Rumson-Fair Haven girls coach George Sourlis, who is in his 23rd season with the Bulldogs, is in line to claim his 500th career win with a victory over Middletown South in a nondivisional game at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Rumson. That is a tremendous milestone, and what I am trying to figure out is if Sourlis is the first Shore Conference girls coach to ever reach the mark, making him the all-time winningest girls coach in Shore history. I don’t know much about teams before the rise of St. John Vianney in the late 1980s and if there were any dynasties or long-time coaches from the 1970s to early 1980s that might have reached the 500-win plateau, but I don’t think it’s been done by a Shore Conference girls coach. Sourlis may be writing Shore Conference history as we go here, which I’m sure he’ll shrug off with some sarcasm and give credit to his players as usual, but that is something to really take a minute and admire the accomplishment.
Also, some quick football updates. Ocean defensive lineman Rick Lyster, an All Shore Media first-teamer and the Liberty Division Defensive Player of the Year, has committed to Lafayette, according to Ocean coach Don Klein, so congrats to Lyster. Another Ocean senior, safety/wideout Rhett Cowley, is narrowing it down between Lafayette, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. Also, our wrestling writer, Bob Badders, spoke with Point Boro senior Jeff Keffer, a defensive tackle who was one of the top defensive players in the Shore this season and an All Shore Media first-teamer, and Keffer will most likely be committing to Sacred Heart. I also spoke with Freehold coach Mark Ciccotelli on Thursday and it looks like star wide receiver/defensive back Brandon Brown, another first-teamer, will end up at either Kean University or Rowan University, according to Ciccotelli. Senior quarterback Nick Tyson is still undecided.
One other quick thing: I have two boys basketball features coming that I thought I would have gotten done by now (stupid eating and sleeping, always getting in the way), but I hope to have them up before you are stuffing yourself with chips, dips, those mini hot dogs, buffalo wings and everything else under the sun while watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night, so stay tuned for those.
Tonight I will be at the Monmouth at Neptune boys game after watching the Scarlet Fliers top Freehold, 56-55, in a thriller on Thursday night. CBA at Middletown South is another game to keep an eye on tonight. A few quick points on that game that weren’t addressed in the game story and then I will get to some other stuff from Thursday night before Friday’s action gets underway.
- He may have only had 2 points, but burly center T.J. Hicks gave Neptune something I thought it lacked in its earlier losses this season – a sense of toughness and nastiness. Hicks was not going to let his teammates get pushed around and dealt out a few hard fouls during the game. His contribution didn’t show up in the box score, but I thought he was important to Neptune’s success.
- I know it sounds a little crazy because of the Fliers’ guard depth, but Neptune’s best 3-point shooter might be senior forward Dan Singleton. He doesn’t shoot a lot of them because he spends most of his time in the paint, but he can knock it down from the outside.
- Neptune was able to slow down Freehold’s Andrew Gerbehy because it had a healthy amount of respect for him. Talking to Neptune’s Lem Walker after the game, he said that in the first game, they knew Gerbehy could shoot, but they didn’t think he had the ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim, and he surprised them. This time, they came out knowing what to expect and did a better job.
- Neptune is started to play with more fire. I thought in their previous losses to Monmouth and Freehold that they didn’t play with energy and they looked for other people to make a play when things are going wrong.
- Freehold senior swingman Will Howarth might be one of the most improved players in the Shore Conference this season. He went from a bit player last year to someone who is not afraid to take and make big shots in the fourth quarter, and he has range out to about 23 feet. You can tell he has worked hard on his game and now has the confidence to go with it.
Monmouth’s Anthony Gibson and Neil Thompson, who I think are the only ones who might see more games than me, were in attendance last night, so they saw firsthand what to expect from the hard-charging Scarlet Fliers right now. If Monmouth gets this one without Joe Willman, I think the Falcons will start to make others believe that they can still make a run to the Shore Conference Tournament final without the Shore’s best player.
The other games that jumped out on Thursday night were Lacey‘s 59-51 win over Toms River North, Mater Dei‘s overtime win over Keyport and Lakewood escaping Central in overtime. Lacey senior point guard John Pierce nearly had a triple-double in the win and showed how dangerous that team can be when he plays well because it usually leads to a big game from forward Justin Smith (24 points against TRN), who is on the receiving end when Pierce drives and dishes. Pierce is quietly a four-year varsity player and one of the most experienced guards in the Shore, which could make a difference come tournament time. The Lions’ win also means that Brick Memorial can take the Class A South title all for itself by beating TRN on Monday and winning the rest of its divisional games.
Class B Central is getting a little wild as Keyport handled St. Rose without Tony Lopez and then came back and got beat by Mater Dei in overtime. That’s a good win for the Seraphs, who are fighting for their postseason lives right now. After beating Point Boro last week, Central nearly took down Lakewood in overtime before Ibn Moye fouled out on a call that left a lot of Central fans angry. Central is showing that it may not be a team people want to see in a preliminary-round SCT game because if Moye, JoJo Hardy and Mo Ibrahim get it going offensively in the same game, th Golden Eagles can pull off a surprise. Lakewood, meanwhile, set itself up for a showdown with Point Boro on the road in a huge Class B South game on Monday.
Monday is shaping up to be a doozy of a day on the boys side. Monmouth travels to Freehold for a huge Class B North game that also will have major SCT seeding implications, Brick Memorial heads to Toms River North with the Class A South title up for grabs and Lakewood heads to Point Boro for a huge divisional game as well. That’s a day for the cloning machine.
As for Saturday, the game of the day is Christian Brothers Academy vs. St. Anthony at Monmouth University at 2 p.m.. This is not the St. Anthony team that Rumson hung around with earlier in the season. Devon Collier, Ashton Pankey and Derrick Williams are three talented transfers who became eligible on Jan. 19, boosting the Friars dramatically. Collier is 6-8 and already has offers from St. John’s and Villanova, Williams is 6-7 and 235 pounds and Pankey is 6-8. They are added to a team that already includes Villanova recruit Dominic Cheek, one of the top guards in the country, and Quinnipiac recruit Jamee Jackson, another big body in the middle. Also on the team is Neptune resident D’Marcus Owens, the younger brother of former Neptune guard Kevin Owens, who sees significant time and is a distributor and defensive player at point guard.
In other words, CBA’s Pat Light and Matt McMullen are going to have to rebound better than they have all season because the Friars have an army of big bodies attacking the offensive glass. The other bad news is that CBA starting guard Adam Spengler broke his hand against Howell, leaving them with one less experienced ball-handler against St. Anthony’s trademark full-court pressure. CBA is going to need Brian Neller to step up not only on the scoring end, but also help out with the defensive rebounding. If the Colts can turn St. Anthony into a jump-shooting team and limit second chances, they will have a shot. However, that is much more easier said than done.
As for the girls side, I took in Neptune‘s 66-46 win over Freehold and I’m happy to report that all the action took place on the court, as opposed to the first meeting between the teams. Neptune sophomore guard Syessence Davis is one of the toughest players in the Shore. Apparently she broke her nose in the Trenton game over the weekend, and I was at that game and she never came out or never gave any indication that an elbow had just fractured her nose. She is playing with a facemask now and will have surgery on Feb. 3. She is expected to miss about a week after the surgery, so she may be back just in time for a key nondivisional game against St. Rose on Feb. 11 that will have SCT seeding implications. Her defense is crucial to Neptune’s full-court press, and she also is a very underrated passer as well.
Red Bank Catholic nearly stunned Rumson-Fair Haven in falling 39-36, but I can’t say I’m ever shocked when one of these teams plays the other very tough regardless of record or past history. They both know each other so well that these games are often ugly offensively because the defense can anticipate everything. The main difference is that RFH has Kate Miller and RBC does not. She had 21 points in a low-scoring game and was the difference.
Also, Barnegat nearly pulled an upset before falling in overtime to Point Boro in Class B South. Sophomore guard Autumn Herring is a player to watch for the Bengals, who have given some solid teams a run for their money this season.