Before I get to latest state playoff stuff from the boys and girls side, a few quick things.
Congrats to Red Bank Catholic senior pitcher Matt Marley, who has received a partial scholarship (full scholarships are rare in collegiate baseball) to continue his career at Iona, according to Caseys baseball coach Buddy Hausmann. Marley, a righty, is a great study in perseverance as he was a position player who was cut from the team as a sophomore and could’ve quit baseball, but he came back as a pitcher last season. He now throws in the high 80s and baseball is a big part of his future.
On to basketball, and once again congrats to Rumson senior Kate Miller and Monmouth Regional senior Joe Willman for winning the Kerwin Award for this season, and I just wanted to print the release from the Kerwin family about the award. Here it is:
“This year’s James J. and Margaret M. Kerwin Award recipients are Joe Willman of Monmouth Regional and Kate Miller of Rumson. This is the 36th year these prestigious awards are being given.
The Kerwin Family has chosen Joe Willman of Monmouth Regional as the most outstanding high school male basketball player this season. Willman was selected as the best player in the Shore based on “the quality of play as an all-around player, with an ability to rebound, run the floor, complete long-range shots, and showcase both defensive and offensive skills,” according to family spokesperson John Kerwin. Willman played only a partial season due to injury, but his skills and impact on the game made him a clear choice. According to Kerwin, “Our award measures the quality of performance and the future promise of a player, not the quantity of games played.” Joe will be attending Bucknell next year.
The most outstanding female basketball player selected is Kate Miller, the senior forward/guard of Rumson. “Kate is an exceptional defensive player,” according to Kerwin. “She is a very fundamentally sound player in all aspects of the game. She shoots and handles the ball very well, and best of all, she makes the team around her better,” added Kerwin. Miller will be showcasing her talent at Princeton next year.
The annual Kerwin Awards have been a Shore fixture since 1974.
OK, now a few quick things on the state tournament as we head into the sectional semifinals on Friday night. On the girls side, I took in Keansburg‘s first state playoff victory since 1992, a 53-41 win over Keyport. There was a good crowd at the Group I school and it was good to see the town come out and support a team that already has won a school single-season record 19 games. As you can see from the picture on the left, the students were definitely into it.
As for the game, senior point guard Faith Flannery is what makes that team go. When she was out of the game with foul trouble, they floundered on offense. She can get wherever she wants to go on the court off the dribble and does a great job of finding open teammates. Senior guard Danielle Ehrhardt also had it working from 3-point range with her catapult jumper, as she buried five from downtown.
That was also my first real look at Keyport sophomore guard Devinn Bright, who has good speed and lateral quickness, but is still a little raw offensively. She is one to keep an eye on, though, as she is almost certain to be a 1,000-point scorer for the Red Raiders by the time she’s done.
From there, I went to Point Beach, which was packed for the boys game against Bound Brook and turned out to be the Garnet Gulls’ first state playoff win since 1994, which was my senior year of high school, and I’m decaying by the minute, so you know that was a long time ago. Congrats to the Gulls, who now have a tough match-up in the CJ I semis against a New Egypt team that just ended Keyport’s season and has a size advantage inside. Six-five sophomore Jarelle Reischel, who is more of a finesse player, is going to get inside and rumble with New Egypt’s forwards to give the Garnet Gulls a chance to reach the final. However, he also is a match-up problem offensively if he makes one of their big men come out and guard him behind the 3-point line.
The boys game came after a win by the girls team at Point Beach over Roselle. The Garnet Gulls have a nice little rivalry with Keansburg and will face the Titans in what should be a very close game in the CJ semifinals at Keansburg at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Point Beach has a little more offensive balance than Keansburg, which is heavily dependent on Flannery to make everything go, with Brianna Feerst, Lauren Romao and Madison Gourley all capable of having big games. The winner of that game has a great shot to capture the CJ I title, which has never been done in Keansburg history, and if it has happened at Point Beach, it’s been a long while. The success of the boys and girls teams at the Beach has definitely galvanized the community, as they really turned out for a good night on Thursday. They even ran out of soda and water at the concession stand by halftime, which I realized as I was halfway through a hot piece of pizza with no liquids in sight.
As for the rest of the boys games, we have Monmouth-Princeton and Freehold-Neptune in Central Jersey Group III as the semifinal match-ups. Princeton won its first state playoff game since 1994 by beating Point Boro, while top-seeded Monmouth ended Holmdel’s Cinderella run in the quarterfinals. I’m not shocked that Lakewood took Freehold to the wire because the Piners play a similar style of up-tempo and can get hot in a hurry. However, there might not be a team more comfortable playing in tight games in the fourth quarter than Freehold because of its schedule. Those guys don’t get rattled. Neptune was only leading Lawrence by two points heading into the fourth before pulling away in a 13-2 spurt that was fueled by the defensive tenacity of freshman guard Ike Calderon, who appears to be the heir apparent to the mantle of top defensive guard in the Shore that will be left by senior guard D.J. Gutridge.
Neptune-Freehold Part III should be a solid game, especially the match-up between Neptune forward Dan Singleton and Freehold forward Christian Garcia. Those two have gone back-and-forth this season, and Singleton has really improved offensively as the season has gone along.
As expected, Asbury Park advanced to the CJ I semifinals, and I’ll be very surprised if the top-seeded Blue Bishops don’t make the final with a win over Perth Amboy Tech, especially since it’s on Asbury’s stifling home court.
Christian Brothers Academy made short work of St. John Vianney and now has to head up to Metuchen to face St. Joseph’s, which ended Red Bank Catholic‘s season on Thursday night, in the Non-Public South A semifinals. I know St. Joe’s has a gleaming record (24-3) and the home-court advantage, but CBA is still a heavy favorite in my mind because it is more battle-tested. I think CBA gets this one by 8-10 points or more. St. Joe’s is led by junior Steve Rennard and 6-3 senior Gerard Lewis inside. It also has 6-5 sophomore Robbie Ashamole inside, but it doesn’t have the depth and the overall size of CBA. Plus, I don’t know just how good the Greater Middlesex Conference has been this season, so we’ll see if that record is for real. The bottom line is that if CBA can beat St. Anthony and nearly beat even a depleted St. Pat’s team, it should take care of this team.
Finally, a quick note on Lacey. The Lions lost to Deptford to end their season, but I think they did a nice job this season. They weren’t predicted to do much coming into the year, but were contenders in Class A South and reached the Shore Conference Tournament and state tournament, including winning a game in South Jersey Group III. Seniors John Pierce and Justin Smith were a big key, and they should be proud that they left this program in good shape. First-year coach Ryan O’Rourke also did a nice job after taking over a team that went 10-12 last season.
As for the girls side, every win was expected except Red Bank Catholic‘s upset of Camden Catholic in Non-Public South A. Sophomore Chyna Golden flashed signs of her big upside with 24 points against Serifat Junaid to earn the Caseys a third meeting with heavy favorite and defending Non-Public A champ St. John Vianney.
Freehold finally got over the hump against Ocean after losing twice to the Spartans, and it was senior Shannon Mayrose with 22 points and 15 boards to lead the way. CJ III is pretty predictable though, as it’s just been Neptune ringing up one team after another that it has already beaten twice, with Freehold next and potentially Middletown South in the final.
In South Jersey Group III, the door is open for Manchester to reach the final with a win over Shawnee, which upset Seneca on Thursday night. The Renegades are led by senior forward Kira Mairer, but the Hawks have an answer for her in senior Camille Valmon. The Hawks have a few more scorers than Shawnee, so we’ll see if they can deliver and reach the championship game.
Adding Colts Neck in CJ IV, which faces Trenton tonight, Raritan and Rumson in CJ II, and Southern team that has a tall order when it faces Eastern in the semifinals tonight, here is the insane tally for the girls sectional hopes:
Central Jersey Group IV – Colts Neck should win it all if it gets by Trenton tonight, with a Cinderella Brick Memorial team playing on the other side of the bracket.
Central Jersey Group III – Looks like a Neptune-Midd. South final.
Central Jersey Group II – Good chance it could be a Rumson-Raritan final for the second straight year.
Central Jersey Group I – The winner of the Pt. Beach-Keansburg semifinal has a good shot to win it all.
South Jersey Group III – Manchester can beat Shawnee and reach the final, which means the Hawks have a shot to win it all.
Non-Public South A – St. John Vianney is the heavy favorite to repeat.
Non-Public South B – St. Rose kicks off its run tonight against Our Lady of Mercy and has a good shot to win it.
Are you kidding me? Essentially if the Shore Conference is in your team’s bracket, you might want to start making plans for spring season or AAU.