as senior guard Joe Tomczuk had another strong game. Having some solid interior players has really opened it up for Tomczuk, who gets much more open looks because teams have to respect it when the Rams dump the ball into the post and can’t cheat out to the perimeter on Tomczuk.
- You could tell Monmouth was champing at the bit to get its season started and did so with gusto, rolling past Red Bank in a 28-point win. With Neptune going down on Tuesday, the Falcons look like the new No. 1 in the All Shore Media Top 10, and we’ll see how they do in their holiday tournament as well as a rugged Class B North schedule that features two meetings apiece with Neptune and Freehold.
- As I figured, Neptune cruised past Freehold in their Class B North game on Monday night. The Scarlet Fliers just have too many offensive weapons, plus they now have one of Freehold’s previous best weapons in junior Sehmonyeh Allen. Right now, you would have to say that the next best challenger after Freehold is Ocean, but I don’t think anyone can match Neptune’s offensive firepower. Unfortunately, word also traveled quickly about a fight between two parents of prominent players on either team after the game. That is just depressing. I can’t say I’m shocked, because that is the state of scholastic sports in 2008, but every time it happens you wonder what in God’s name people were thinking. I’ve always secretly considered filming some of the most abusive parents during games and posting it on YouTube, just so that they can see what they look like when they are screaming incessantly at the players or officials or threatening to kill the coach or someone in the opposing stands. I could edit it into a nice little montage with “You’re Crazy” by Guns ‘N’ Roses playing in the background, although I’m sure instead of having its intended effect of getting them to stop acting nuts, they would probably just sue me for defamation of character.
- Colts Neck looks like it is going to run away with Class A North. I think I might be surprised if anyone in that division loses to them by less than double digits. The three-guard group of Brooke Hampton, Lauren Clarke and Tiffany DeTulio is just too much for anyone to answer in A North, and then you throw in a deep group of frontcourt players. The Cougars were wise to go out and seek a bunch of nondivisional and nonconference games against top teams because I don’t think they are going to get much of a challenge from A North, and that’s more being respectful to Colts Neck than disrespectful to the rest of A North, as Middletown South, Howell, and Freehold Township are all quality teams, but cannot stay with the Cougars offensively.
- Speaking of teams that are way ahead of everyone else in their division, put St. Rose in that category as well. The Purple Roses routed a solid Point Beach team by 41 points on Tuesday. Theyare just way deeper at guard and way taller and more talented in the frontcourt than anyone. Come to think of it, if you’re looking for interesting divisional races out there this season, there’s not a whole lot of them. Colts Neck, St. Rose and Neptune look like they might run away with their respective divisions, and Manchester has the ability to do the same in Class B South. That leaves the best division in the state of New Jersey, Class A Central (RBC, SJV, RFH), as well as Class A South, as the only races with any potential intrigue. That also puts more of an onus on the nondivisional and nonconference games for St. Rose, Neptune, Colts Neck and Manchester because come Shore Conference Tournament seeding time, the teams in A Central will all be using the wins they had against one another to argue for a high seed, so those heavy divisional favorites may need some other wins over top opponents to bolster their case.
- Southern junior center Kristen Sharkey now has two 40-point games in two seasons for the Rams after doing it against Brick on Monday. If she seals her defender on the block against most Ocean County teams, it’s a bucket, a foul, or both almost every time.
Finally, great win by Ocean over Wall on Tuesday night. Ocean’s defense has been tremendous so far, as no team has cracked the 40-point barrier against the Spartans. Wall’s Kathryn Campbell had another solid game, but that was all that Ocean allowed while getting a balanced scoring effort led by Marlena Klein. Ocean now assumes the mantle of the top challenger to Neptune in Class B North after the Scarlet Fliers dispatched of Freehold. Ocean’s victory also looks good in light of Wall’s victory over a well-regarded Jackson team in the WOBM Classic this past weekend.