Before I get to the extra stuff from the girls Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 action on Thursday night, here are my picks for the boys Round of 16 on Friday.
Also, just a quick note: I will be doing live updates from the St. Rose at Manasquan game on Friday. Manasquan is expecting a sellout, and St. Rose athletic director Jim Agnello told me at the girls game on Thursday night that he was told the doors at Manasquan will be opening at 5:30 p.m. for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off. If you can’t make it, I’ll have updates and video highlights.
Now, on to the picks. I went 9-5 in the preliminary round, which is nothing great. I’ll try to do better in this round. Hopefully I can take the momentum from my girls Round of 16 picks, where I went 8-0. There is more parity on the boys side, so it won’ t be as easy. I’ve seen all 30 teams in the field, many of them multiple times, and I still bricked a couple picks in the first round. Time to do better. Here goes.
(17) Colts Neck at (1) Christian Brothers Academy: CBA already has beaten Colts Neck twice this season in Class A North, and this is going to be No. 3. I just don’t think the Cougars have enough scoring depth to stay with CBA. The Cougars will have to hope that the Colts struggle shooting from the perimeter if they are going to have a chance. Colts Neck is a hard-nosed team and doesn’t back down from anyone, but CBA’s high-scoring group of Brian Neller, Roy Mabrey, Pat Light and Matt McMullen is just too much to try and match up with. The pick: CBA.
(25) Keyport at (9) Brick Memorial: Obviously, this game got a whole lot more interesting after Keyport shocked Monsignor Donovan in double overtime. The Red Raiders won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time, and I think Brick Memorial matches up well with them. Keyport’s Mark Ziobro is an athletic swingman, and so is Brick Memorial’s Matt O’Brien. Keyport’s Shawn Dowd is a rugged forward who is also a good athlete, and so is Brick Memorial’s Steve Zrowka. Keyport’s Tony Lopez is a streak-shooting 3-point sniper, and so is Brick Memorial guard Jose Ramos. Keyport’s Bryan Thomson is the muscle underneath who is primarily a rebounder and defender, and so is Brick Memorial’s Brian Rushalski. Maybe Keyport will make me look bad again for picking against them, but I see Brick Memorial being able to counter what they do well and being a little bit deeper, which I think will make the difference in the fourth quarter. The pick: Brick Memorial.
(12) Freehold Township at (5) Middletown South: Will the third time be the charm for the Patriots? Middletown South has beaten them twice this season, including a 66-64 nail-biter that I covered in their last meeting. The Patriots were able to score in a hurry via their full-court pressure, so we’ll see if they just try and play that way for 32 minutes this time. With Matt Devine and Steve Talbott, they are going to score, so that’s not the problem – it’s that they haven’t been able to mount a 32-minute defensive effort in a big game this season. Kyle Cancillieri is starting to emerge as an All-Shore candidate for the Eagles, and the Patriots have not been able to solve them once Middletown South gets into its halfcourt sets. Freehold Township has to turn this into a fast-paced game and turn Middletown South over in the backcourt. I still think the Eagles will find a way behind Cancillieri and Matt Callori, who are tough to match up with in the halfcourt. The pick: Middletown South.
(20) Holmdel at (4) Freehold: On paper, this looks like a mismatch, but I would never count out Holmdel. Freehold has better athletes, but Holmdel has some size that could bother the Colonials, or at least allow the Hornets to play inside-out with Mike Kelly and others and maybe get some good looks for Mike Perillo and Erik Shirvanian from behind the arc on kickouts. This game is about tempo, because Freehold is going to try and get Holmdel to play fast. I think senior Andrew Gerbehy could have a big game because Holmdel doesn’t really have a player who matches up well with him, and the match-up of Perillo and Freehold’s Lance McKenzie at point guard is definitely one to watch. I think Freehold has just enough of an edge offensively that it will take this one unless Holmdel gets hot from behind the 3-point line. The pick: Freehold.
(14) Lakewood at (3) Monmouth: The Falcons already beat the Piners once this season, but that’s back when Joe Willman was dunking on everyone’s head. Lakewood hasn’t shown me they can beat a team of Monmouth’s caliber, especially on the road, this season. I think Monmouth’s guards, Anthony Gibson and Neil Thompson, can turn over Lakewood’s young guards in the backcourt for some easy points. The wildcard here is Lakewood sophomore Jarrod Davis, who I don’t think Monmouth has anyone in particular who matches up well with. A good battle in the paint looks to be Monmouth’s Brent Shelton vs. Lakewood’s Tyquan Strand. I give the edge to Monmouth here just on experience and a proven track record, which Lakewood doesn’t have. The pick: Monmouth.
(11) St. Rose at (6) Manasquan: It’s going to be a madhouse in Warrior-land for this one, as two local rivals battle it out less than a week since St. Rose upended Manasquan in the regular season. Manasquan’s Matt Vadas is one of the top guards in the Shore and a match-up nightmare. Put a smaller defender on him and he’ll post him up or shoot over him from behind the arc. Put a bigger defender on him, and he’ll blow by him off the dribble. The one thing I like about Vadas is his patience, as he does a good job of reading how a defender is going to play him off a screen, and he waits for the play to develop. He also has that killer instinct that all good scorers have. If he knows he can score on you, he will bust you up on every single possession until someone calls timeout or orders a double team to come at Vadas. If Manasquan can just get something close to double figures out of Zach Rodgers, Neal Sterling and Kyle Wehner, this team could make it to the final. Senior center Sean McPaul leads the way for St. Rose, and he has size that Manasquan has had trouble dealing with. If St. Rose’s guards knock down shots off kickouts, the Roses will win again. One scary thing about St. Rose is that it is not a good foul-shooting team, which doesn’t bode well at tournament time. However, I am sticking with my pre-tournament pick of the Purple Roses to go into enemy territory and pull it out. The pick: St. Rose.
(10) Point Boro at (7) Asbury Park: I’ve tried to figure out this game for a while and I just can’t seem to get a handle on it. Will Point Boro handle Asbury Park’s pressure and do enough in the halfcourt to win? The Panthers’ offense is not built to come from behind double-digit deficits, so they can’t let the Blue Bishops hit them with a big run early on. I’ve seen Asbury Park a few times, and other than maybe Ron Berardesco, they flat-out can’t shoot. They get all their points on second chances, turnovers and transition because they are so fast and anticipate rebounds so well on the offensive glass. Plus, Jamar Smalls does a good job of running the break in the open floor and the Blue Bishops have tons of finishers. They are way faster and way quicker than Point Boro, but I can see Kevin Hynes coming up with a gimmicky defense that could frustrate Asbury Park. My main hesitation in picking the upset is that Asbury is so tough on its home court. I’m chickening out and going with the chalk, although I think this is one I might regret, especially because junior guard Wil Hawthorne may have snapped out of his scoring slump in Point Boro’s first-round win over Central. The pick: Asbury Park.
(15) Toms River East at (2) Neptune: This is not a good match-up for Toms River East because I don’t know if the Raiders’ guards can handle Neptune’s full-court pressure. Plus, if Richie Suhr has to expend a lot of energy just trying to get the ball up the court, he won’t have as much in the tank to focus on scoring. I’m guessing the Raiders will sit in a zone because they have nobody who can keep someone like D.J. Gutridge in front of him. I’m interested to see if Alex Bergstrom can cause some trouble on the offensive glass against the smaller Scarlet Fliers, but conversely, Neptune senior Dan Singleton is so quick off the dribble for a forward that TRE doesn’t really have any big men who can match that, except for maybe Ray Cochran. The pick: Neptune.
OK, now, on to some extra girls SCT stuff from Thursday night.
I was at St. Rose‘s 52-49 overtime thriller against Freehold, which was one of the better games I saw this season from the standpoint of a big fourth-quarter comeback and a great crowd (and not from the foul shooting, which only Shaq could have loved).
St. Rose coach Joe Roman wanted to push the pace from the beginning because the Purple Roses have a deeper bench, and I think it paid off. Freehold missed a lot of free throws down the stretch which could’ve been tired legs, and on Alexx Hall’s coast-to-coast, game-tying lay-up at the fourth-quarter buzzer for St. Rose, fatigue also may have played a role for the Colonials. I give St. Rose a lot of credit because the way it was shooting and the amount of lay-ups it was missing, added to Alex Eagle’s buzzer-beating 30-footer at the end of the third quarter for Freehold, it would have been enough to frustrate anyone into thinking it just wasn’t their night. Hall was playing in another gear down the stretch, blowing by defenders routinely and finishing with the left hand, and freshman Sam Clark hit some big shots as well. The fact that a girl with that kind of size can step out and knock down threes as a freshman is scary.
St. Rose also did a good job of making Shannon Mayrose catch the ball 15 feet and out on most occasions, while also running another defender at her repeatedly. She scored 18 points, but she had to expend a lot of energy to do it. I know most will remember Hall’s heroics, Clark’s steady play and Alison Sweeney‘s clutch 3-pointer, but I think senior Mary Hagaman did a nice job as well with a big fourth-quarter bucket and two huge free throws in overtime on a night when seemingly no player on either side could convert two consecutive foul shots. Also, there’s something to be said for team chemistry. The girls on St. Rose seem to genuinely root for one another and don’t seem to care who gets the credit, which, believe me, is becoming a more and more rare quality in top teams. I think that helped them stick together when they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn for three quarters.
Freehold also shot itself in the foot with a rash of missed free throws and by shooting early in possessions even though it was up by double digits with only 4 minutes left in regulation. That gave St. Rose more possessions, and the Purple Roses took advantage of them.
As for the other games, it was a little dicey for Rumson-Fair Haven, which trailed 21-12 at the half to Freehold Township before coming back to claim a 36-31 win. It sure helps to have Kate Miller, who had 15 points, and a defense that can pitch a shutout for a whole quarter, like the Bulldogs did in a 15-0 third-quarter showing that gave them the lead back for good.
The rest was all pretty predictable, although Red Bank Catholic beating Middetown South was seen as a trendy upset pick that obviously didn’t happen. I think the Eagles are just solid and this is just not RBC’s year. Danielle Pankey turned in another big effort for the Eagles with 26 points and her profile will dramatically raise if she can do something like that against undefeated Neptune in the quarterfinals to give the Eagles a fighting chance. The Scarlet Fliers were stuck in a tight game with Raritan for a little while before running the Rockets out of the gym down the stretch to win by 29.
As for the quarterfinals, I don’t see St. John Vianney-Manchester being much of a game, Colts Neck-St. Rose could possibly be interesting but Colts Neck is a heavy favorite, and Neptune has already beaten Middletown South by 20-plus this season, so that leaves Rumson-Southern. Rumson edged the Rams with a big fourth-quarter comeback in the WOBM Classic final back in December, and Southern is playing some great basketball right now behind junior center Kristen Sharkey.