Before I get to thoughts from the girls Shore Conference Tournament thriller between Neptune and St. John Vianney, my congrats to Lacey senior point guard John Pierce, who went over the 1,000-point mark for his career on Thursday night in a loss to Lakewood.
Pierce, one of the most underrated guards in the conference, had a game-high 30 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, in a 56-53 loss to the Piners, who were led by Jacob Grant‘s 24 points. Congrats to Pierce, a four-year varsity player who if I’m not mistaken becomes Lacey’s second 1,000-point scorer in the last four years along with former star Sean McAndrew. He brings the roll call of 1,000-point scorers from this season in the Shore Conference to the following: Pierce, Ocean’s Scott Nelson, CBA’s Brian Neller, Toms River South’s Tyler Gebler, Monmouth’s Joe Willman, Central’s Ibn Moye, and Southern’s Joe Tomczuk. The next in line appears to be Rumson’s Matt Blumel, who’s only about 70-something points away.
There have been a couple buzzer beaters this week, as Marlboro beat Southern on one earlier in the week and Toms River South beat Mater Dei 49-48 on one by Tyler Kapp on Thursday night, as Kapp finished with a game-high 25 points. Central also had a nice 61-51 win over Point Beach this week in preparation for the state playoffs, with Ibn Moye, who has to be considered for a high spot in the postseason accolades, scoring 28 points along with 8 steals.
Also, it’s now official at Red Bank as Point Beach coach Nick Giglio was approved by the Board of Education as Red Bank Regional’s new head football coach. Giglio takes over for Jeff Mauro at a program that has gone 4-36 over the last four years. From what I’m hearing, Mauro will now be an assistant under Sal Spampanato over at Monmouth Regional. This hiring is no surprise as Giglio was rumored to be getting this job for a while, and he is considered a good, young defensive mind who did a lot with small numbers and size at Point Beach, where his teams went 26-54 and made a playoff appearance during his tenure at Ocean County’s smallest public school.
My thinking is that Red Bank athletic director Del Dal Pra, who is a Rumson-Fair Haven graduate, has seen what the Bulldogs have done at the school a little farther down Ridge Road and thinks there’s no reason Red Bank can’t emulate that success with similar-type players from Little Silver, Shrewsbury and Red Bank. For years, many of Red Bank’s great players were African-Americans who came from the West Side of Red Bank, but a large demographic shift toward a Hispanic population in that area, which is more infatuated with European football than American, has resulted in smaller participation numbers and less of the African-American players who used to make up nearly half or more of the team. RBR has also lost players to the growing powerhouse at Red Bank Catholic, as RBC standouts from this past season’s team like quarterback Connor O’Leary and defensive back/running back David Reeves are both Red Bank residents. Giglio has his work cut out for him, but I think Dal Pra made a good choice of an underrated coach who can really help that program. If Giglio can find some success against tough odds at Point Beach, you know he’s not scared of this challenge. Plus, they start off with some Middlesex County programs that are beatable under the new crossover schedule, so the Bucs could get some early wins to boost confidence and build momentum.
Mater Dei has also hired a coach to replace Nick Varanelli, who resigned after the season and I’ve heard may be joining Giglio’s staff as an assistant at Red Bank. Former Cardinal McCarrick coach Ron Raymond will now be the Seraphs head man at a program that has gone winless for two straight seasons and hasn’ had a winning season since 1999. Raymond has a bigger uphill climb than Giglio as the Seraphs struggle to build up numbers and wins at a small school that is surrounded by a powerhouse Middletown South program and an emerging Middletown North one and has RBC also getting players from its area.
Those two hirings now leave openings at Brick, Point Beach, and Colts Neck. I think Point Beach probably has someone in mind because it’s been rumored that Giglio was going to get the RBR job for a while. I’ve heard a few of the names in the mix at Colts Neck, one of whom is a former head coach for an Ocean County team. As for Brick, Jackson Liberty coach Tim Osborn’s name has popped up a lot as he is a former Brick player, but like everyone suspected, it’s not easy to find a guy who wants to follow a legend in Warren Wolf. All the coaches eyeing that job want that new guy to go there, struggle, and then be the guy who follows the guy, so we’ll see what happens with the Green Dragons.
Now, as for the girls SCT final, one of the best finals you could ask for, I think Neptune’s Marley Mauvais just vaulted herself into the first-team All-Shore conversation with a 17-point, 15-rebound performance in their 56-54 win over St. John Vianney. Mauvais is relentless, and she did a good job of not getting in too much foul trouble that would limit her minutes. She is a better athlete than anyone her size in the Shore Conference, and without her, Neptune doesn’t get anywhere because she carries so much of the load with her rebounding. She also has become Neptune’s big game player when the lights are brightest, as don’t forget she was the one who scored on a putback at the buzzer to beat Freehold in last season’s Central Jersey Group III championship game. Mauvais’ seven points in a 9-0 run in the third quarter that gave Neptune the lead back was the most crucial stretch of the game. Neptune could potentially have two first-teamers in Mauvais and Shakena Richardson if they continue to play like this.
Even though St. John Vianney faced a super-fast Murry Bergtraum team earlier this season, it seemed like Neptune’s quickness was still a surprise to them. They could not really get into the lane off the dribble at all because Neptune’s guards were too fast. You just don’t see SJV turn the ball over like that against anyone, and they often had to settle for long jumpers and for one shot, as Mauvais helped seal off the backboards for Neptune.
Sophomore forward Arron Zimmerman had a great game with 18 points for SJV and sophomore point guard Jackie Kates was also solid, but I bet if you asked Neptune before the game if they wanted Zimmerman and Kates to be the ones to beat them late in the fourth quarter and not Katelyn Linney, Michaela Mabrey or Missy Repoli, the Scarlet Fliers would’ve taken that in a second, only because it’s a little bit of an unfamiliar position for SJV, although Zimmerman did hit a huge shot in the last seconds to beat Rumson this season. Mabrey struggled a little, reminding us that she actually is a human being and a freshman, and she may also have been suffering from the lingering effects of the flu. However, it’s a learning experience and there will be plenty of other big games in the future. One thing is for sure, if Christian Brothers Academy and her older brother, Roy, don’t beat Neptune’s boys team in the SCT final on Saturday night, it’s going to be a dreary week in the Mabrey household.
I thought Neptune star guard Shakena Richardson picked her spots to score early on and then made sure that Mauvais got a good amount of touches in the second half during Neptune’s comeback. Syessence Davis was also everywhere on the court in the second half, rebounding, assisting and scoring. They needed her to step up her game from the semifinals if they were going to win this one, and she did it when they needed it the most in the fourth quarter. Sehmonyeh Allen was steady throughout, finishing under the rim and hurting SJV on the offensive glass.
It’s clear at this point what SJV’s Achilles’ heel is – defensive rebounding. In their two losses this season, they have been hurt badly by opponents’ grabbing offensive rebounds. Both of their losses also came in the final minute, so it shows the type of effort it takes to beat this team.
If Neptune can win this game, there is no reason it can’t go undefeated this season. The Fliers are probably flirting with the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Tournament of Champions with Group I power University if Neptune goes on to win Group III. This certainly may not be the last Neptune-SJV game we see this season, that’s for sure. Colts Neck, Rumson and SJV are still lurking out there, and St. Rose might have its say, too.