First off, my apologies, as those feature stories I planned on getting done today will not be getting done until tomorrow or Tuesday, but I do have a lot of things in the works so I will try to give you something fun to read beyond game stories and blogs as the season keeps flying along.
Before I get to the hoops, a few more football players have committed to colleges from this year’s senior class. Red Bank Catholic senior wideout/defensive back/kick returner Alex Taylor has committed to Sacred Heart, where he could possibly be joined by Point Boro star defensive tackle Jeff Keffer, who has not officially committed yet.
Also, Colts Neck wideout/linebacker Sean Smith, an All Shore Media first-team selection and the Constitution Division Defensive Player of the Year, has committed to C.W. Post along with St. Peter’s Prep quarterback Justin Perez, who is a Freehold Township resident. You can find the updated commitment list here.
Now, on to the basketball. Some final thoughts on Christian Brothers Academy’s win over St. Anthony in front of a sold-out crowd at Monmouth University on Saturday that weren’t in the game story or the live blog.
- That might be the best that CBA has shot from the perimeter against anyone all season, let alone in a big game.
- I was talking to CBA coach Geoff Billet about this after the game – Pat Light could be a Division I basketball player as well. I know he has pro potential as a pitcher on the baseball field and has already committed to Monmouth University for baseball, but he held his own with a group of about four Division I-bound big men on the Friars yesterday, and with his ability to step out and knock down the 3-pointer, he could certainly play hoops at that level. Maybe Monmouth basketball coach Dave Calloway might want to see if Light has any interest in being the rare basketball-baseball combo at the Division I level. One way or another, that looks like a recruiting coup for Monmouth right now.
- Rutgers coach Fred Hill was a busy man yesterday. He was sitting two seats down from me at the game and then I was at Connolly Station in Belmar later and I look up and Rutgers is beating the daylights out of DePaul on television. Hey, Hill already got St. Anthony stud guard Mike Rosario from last season’s team, so you know he wouldn’t mind establishing a nice pipeline to Bob Hurley Sr.’s assembly line of talent.
- When junior point guard Roy Mabrey gets rolling early, that’s usually a great sign for CBA. He nailed two threes in the first quarter to break the ice, and played a strong all-around game.
- I know everyone will talk about Brian Neller‘s hot shooting from behind the arc, but the area where he helped and may have been needed most was rebounding. Light and Matt McMullen were fighting among the trees all game, and Neller helped out, which was essential.
- It was the biggest crowd at Monmouth since the Hawks played for the Northeast Conference title in 2005, and with only 6 weeks left until Boylan Gymnasium closes its doors when Monmouth opens its new facility, that might be the last big-time crowd in the building’s history.
- With the exception of Villanova-bound Dominic Cheek, that might be the most average set of guards that I’ve seen at St. Anthony in a long time, as most of them are non-factors offensively. Also, they usually pressure the ball relentlessly on the perimeter, but I felt like Neller, Mabrey, Travis Farrell and Co. were able to operate without too much interference.
- Beating St. Anthony is a great accomplishment, but there’s still a long road ahead for CBA. Non-Public A includes state-ranked St. Augustine, St. Peter’s Prep, St. Joseph’s-Metuchen, Immaculata and Camden Catholic. That’s a formidable group to have to go through to get to the Tournament of Champions. The good news is that if CBA can play with St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony, it can play with any of those teams. Plus, it would only have to beat St. Patrick’s or St. Anthony in the TOC because one of them always knocks the other one out in the Non-Public North B final. I still think St. Pat’s is the best team and the Celtics played CBA without North Carolina recruit Dexter Strickland and star transfer Kyrie Irving at guard.
- While CBA lived by the 3-pointer in the victory, I think that was out of necessity rather than a general philosophy. St. Anthony was too big inside to regularly challenge in the paint and was swatting everything in sight early on. CBA had to make threes to win that game. St. Anthony actually had more field goals (16-14) but the threes were the difference. I don’t think you’ll see CBA doing that against Shore Conference competition because it works in the reverse as well. If CBA falls in the love with the 3-pointer too much against a Shore team and has an off day, it could get picked off. Against Shore teams, it can pound it inside to Light and McMullen and play inside-out.
- I think Billet is starting to make the hard-to-please CBA crowd into believers. I like his attacking style more than the methodical style under Ed Wicelinski (which admittedly won a ton of games) because when things break down, CBA’s players can create something out of nothing, which I thought was a problem in the past late in big games. Rather than sitting on the ball in the fourth quarter with a lead and playing not to lose, CBA kept attacking, with Pat Light’s driving lay-up late in the game a prime example. CBA could’ve held the ball there, but it saw an opening and went for it.
OK, now on to the rest of Saturday’s action. Rumson-Fair Haven picked up a nice win over a Kyle Cancillieri-less Middletown South team, as Cancillieri was out with a broken nose. Since being benched in the second half of a loss to Matawan and in the first half in a win over Holmdel about a week and a half ago, Rumson senior Matt Blumel has gotten the message and come alive, as he had 24 points in the victory. Rumson quietly has wins over Middletown South, Manasquan and Holmdel and has another game left against Manasquan to help make a pretty solid case when it comes time to seed the Shore Conference Tournament. They also nearly knocked off Asbury Park at the Battle on the Boardwalk. Middletown South, meanwhile, just seems jinxed a little bit in that whenever the Eagles seem to get some momentum, something happens, like Cancillieri’s injury.
Red Bank quietly knocked off Point Beach, which is a great win for the Bucs and not good for Class B Central, which is always fighting for respect in that SCT seeding meeting. That also must have been an interesting game for Point Beach senior point guard Jose Diaz, who lives in Red Bank and pays tuition to go to Point Beach rather than attend RBR. Diaz went to Red Bank Catholic for two years before transferring to Point Beach before last season. I’m sure he knows all of those guys on the Bucs.
Speaking of B Central, Asbury Park continues to stifle teams in its home gym as it knocked off St. Rose by 12 points to stay alone in first place in the division. The last big hurdle to the title looks to be on the road against Point Beach at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, which they will have to have for SCT seeding purposes as well. So far, Asbury Park’s best wins are St. Rose, Point Beach and Rumson-Fair Haven, and I don’t know how high that’s going to get you right now with the triumvirate from Class B North (Freehold, Monmouth, Neptune) and CBA looking like the top four seeds right now.
Now, on to the girls side where the big news of the day was Middletown South’s 43-41 upset of Rumson-Fair Haven in a nondivisional game that denied Rumson coach George Sourlis his 500th career victory. That is a huge win for the Eagles that vaults them back into the top 10 seeding picture in the SCT, and it marks the first chink in the armor for the top four of Rumson, Neptune, Colts Neck and St. John Vianney. I think it helps the Eagles more than it hurts Rumson because I still think Rumson will get a top four seed if it doesn’t slip up from here because there is not another team with a better case right now.
The victory also shows that the SCT isn’t so much about seedings as it is about match-ups. Teams aren’t so much worried about how high their seed is as they are about who they will face. Middletown South plays a similar style to Rumson, which allowed the Eagles to stay right in the game, whereas they haven’t been able to keep up with the run-and-gun teams like Colts Neck and Neptune. A half-court, methodical game is one that Middletown South will always have a chance in because Danielle Pankey and Meghan McGuinness can create their own shot and Tom Brennan is one of the Shore’s best coaches. Any time you can hold Kate Miller to single digits in scoring and pull out a win in Rumson’s gym, that’s one to savor because it rarely happens.
Apparently Rumson had T-shirts, balloons and more ready to go for Sourlis’s milestone before the Eagles thwarted it, so that shows that South can win a big game in a hostile atmosphere, which is a good sign for the postseason. I’m sure Sourlis just wants to get it over with, as he reportedly tried to downplay it all week and just wants to focus on the team and the on-the-court stuff. The next try for 500 will come at home on Tuesday against a heavy underdog in Manasquan.
Before I go, here’s a quick Super Bowl pick: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 14. I am picking Pittsburgh because if the Cardinals, one of the most inept franchises this side of the Detroit Lions, win their first title since 1947 and their first Super Bowl, as a Jets fan that might be too much for me to take. My team can’t even figure out a way to win its first Super Bowl since the 1968 season, but the freakin’ Arizona Cardinals can? The Bidwill family, some of the lamest owners in the league? Come on. I know that the Cardinals winning should be reason for optimism (i.e., if they can do it, anyone can), but I’m looking at is more depressing than anything. Actually, who am I kidding. Once I buy the squares at the Super Bowl party, I’ll just be rooting for those numbers more than any team.