Before I get to the boys action from Friday night, here are my picks for the girls Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday at Brookdale Community College after I went 8-0 in the Round of 16. On paper, three of the four games look like they could possibly be lop-sided, so we’ll see if some underdogs can make a game out of it.
Also, I will be doing a live blog from the girls SCT quarterfinals on Saturday as long as I can get a signal (Brookdale is a cell phone dead zone), so make sure to check back often if you can’t make it over there.
(1) St. John Vianney vs. (8) Manchester: Manchester has some good athletes like senior Camille Valmon, but it turns the ball over a lot. Do that against St. John Vianney’s full-court press, and it can get ugly in a hurry. The Lancers are a huge favorite in this game and it would take Manchester’s Valmon sisters, Ariele Parrish and Precious Allen to all be firing on all cylinders for this one to stay close late into the game. St. John Vianney is built for a fast-paced game, so Katelyn Linney and Co. could be up 20 in the blink of an eye in this one. The pick: St. John Vianney.
(2) Colts Neck vs. (7) St. Rose: St. Rose pulled one out of the fire with a great win over Freehold in the Round of 16, but the margin for error is much smaller now against the defending SCT champs. The Purple Roses had some success against Freehold on high ball screens using freshman Samantha Clark, but Colts Neck’s guards are so fast that they might be able to trap St. Rose off of those screens and force turnovers for easy baskets. St. Rose is going to have to shoot much better than it did on Thursday to have a shot. Colts Neck’s guard trio of Brooke Hampton, Tiffany DeTulio and Lauren Clarke have destroyed just about everyone in their path, and they are relentless. Clark is going to have to have the best game of her young career for St. Rose to take this one down to the wire, and Colts Neck has a player with the size to match hers in center Brittany Howes. I just see Colts Neck forcing a good amount of turnovers, and if it can drive the lane and get Clark in early foul trouble, it will be in a great spot. The pick: Colts Neck.
(3) Neptune vs. (6) Middletown South: Neptune already beat Middletown South by 21 earlier this season, so I’m wondering what the Eagles can do differently this time around that will change the outcome. One thing they have going for them is that senior Danielle Pankey is playing as well as anyone in the Shore right now. However, is one Danielle Pankey enough to go against a Shakena Richardson, a Syessence Davis, a Marley Mauvais and a Sehmonyeh Allen? Doubtful. South is well-coached and crafty enough to hang around in this game, but Neptune’s guards apply so much pressure and score so quickly that they are capable of a 10-0 run in a minute and a half, and South is not built to play from far behind. Plus, you know Neptune wants a shot at Colts Neck badly in the semifinals. The pick: Neptune.
(4) Rumson-FH vs. (5) Southern: This is a rematch of the WOBM Classic final, which Rumson stormed back to win in a low-scoring affair. Rumson’s play the last few weeks has been really shaky, but to be honest, I’m too scared to pick against the Bulldogs in this spot because of their track record of rising to the occasion in the postseason. Southern’s offense is based on getting it to Kristen Sharkey in the post and having her to it to the rim or pass out of double teams. Rumson will do everything in its power to make someone else beat them, and that someone else is most likely going to have to beat Avery Hodgson. I’m basing this pick on the fact that Rumson has the best player on the floor in Kate Miller, and you know she won’t let her senior season end without making it back to the Ritacco Center. The pick: Rumson.
Now, on to the boys side, where I took in St. Rose’s win at Manasquan. If it wasn’t for Keyport’s last-second heroics I would’ve gone 8-0 on my picks, which, along with 35 cents, would have gotten me a phone call (do they even have pay phones any more?). Instead, I’ll have to settle for 7-1 and give kudos to the Red Raiders for another last-second win.
Starting with the St. Rose game, first of all it was a tremendous atmosphere. Other than having my wireless card in my laptop snapped by an errant basketball before the game, it was a fun night, although the game turned out to be all St. Rose in the fourth quarter.There was a crowd of about 150 people lined up in front nearly an hour before the game and it was jam-packed inside already.
St. Rose showed great patience because Manasquan was going crazy after every basket early on and its crowd was into it, but the Purple Roses played through it. Senior center Sean McPaul (22 points) is a real weapon, and he could be the difference-maker if they are able to take down Monmouth in the quarterfinals. If McPaul has a big game against Monmouth, that will only drive the Falcons and Joe Willman more nuts with the knowledge that if Willman was in there, it would be a different story.
I feel like St. Rose’s guards have really improved as the season has gone along. I’ve seen them multiple times this season and they are playing really well right now. Joey Quinn was good from the start, but guys like Cliff Clark, J.J Kurtz, and Connor McNiff are really playing with a lot of confidence right now. They are knocking down open looks and creating off the dribble, so teams can’t just sag everyone on McPaul and it frees McPaul up for weakside putbacks when they get into the lane. Monmouth is really going to have to earn it on Sunday given the way the Roses are playing right now. Junior Chris Hueth also has become a menace under the boards and plays physical defense while attacking the rim and drawing a ton of fouls on offense.
Manasquan just had a rough shooting night, and you have to give St. Rose’s defense some credit there. Matt Vadas got his 20 points, but it took a lot of work, and five of those points were late in the game when St. Rose pretty much had it wrapped up. The only thing I thought the Warriors could do a little more was attack the basket in the second half when their perimeter shots weren’t falling, but they weren’t getting many stops defensively anyway.
The St. Rose win was part of a big night for the perennially maligned Class B Central, as the Purple Roses, Asbury Park, and Keyport all advanced. Another big night by senior forward Lamar Young (24 points) put the Blue Bishops into the quarterfinals against Neptune, while Keyport continues to dazzle as the No. 25 seed as it nipped Brick Memorial by a point thanks to a huge shot by senior guard Tony Lopez. Good for the Red Raiders, and the last time they were in the SCT quarterfinals had to have been a while ago. They are summoning the ghosts of the 1937 Keyport squad, which won the first ever boys SCT title. If only Jumpin’ Elmer Smith and his wicked two-hand granny shot were here to see it.
In beating Monsignor Donovan and Brick Memorial, Keyport has kicked sand in the face of a group that has been maligned even more than B Central – Ocean County. There are no Ocean County teams left in the tournament, as they went 0-4 on Friday night to turn the remainder of the SCT into the de facto Monmouth County tournament. That can’t look good when a team that finished tied for fourth in Class B Central just beat arguably the top two teams in Ocean County as the No. 25 seed. Anyway, great job by the Red Raiders, and even if an inevitable loss awaits against No. 1 CBA, it will be fun to see a big contingent from Keyport at Brookdale on Sunday to celebrate their team.
Middletown South pulled one out in overtime to beat Freehold Township for the third time this season, 77-75, and enters a showdown with Freehold with a lot of confidence. Guard Jake Brodsky, who I thought was going to be important to them in this tournament, had a great night and made some big shots. Another player who I figured needed to play well for his team in this tournament was Freehold‘s Will Howarth, and his 16 points led the Colonials past Holmdel.
Never a shock when CBA or Neptune moves on, and both of them handled their business in games in which they were heavily favored. Another one of my X-factor players, CBA’s Jon Rohan, had a career-high 15 points in the win over Colts Neck, so good job by him and the Colts. Monmouth knocked off Lakewood behind 28 points from senior guard Anthony Gibson, who I’ve been telling people is rapidly coming into the picture as a Player of the Year candidate because of the way he has picked it up in Joe Willman’s absence.
I’ll be getting to an All-Shore discussion soon, hopefully on Monday after the smoke has cleared from the quarterfinals, so stay tuned for that.