First I will give my picks for the girls Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 tonight, where I will be checking out St. Rose’s game against Freehold for the right to most likely face second-seeded Colts Neck in Saturday’s quarterfinals, and then I’ll talk about some of the boys hoops action from Wednesday night.
So far I am 6-2 with my picks as Class A South stuck it to me for picking against Jackson Memorial and Brick in the opening round.
(16) Jackson Memorial at (1) St. John Vianney: Jackson’s guards are solid, but they haven’t seen anything like the Lancers are about to bring. St. John Vianney’s relentless depth and speed will just be too much for the Jaguars. The pick: St. John Vianney.
(9) Ocean at (8) Manchester: This game is all about tempo. Ocean wants to slow it down, Manchester wants to rev it up. I picked Manchester, but I admit I am worried about picking against Ocean because the Spartans have proved a lot of people wrong this season. Camille Valmon is the one to watch for the Hawks, and Precious Allen can change the game with her 3-point shooting. Ocean’s offense is not really built to come from behind if the Spartans get down by double digits, so they have to withstand Manchester’s initial rush if they want to have a chance. Ocean has beaten more legitimate teams than Manchester has this season, so we’ll see if strength of schedule helps them out at all against the run-and-gun Hawks. The pick: Manchester.
(12) Toms River North at (5) Southern: This is an interesting game because Toms River North has Sam Heck back from an ankle injury to battle Kristen Sharkey and Avery Hodgson in the post. These teams split during the regular season, but Southern killed the Mariners in the second game because Heck and guard Dana Coronato (who is still out with an illness) did not play, so the Rams just lobbed the ball into the post over and over. I could see it being much closer this time around, but I still think Sharkey, who recently scored her 1,000th career point, is just too much. TR North has to shoot well from the perimeter to have a shot. The pick: Southern.
(13) Freehold Twp. at (4) Rumson-FH: Freehold Township has struggled at times offensively this season, although they did look good in an opening-round win over Brick Memorial, but those struggles don’t bode well against a Rumson team that usually ramps up the defense in the postseason. Rumson has the best player on the floor by far in senior Kate Miller, and that’s enough for me. This might be an ugly, 37-29 type game, but Rumson will get it done. The pick: Rumson.
(14) Raritan at (3) Neptune: Raritan won’t be intimidated after having played in Class A Central this season, but you can’t simulate Neptune’s speed in practice. Raritan will try to drain the clock and limit the possessions in the game to hang around, but Neptune’s full-court press usually takes its toll. The Scarlet Fliers have too much offense for the Rockets, who can’t match the weapons of Shakena Richardson, Sehmonyeh Allen, Marley Mauvais and Syessence Davis. Plus, Neptune is on a mission to prove that it can win this whole thing. The pick: Neptune.
(11) Red Bank Catholic at (6) Middletown South: This is a trendy upset pick because RBC plays the type of half-court game that South does and has a size advantage with Chyna Golden and Sam Guastella inside. I know the Caseys are always tough come tournament time, but I’m not seeing it here unless Kasey Hobbie possibly goes off. I think Danielle Pankey and Meghan McGuinness should be able to produce enough to pull this one out at home. The pick: Middletown South.
(10) Freehold at (7) St. Rose: I picked St. Rose in my initial tournament bracket, so I’m not going to waffle from that now. However, I admit that I am scared to death to pick against Shannon Mayrose in this spot. St. Rose has a little more depth at guard, but the hope is that freshman Samantha Clark can play Mayrose to some type of stalemate or at least not get torched like numerous other pivot players in the Shore have been this season. This is a scary game for St. Rose, but if the Purple Roses want to gain some respect, they have to get this win. The pick: St. Rose.
(18) Brick at (2) Colts Neck: Brick is pretty much in happy-to-be-here mode after a nice win over Wall, while Colts Neck is the defending SCT champ. Not a whole lot of analysis needed on this one. The pick: Colts Neck.
Now, as for the boys side, here are a few quick observations from Wednesday night:
- I was at Colts Neck‘s 50-44 win over Rumson-FH, and the Cougars did a great job of limiting the Bulldogs to only one shot in the final minutes. Rumson also missed some crucial free throws as well. Colts Neck also just got better shots all night, as it often ended up with lay-ups or open jumpers on most of its possessions, while Rumson’s shots often came with a high degree of difficulty and a defender challenging them. Both teams bricked a lot of free throws throughout the game, but Colts Neck made them when it counted in the final minute. One other quick note: Rumson’s Matt Blumel is about 80 points away from 1,000 points for his career.
- That is the Keyport team that I thought would be tough from the beginning this season. I was touting the Red Raiders as a real B Central contender and that never really materialized, but it all was forgotten when they stunned Monsignor Donovan on a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by Mark Ziobro in double overtime. I knew that team had a shot because of the way it shoots threes, and that’s exactly what it came down to. Now they have a winnable game on the road against Brick Memorial on Friday, so we’ll see if they can become the Cinderella of this tournament before CBA most likely wipes them out. As I also noted in my SCT preview when talking about the X-factors, forward Shawn Dowd was going to be important. All he did was turn in a triple-double that included 12 (!) blocks. Tremendous job by the ‘Port. The Red Raiders also made the argument for why any team with a .500 record should be in the SCT. I’m an old school guy who kind of doesn’t like that rule, as it was always just the top 16 teams being seeded by a committee when I was playing, but Keyport has shown they belong, and they wouldn’t have had the chance if it had been under the old system.
- Good job by Holmdel to knock off host Red Bank Catholic, which was hurt by the absence of junior Pete Guastella, one of its top scorers. Still, Holmdel got it done by double digits as junior guard Mike Perillo had 17 points. Holmdel coach Sean Devaney is at least 2-0 on RBC’s floor in the SCT because the Hornets became the first No. 15 seed to ever beat a No. 2 seed when they stunned RBC in 1992 in Devaney’s first stint as coach there, which also coincided with Joe Nappo‘s first stint as coach at RBC.
- No huge surprises in the other games, although Asbury Park being down big in the first quarter against Southern on their home floor was a little eye-opening. Congrats to Southern senior Joe Tomczuk, who scored his 1,000th career point as part of a 31-point night in the loss. I guess I was right about Point Beach not being quite ready for prime time as the Garnet Gulls fell 62-44 to Toms River East in a game that looked like it might be closer on paper.
- Congrats to Middletown South coach Kevin Cullen, who picked up his 50th career win in three seasons in the Eagles’ victory over Manchester.
- The Round of 16 game to be at, in my opinion, is St. Rose at Manasquan, Part II. You know the crowd for this one is going to be packed, and the Warriors will be playing all out to get revenge for a regular-season loss.