After seeing Christian Brothers Academy and Monmouth get it done on the boys side yesterday, there is a bunch of stuff to get to. Since I wasn’t able to get to the Player of the Week stuff (that will start this coming Monday), we’ll just go around the Shore to point out some notable players and trends. On Thursday, I will get to the girls side of things.
Monmouth and CBA are just looking a cut above everyone just now. CBA has the balance to match the Falcons because the Colts are not heavily guard-oriented or frontcourt-oriented. Pat Light is the one player who I think can match up with Monmouth’s Joe Willman and make him work because Willman has made it look easy every time I’ve seen him. He is so quick to the basket for tip-ins that it will be imperative to get a body on him when the ball goes up rather than looking at the rim because he gets so many points by perfectly anticipating the carom off the rim and tipping it right back in. Light is a big-game competitor who I’m sure would be eager for the challenge of slowing down Willman, and he would have sophomore Matt McMullen to also lean on Willman to give him a rest.
CBA’s Achilles’ heel right now is outside shooting, but its overall play and its work on the offensive boards to get second-chance points has covered it up. They still should have to correct it because if they run into a team that can control the defensive backboards and they aren’t hitting from the outside, they could be in trouble. They are the deepest team I’ve seen because their guards off the bench will look to score on offense, Jon Rohan can defend any position from the 2 to the 5 and they have some big bodies who can give Light and McMullen a quick rest. In the games I’ve seen, point guard Roy Mabrey has always gotten off to a fast start offensively which has usually helped the Colts work through any early rough patches. They have five legitimate scorers in their starting lineup and a few more off the bench, which not too many teams can boast at all. I’m very interested to see how they do against St. Patrick’s in the Battle on the Boardwalk on Saturday.
CBA also plays St. Anthony on Jan. 31 in yet another powerhouse nonconference tune-up. The Colts might have wanted to have scheduled that one before Jan. 19, when the Friars get three stud transfers eligible and should resemble the monster we all know rather than the team Rumson stayed close with in a loss on Saturday. One of St. Anthony’s guards is D’Marcus Owens, the younger brother of former Neptune guard Kevin Owens, who transferred from Neptune. Owens is pretty small but quick. He is more of a defender and a distributor for the Fliers, and he got some good minutes on Saturday. I don’t know if that will change dramatically when the transfers become eligible.
As for Monmouth, I’m curious to see how the Falcons do away from the cozy confines of the Falcon’s Nest. They have been nothing short of excellent there and picked up a nice win against Freehold on Tuesday night. Willman is just incredibly efficient. He has to be shooting about 65 percent or better from the field this season because not only is he getting tip-ins, dunks and lay-ups, he is knocking down every open 15-footer he gets. Anthony Gibson and Neil Thompson have a good sense of when to pull the trigger on the three, when to settle down and run the offense for a good shot, and when to just bust their man off the dribble, get into the lane and either score or dump it to Willman or Brent Shelton.
Freehold is still a solid team that I think will be a factor as the season progresses. Their lack of size got exposed by Willman, but they have enough scorers that they can stay in a shootout against a team like Monmouth if everything is working offensively. They got away from getting Andrew Gerbehy the ball in a good spot to score and just really stagnated in the second half offensively. Their guards were outplayed by Monmouth’s guards, but a big reason for that was the presence of Willman and what that creates offensively. Don’t think this Colonials team won’t be highly motivated the rest of the way. If you haven’t seen the bulletin board outside their locker room, it is highlighted with every slight and coach Ben DiBiase challenges this team to prove people wrong. One thing they might consider next time is front Willman in the post, as he was allowed to make the catch cleanly on the block and then decide to kick it out or make a move from there. The harder the entry pass is, the harder it might be for Monmouth to get a good look.
As for some other stuff from around the Shore, here goes:
Class A North
CBA appears on its way to running away with this division title and we’ll get another indication after it plays young Colts Neck on Friday night. Freehold Township has the offensive firepower to make quality opponents sweat, but its two big guns have to have big games for it to take down the likes of a CBA or Monmouth. Middletown South is kind of the wildcard in this division, with new point guard Pat O’Connell, a Red Bank Catholic transfer, becoming eligible in five days after sitting out for 30 days. O’Connell cannot be looked at as the savior because that is a little unfair, but if Kyle Cancillieri and Matt Callori can worry more about scoring than handling the ball, that can’t hurt. The Eagles also have to defend much better than they have and need more leadership, which Garret Thiel provided in spades last year but has been missing a little thus far. Middletown North has quietly rallied close to the .500 mark after an ugly start, so the Lions are a team to keep an eye on. Howell picked up an impressive upset of Brick Memorial over the weekend and Manalapan nearly took out Freehold Township on Friday, so those teams can throw a scare into people if they’re not careful.
Class A Central
This division is starting to get a little wild, as Holmdel lost its first divisional game by dropping one to RBC on Tuesday night, and Rumson-Fair Haven was stunned by a one-win St. John Vianney team after the Bulldogs beat division favorite Manasquan on Friday. Holmdel has been under the radar but has a good junior core and should stay in the hunt for this division despite the loss. The Hornets need Mike Perillo, Mike Kelly and Erik Shirvanian to all play well against quality opponents if it is going to start knocking off top teams. It faces Manasquan on Friday, which looms as a big divisional game. RBC guard Dan Calandrillo has been cited by more than a few coaches as maybe the best deep shooter in the Shore or at least right at the top, and the Caseys seem to be gaining some momentum that was only halted by a loss to No. 1 Monmouth. I still like Manasquan as the front-runner in this division, and a big key will be senior guard Kyle Wehner. He has struggled in their losses, and his game-changing 3-point shooting ability is certainly a good part of the Warriors’ offense. Quietly, Raritan has already tied its win total from last season (6) and is improved, but the Rockets got picked off by a scrappy Shore team on Tuesday that could really be a thorn in a lot of teams’ sides as this divisional race goes down to the wire. Senior guard Mike Pillari has really come from off the radar to a player circle on opposing scouting reports for the Blue Devils. The real wild card so far has been Rumson, which looked like it would challenge Manasquan for the title in the preseason but has been all over the place so far. Which Rumson team shows up in the next month will have a big effect on this race. St. John Vianney‘s record is also a little deceiving because the Lancers have three overtime losses. They could easily be 5-3 instead of 2-6.
Class A South
Defending champion Toms River North is in the lead right now, with a large pack of teams chasing, including Brick Memorial, Lacey, Toms River East and Southern. Senior Steve Nyisztor and the Mariners seem to have more offensive balance and more overall offensive threats than the teams chasing them, although Brick Memorial might have the top go-to scorer in Matt O’Brien. The Mustangs lost to Toms River North last week and then were stunned by Howell, so they are in a little bit of a mini-swoon right now. As for the other three, I’m waiting to see which one separates itself from the pack and gives Toms River North a run. Toms River East has shown flashes behind junior guard Richie Suhr and I think might have the most potential out of any team in that group. Southern got off to a great start but has struggled lately, so the Rams are looking to get back on track, and the same goes for Lacey.
Class B North
Since I already discussed Monmouth and Freehold above, that leads us to Neptune. I can’t get a handle on this team yet. Are the Scarlet Fliers just undermanned against teams like Freehold and Monmouth? Or are they a work in progress whose guard play will improve and whose interior play will get better as its relatively inexperienced frontcourt players get more experience? I’m just not sure right now, but one of those seniors needs to take the reins of that team and get them back to their trademark turnover-creating defense.
A little under the radar has been Long Branch, which won eight games all of last season and already has five wins in its second season under Raleigh Woodruff. Guard Jared Walker has emerged as a consistent scorer for the Green Wave, who upended Red Bank on Tuesday. Red Bank is in an interesting situation because its best players are its juniors, led by forward Stephen Frost, but it needs it seniors to play big minutes and do the little things like take care of the ball against pressure and play defense if it’s going to be successful and sometimes that can be a tricky situation. That team still looks like it’s trying to find its way, but having seen them, the Bucs have the ingredients to put a scare into someone come tournament time. They could be one of those teams that gets in right at the cut-off and then stuns someone in the first round or at least gives them a tough game.
Class B Central
St. Rose is the only team from this division that I’ve seen this season, but I’m looking to correct that in the coming days because this is the first time in a while that the small-school division has had this many quality teams. In addition to the Purple Roses, Asbury Park and Point Beach have opened some eyes early on. While sophomore guard Jarelle Reischel appears on his way to becoming a Division I player for the Garnet Gulls, I wonder if they have enough firepower beyond him to sting a good team in the SCT. Right now, I would think Asbury Park is best equipped to be the team that no one really looks forward to playing in the first round of the SCT because of its superior speed and an array of scorers like Lamar Young, Joe Anderson and William Jones. Mater Dei and Keyport are two other teams that look like they should make the postseason, so the question remains whether either of them can pick off a St. Rose, Point Beach or Asbury Park in divisional play to show that they have the potential to be trouble in the tournament.
Class B South
You knew it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing for Point Boro in this division because these teams routinely pull each other down the second that one of them seems to get some breathing room. Monsignor Donovan and standout sophomore Sean Grennan handed the Panthers their first loss in OT and now face Lakewood on Thursday night in what is suddenly a big divisional game because the winner can stay tied with Point Boro with one divisional loss. I figured the Griffins would be a factor because they are well-coached and they just had so many new players to incorporate with Grennan that it wasn’t going to happen overnight. Sophomore Anthony Duszczak in particular has really started to play well for the Griffins and has become a reliable rebounder and complementary scorer. Central is still mainly a one-man show with senior Ibn Moye but is always a threat, especially with JoJo Hardy showing some flashes of being a good secondary scorer. Manchester has been all over the place and looks like one of those teams that will need a win right around cutoff time to qualify for the postseason.