There are only a few division titles left out there on the boys side while the girls side is all wrapped up after Monday’s action as we rapidly approach the Shore Conference Tournament.
Starting with the girls, I took in the first half of Southern‘s eventual 70-45 win over Toms River North that gave the Rams a share of the Class A South title with Jackson Memorial, which rolled past a one-win Toms River East team on Monday night to get its piece of the championship. The Rams were up by 19 at the half, and it was obviously going to be an uphill battle for a Toms River North team that has been hit hard by calamity at the worst possible time. Senior guard Dana Coronato, one of the team’s top players, missed her second straight game with an illness that has put her in the hospital, while forward Sam Heck, another one of the Mariners’ top players and their main interior presence, was on crutches with an ankle injury and was not available to battle the Southern duo of Kristen Sharkey and Avery Hodgson.
Not surprisingly, it was lob city inside to Sharkey, who not only is a good finisher but also is a good foul shooter, and she put in 30 points to key the win, while Hodgson had 10 of her 12 in the first half. The Rams avenged losses to Jackson Memorial and Toms River North after losing to the two of them in their first meeting to take their share of the championship.
Jackson Memorial and Southern were the last two cars in the division title parade, making the final division champs for the 2008-09 season Colts Neck (Class A North); St. John Vianney and Rumson-FH (Class A Central non-public and public); Jackson and Southern (Class A South); Neptune (Class B North); St. Rose (Class B Central non-public); Manchester (Class B South). Congrats to all of them.
The biggest game of the night turned out to be Ocean proving that its earlier win over Freehold was no fluke with a 54-53 victory over the Colonials that spoiled a night in which senior forward Shannon Mayrose became Freehold’s all-time leading scorer. It was another pivot player, Ocean junior Annie Farrow, who stole the show with 23 points and 13 boards to key the victory. That’s a huge win for the Spartans and it only makes seeding the Shore Conference Tournament more difficult. To show what kind of crazy season this has been beyond the rock-solid top three of St. John Vianney, Colts Neck and Neptune, Ocean has a legitimate argument to be seeded ahead of Red Bank Catholic, which has a loss to Freehold, which Ocean beat twice. You don’t see that too often in the seedings, and great job by the Spartans to prove some people wrong by beating Freehold a second time.
Neptune canceled its Wednesday nondivisional showdown with St. Rose during a week in which it has games against Red Bank, which it defeated on Monday, as well as state-ranked Trenton Catholic and Eastern. That’s got to really bother St. Rose, which was counting on that game as a shot to make a big splash before the seeding meeting by handing Neptune its first loss, and now the Purple Roses are denied the opportunity to give it a shot. Too bad, because I would have liked to have seen it. I also wonder if maybe Neptune sophomore standout Syessence Davis, who is out while recovering from surgery for a broken nose and is supposed to return right around Wednesday or Thursday, may not have been available for that game. Hmmm….
On the boys side, I caught the second half of Monsignor Donovan‘s 51-49 thriller over Lakewood after running over from Toms River North’s girls game against Southern, as the Griffins won their fourth straight non-public Class B South title. Sophomore Sean Grennan continues to be outstanding as he had 26 points, and I thought the team as a whole did a solid job in limiting Lakewood’s second chances until the Piners made a lightning-quick run in the final 1:30. I think the one missing ingredient for the Griffins to really take off in the next two years is a true point guard. To me, Grennan could be a lethal two-guard if he didn’t have to worry about bringing the ball up the floor, tiring himself out beating the pressure and initiating the offense as the point guard. If he could just set up on the wing and worry about destroying his man, Mon Don would be awfully tough, especially with sophomore Anthony Duszczak inside and Kevin Carter and Ryan Milana to attack the offensive glass from the weakside.
As for Lakewood, the Piners will have to settle for sharing the public title with Point Boro. They show flashes of scary scoring ability off the dribble and on the glass and then at other times can’t hit anything from the outside or throw up wild shots. Their most consistent player is senior forward/center Tyquan Strand, who is always active on the offensive glass and finishes underneath. He may not get the publicity of Jacob Grant and Jarrod Davis, but to me he has been their best player this year from game to game.
In other news, Raritan has forfeited the game it trailed against St. John Vianney on Saturday before Nick Casalaspro smacked his head on the floor in a scary incident late in the third quarter that required him to be airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick. The forfeit means that SJV has qualified for the state tournament. Raritan has also postponed its scheduled Tuesday game with Rumson-Fair Haven and it is up in the air whether or not the Rockets and Bulldogs will even play that game before the SCT cut-off on Feb. 14. As for Casalaspro, I am happy to report that he is out of the hospital and was in attendance at the Raritan girls game against SJV on Monday night, which is great to hear.
Neptune grabbed its piece of the Class B North pie and won its 13th straight with a 66-52 win over Red Bank to guarantee at least a share of the division title. Red Bank’s SCT hopes are now on life support as it has to go 3-0 the rest of the week to qualify and still has games against Freehold, Rumson-Fair Haven and Middletown North. Freehold needs that win over Red Bank to gain its share of the division title, and Monmouth has to beat Ocean on Tuesday to claim its piece of what looks like it will be a Class B North tri-championship.
Congrats to Ocean senior guard Scott Nelson, who dropped in a game-high 21 points and scored his 1,000th career point on a free throw in the third quarter of a 66-42 win over a depleted Mater Dei team that was missing some starters to give the Spartans a win they needed to keep their SCT qualifying hopes alive. Nelson joins Central’s Ibn Moye, Monmouth’s Joe Willman and Toms River South’s Tyler Gebler as seniors who reached the 1,000-point milestone this season.
On Tuesday, the game to watch out for is Freehold Township at Middletown South at 6:30 p.m. If the visiting Patriots win, for all their ups and downs this season, they will have captured the Class A North public title. If the host Eagles win, they will have clinched at least a tie for the public title, but won’t be totally out of the woods yet as far as grabbing it outright as they still have to face a red-hot Howell team on (cue eerie music and sticks crackling in the background of the forest) Friday the 13th. Middletown South left the door open for Freehold Township with its upset loss to Marlboro last week, so we’ll see if the Patriots step through it to claim the public title. They certainly have motivation from the first game, when Middletown South drilled them, 71-42.