Just a few quick things before I get to the discussion of today’s games. The new Top 10s will be released every week on Wednesdays because that is usually a dead day for hoops, so that will give you something to mull over in between hoops action. I also am looking to have the players of the week for boys and girls posted today as I got a little backed up with games on Sunday this week.
Now, on to today’s action, starting with the boys doubleheader of Freehold Township at Christian Brothers Academy at 4 p.m. and then No. 1 Monmouth vs. No. 2 Freehold at Monmouth at 6:30 p.m. It might be hard to see both because Monmouth is going to be sold out early, so you may have to leave the CBA game early if you really want to see both. Last time I got to Monmouth at 5:45 for a 6:30 game and barely got in the door when they played Neptune, so try and see both at your own risk. I will have stories and highlights from both games in case you miss anything.
As for the CBA-Freehold Township game, the main match-up is CBA’s depth vs. Freehold Township’s star power. The duo of Matt Devine and Steve Talbott is the most prolific in the Shore, but even if those two get their 20 points, they are going to most likely need 20-30 points from everyone else because of CBA’s scoring prowess. Plus, CBA has athletic senior Pat Light to match up with Devine or Talbott and try to slow one of them down. However, you can’t count out Freehold Township given how well it has played against CBA in recent seasons. The Patriots are going to have to play the best defensive game they’ve played all season if they want to seize first place in Class A North. CBA is more equipped to handle foul trouble than Freehold Twp. because of its deep bench, and it has more scoring threats than the Patriots. CBA also does a good job of pressuring opposing guards to make it difficult for teams to get the ball to their big men in good position to score, so if you see Devine regularly having to handle the ball and get it upcourt, that’s not a good sign. Colts point guard Roy Mabrey also has been playing at a very high level, and if he has another 17-20 point game, the Patriots should be in real trouble. Still, both of these teams like to push the ball when they have the opportunity and both student sections are among the loudest in the Shore, so this should be an entertaining game.
The marquee local game of the season thus far will be at Monmouth tonight, and these teams match up fairly well with the exception of Monmouth’s Joe Willman vs. anyone. Freehold does not have anyone who can match Willman’s size, although Christian Garcia can match his strength. If Willman can get clean looks on turnarounds and other forays to the basket, it could be a long night for the Colonials. The absolute key is to get him in foul trouble early by going at the rim on offense because Willman challenges everything in the paint.
Just some great guard match-ups in this game, with Monmouth’s Neil Thompson, Anthony Gibson and Austin Whitehurst and Freehold’s Andrew Gerbehy, Lance McKenzie, Gerry Plescia and Brandon Brown. Whomever wins the turnover battle between those two groups should be a big factor. A big key for Freehold will be pressuring those guards so that entry passes to Willman are difficult. Monmouth’s 3-point shooting is always a big factor because if Willman can draw double and triple teams in the paint and kick it out, somebody is going to get open looks from behind the arc. I think this is a big game for Garcia. He has been under the radar a little bit after a big opening flourish against Neptune, and if he can go toe-to-toe with Willman and play him to a standstill, that would say a lot. Also, if he can force Willman to come out and have to guard him from beyond 15 feet, that could really open things up in the paint for Gerbehy and others on dribble penetration.
On the girls side, Rumson-Fair Haven welcomes undefeated St. John Vianney in Class A Central tonight. The Bulldogs are the latest quality challenger on the Lancers’ rugged schedule and are coming off a loss to one of the top teams in the state, Shabazz, on Saturday. Once again, St. John Vianney’s depth looks to be the difference. The Lancers usually have five scoring threats on the floor at all times, they share the ball well, and everyone can defend. Rumson still leans pretty heavily on senior swing Kate Miller to create offense when things get bogged down, and you know St. John Vianney will swarm her and force someone else to have a 15-20 point game to beat them. St. John Vianney is just as athletic as Shabazz, which did not allow much off the dribble to the Bulldogs and challenged every shot in the paint.
Rumson’s defense is always some of the best in the state, but I just don’t know if it has the offensive firepower that the Lancers have. Plus, St. John Vianney is deep enough to withstand early foul trouble to key players. If Miller has to hit the bench for any extended periods in this game, that’s a tall order for RFH to get consistent offense. One thing is for sure, you know RFH will come out and play better than on Saturday, when head coach George Sourlis was disappointed with their effort and I’m sure let them hear it all weekend. If St. John Vianney, which has beaten its divisional foes by an average of 38 points per game thus far, does a number on the Bulldogs, you can cross another quality team off the list right now when it comes to challenging SJV’s Shore supremacy. That would leave Colts Neck and Neptune as the main challengers to the Lancers as of right now.
Also tonight, Colts Neck junior guard Lauren Clarke will hit 1,000 points for her career, as I believe she only needs four points against Manalapan to reach the milestone. That would make her the second Cougar guard in two weeks to go over 1,000, as junior Brooke Hampton did it last week in a win over Freehold Township.