Spinella commits to South Carolina/Martell Blossoming at URI/Friday hoops extras

Former Colts Neck star forward Steve Spinella committed to South Carolina on Friday after making his official visit earlier in the week down in Columbia, S.C. Spinella is averaging over 30 points per game as a post-grad player at Apex Academy in Pennsauken. He led the Shore in scoring last season and helped the Cougars reach the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. He picked South Carolina over Seton Hall and UNC-Greensboro among others. Having visited Columbia, S.C., on numerous occasions I can see how the official visit closed the deal. Let’s just say there’s no shortage of social life down there in addition to basketball, plus it’s a beautiful area. Congrats to Spinella, who really blossomed in the last two years.

Also, here is another update on a former Shore player who is doing well that was passed along by one of our readers. Former Rumson center Will Martell has overcome the naysayers and become not only a Division I player at the University of Rhode Island, but one who is making an impact as a 7-foot center. Like Spinella, Martell also did a post-grad year, with his coming at the Hun School out in the Princeton area. Martell was set to go to a Division III school out of Rumson before reconsidering and doing the post-grad year, and it significantly upgraded his situation.

As for those who are currently playing, it was a wild Friday night on the boys side in which some division races became a little clearer (Class B Central) while others got murkier (Class A Central and Class B South). The madness continued in Class A Central, where front-runners Holmdel and Shore both hit the deck against Rumson-Fair Haven and St. John Vianney, respectively. Easily the most confounding team is Rumson, which lost to last-place Matawan earlier in the week and then came back to sting a Holmdel team that was tied for first place in the loss column with Manasquan, leaving the Warriors alone in first again. St. John Vianney, which is also at the bottom of the division, knocked off a Shore team that was playing better than anyone in the division. I think the reason for all of this parity is that all of these teams are flawed, so the margin for error is slim. No A Central team really has the offensive firepower to just blow teams out, so it comes down to defense and execution. One thing that is for sure is that it may be hard for any of these teams to get a decent seed in the Shore Conference Tournament because they keep knocking each other off.

The other two upsets of the night belonged to Howell and Central. We’ll start with the Rebels, who took out No. 7 Freehold Township to give the Patriots their second loss in two days. Senior guard Tom Callahan (who once sold half a million brake pads to save the city of Sandusky, Ohio) went off from behind the 3-point arc for Howell, and the Patriots are really searching for answers right now as their offensive chemistry is lacking and their defense is struggling. Howell, meanwhile, quietly has wins over Freehold Township and Brick Memorial, which has to be frustrating in a sense because if they can beat those teams, they feel they probably shouldn’t be 7-8. However, they are still right there in contention for a postseason berth, so if they keep the momentum going, they could be a spoiler in a couple of weeks.

Central had a big night as the always-explosive Ibn Moye poured in 27 points, including his 1,oooth career point, in an upset of first-place Point Boro in Class B South, which now puts Lakewood alone in first place in the division. As long as Moye is in the mix, Central always has a chance to pull off an upset. It was a tough week for the two teams that entered as Ocean County’s best teams, Toms River North and Point Boro. The Mariners fell to three-win Toms River South, and the Panthers went down to a Central team that has hovered around .500 for most of the season. Brick Memorial seems to be gaining steam, and we’ll see if that continues against Holmdel on Saturday.

Monmouth had to pull one out against Red Bank, 53-50, one day after suffering a devastating blow with the loss of senior center Joe Willman to a season-ending injury. Unless Monmouth is still in shock and Red Bank took advantage of it, that’s a troubling sign for the Falcons because they blew Red Bank’s doors off twice this season before that game, so if the gap has been closed that dramatically without Willman, it’s going to be an uphill battle the rest of the way. I would guess that RBR ran its match-up zone on defense because it didn’t have to worry about Willman destroying it on the offensive boards like he did in the first two meetings, and the Bucs took Monmouth to the wire. I’m sure Neptune and Freehold’s coaches were there taking notes about the Willman-less Falcons.

I took in the St. Rose-Point Beach game and the Purple Roses romped to a 19-point win. I think junior Chris Hueth makes a big difference for St. Rose because he is a physical presence who likes to mix it up in the paint, which St. Rose seemingly hasn’t had in a while. He gives them a little more of an edge than usual. They just ran right through Point Beach’s defense for lay-ups or open threes for most of the night, although the Gulls did have success when they pressured St. Rose full court out of desperation toward the end. The Roses are going to have to tighten up that aspect of their game if they expect to go into Asbury Park’s tiny court and win on Jan. 31 against the Blue Bishops’ relentless pressure.

Senior center Sean McPaul showed a little more shooting range than I have seen from him in the past, as he was hitting turnarounds from 12-13 feet and looked good offensively. He is a huge key to St. Rose’s SCT hopes because most teams don’t have anyone who can match his size. If he can start to take over offensively at times, the Roses could be tough.

As for Point Beach, it just wasn’t the Gulls night. The two times I’ve seen them, their defense has been a little shaky. If their shots aren’t consistently falling, they are in trouble. Sophomore Jarelle Reischel didn’t have the best night, and he still had 17 points, which will tell you something about his talent. He has already been offered by Rutgers, according to Point Beach coach Nick Catania, and Kansas, Temple and a host of others are all heavily interested. Senior guard Jose Diaz has received interest from Bloomfield, a Division II school, as well as a handful of other Division II and III schools and possibly Division I NJIT as a walk-on, according to Catania.

On the girls side, the news of the night was Middletown North‘s upset of rival Middletown South. Middletown North is almost like the Howell of the girls side, as the Lions have struggled but boast wins over Ocean and now the No. 6 Eagles. Also, just like Howell’s boys, never underestimate a team that is in must-win territory when it comes to their SCT and state playoff hopes. While also showing that you can throw records out the window when two cross-town rivals meet, the Lions’ win also shows that after the top five teams now, anyone can beat anyone. Middletown South seemed immune to the upset bug, only losing to top teams like Colts Neck and Neptune, but now the Eagles have been bitten too like everyone else short of St. Rose. They also have to recover quickly as they have a tough nondivisional game against Southern on Saturday in a game that will have SCT seeding implications. As for Middletown North, Kim Ridolfi has led the Lions back from a rough start and is an underrated player to watch.

Like the boys, Howell’s girls also picked off Freehold Township, which was a nice win for the Rebels. Finally, Raritan senior Alexa Ryan dumped 10 threes and 44 points on Matawan, beating the previous school record of seven 3-pointers.

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