Before we get to the latest day of Shore domination in the state playoffs, congrats to Freehold Township senior linebacker Matt Faiella, who has committed to Stony Brook, according to Patriots coach Dom Lepore. Faiella signed a National Letter of Intent to a full scholarship at Stony Brook on Friday after entertaining offers from Temple and Akron, according to Lepore. Faiella was a second-team All Shore Media All-Conference selection in the fall for the Patriots.
OK, now on to the craziness on the basketball floor. Do you realize we could have at least one Shore girls basketball team in eight sectional finals next week if Manchester wins on Saturday? The Shore had representatives in nine brackets heading into the playoffs. This has to be the best year, from top to bottom, that the Shore has ever had. Colts Neck (Central Jersey Group IV) is in a sectional final, Neptune or Freehold and most likely Middletown South will be in the CJ III final, Rumson-Fair Haven is in the CJ II final and either Point Beach or Keansburg will be in the CJ I final after Saturday’s semifinal. Also, St. John Vianney plays Red Bank Catholic to reach the Non-Public South A final and St. Rose faces Sacred Heart to go to the Non-Public South B final. If Manchester beats Shawnee on Saturday, it will be in the South Jersey Group III final. Last but definitely not least, Southern proved everyone wrong and stunned Eastern by a point on a last-second shot by Avery Hodgson to reach the SJ Group IV final despite junior star Kristen Sharkey and her cousin Megan both fouling out. That is mind-boggling. Unbelievable job by the Shore Conference thus far.
The boys side is not exactly slacking, either. Manasquan (CJ II) and Freehold Township (CJ IV) have reached sectional finals, either Neptune or Freehold will be in the CJ III final and there’s a good chance the winner will be facing top-seeded Monmouth, and if Point Beach or Asbury Park win on Saturday, they will be in the CJ I final. Also, Christian Brothers Academy is the favorite to beat St. Joseph’s-Metuchen to reach the Non-Public South A final. St. Rose and Mater Dei are still alive in Non-Public South B and St. Rose has a shot to reach the final, although top-seeded Trenton Catholic is the favorite to repeat as the champ there. Still, the Shore could conceivably win all four Central Jersey titles and a Non-Public South A title. The boys could still have representatives in six sectional finals out of eight possible brackets because we had no teams in South Jersey Groups I and II.
That means between boys and girls, we could possibly have at least one Shore representative in a combined 14 (!) sectional finals out of a possible 17 brackets that had Shore teams in them to start the playoffs. Are you kidding me? Does anyone have a cloning machine? Can we just pay the Ritacco Center a bundle to host all these games back-to-back-to-back so that I can see them all? If that doesn’t tell you that the Shore Conference is one of the premier conferences in the state, I don’t know what will.
I had a feeling Freehold Township’s boys could make a run to the CJ IV final and they have pulled it off as they knocked off Monroe on Friday night to get back to the final for the first time since 2007. The Patriots have never won a sectional championship, but this could certainly be the year. Senior Matt Devine continues to add to his All-Shore case and has led the way. As for Manasquan, I thought they should be able to handle Roselle considering Raritan nearly upended Roselle on Roselle’s home floor in the opening round, and Manasquan finished ahead of Raritan in Class A Central this season. Great game by senior guard Kyle Wehner, who has been struggling for a while in the scoring department but turned in a 20-point night.
As for the girls, Rumson continues to own CJ II and now has to beat 11th-seeded Cranford for a remarkable 10th straight sectional title. Cranford edged Raritan in Hazlet, and I have to say I was impressed by Cranford point guard Erin Snyder, who has some size and quickness off the dribble and had a team-high 18 points to continue their Cinderella run. The bad news for her is that she may be matched up against Rumson’s Kate Miller in the final. Raritan senior Alexa Ryan, the school’s all-time leading scorer, had 30 points in her final high school game. She said afterward that she will be continuing her career at Ramapo College.
Before I saw the second half of the Raritan game, I was at Colts Neck’s win over Trenton in CJ IV. Trenton essentially dared Colts Neck’s guards to beat them off the dribble by crowding them on the perimeter, and the Cougars, namely Brooke Hampton and Lauren Clarke, did just that. There were only about 8 assists in the game for Colts Neck as a team because Clarke and Hampton were getting into the lane and either scoring or getting fouled just about every time. You don’t see teams do that to Trenton too often. I’m just wondering why the Tornadoes didn’t at least back off and force Colts Neck to hit a few long jumpers rather than repeatedly watch Hampton and Clarke pack their bags and set up residence in Lay-up City.
Colts Neck is now the heavy favorite to beat Montgomery, a team that Freehold Township beat earlier this season, and Colts Neck routed Freehold Township three times this season. Montgomery ended a great run by Brick Memorial, which should be commended on a strong season at a program that has really headed in the right direction the past two seasons.
Finally, my apologies in advance for Saturday, as I will not be able to get to a game because I am helping with our coverage of the NJSIAA Individual Wrestling Championships down in Atlantic City for the next two days and then Bob Badders will be returning the favor in trying to cover the 9 million sectional finals and beyond on the basketball court next week. I am hoping to get a report from the Neptune-Freehold boys game for the site as two of the Shore’s top teams square off for a third time in the CJ III semifinals. Good luck to all of the Shore teams, although at this point, I don’t think you need it.