Before I get to the stuff from last night and a look at Tuesday’s action, Marlboro senior Meghan Reilly, one of the top scorers in Mustangs’ history, has committed to Ramapo College, according to head coach Brian Nash. Reilly joins Raritan senior Alexa Ryan among the incoming freshman class at Ramapo.
Now, on to the stuff from Monday night. Sorry I didn’t have any previews of the games on Monday but that tends to happen when your computer breathes its dying breath (or something close to it). I had just finished a bunch of NJSIAA wrestling stories when it cut out on me. That wheeze you heard in the middle of the night on Sunday/Monday was my computer followed by the exasperated smacking of the screen, followed by the sound of “Taps” playing. That meant Monday afternoon was about purchasing a new computer, so I’m back in good shape in my ongoing battle with technology.
I took in the Keansburg-Florence and Middletown South-Neptune girls double-header at West Windsor North on Monday night. First off, there must be no overweight students at West Windsor North because that school is so huge that I think those kids are walking a minimum half a mile down the hallway when they change classes. I think you could make decent money running a rickshaw service for students. You could have a NASCAR race around those hallways.
Anyway, Keansburg had a tough loss to Florence in the CJ I final in a game where both teams looked extremely nervous for a first half that ended with Florence leading 15-9 and James Naismith rolling over in his grave. The Titans just couldn’t get enough shots to fall in the second half and couldn’t put together enough defensive stops to get closer than 5 points. Senior point guard Faith Flannery was their entire offense with 16 of the 27 points as she repeatedly took it to the hole. Still, a great season by the Titans, who won a school-record 20 games and won their first state playoff games since 1992 while also advancing to their first sectional final. Also, great job by the Keansburg fans, who made the long trip to Plainsboro and really supported their team. Both fan sections were very loud, which was great to see for a pair of Group I programs.
Flannery’s unbelievable journey has come to an end and it was a tough one for all of the Keansburg seniors. I think head coach Michael Scarano was definitely lamenting this one because this was Keansburg’s shot to finally get a title. In a town that is all of one square mile, senior classes like the one the Titans had this year and players like Flannery come along few and far between, so you have to maximize the accomplishments while you have them.
In the second game, Neptune fought off a tough Middletown South team to win its second straight CJ III title. It’s crazy to see how far Neptune has come in a year. I remember being at West Windsor North last year when a putback by Marley Mauvais stunned Freehold and the Neptune girls went bananas. Now it’s just business as usual, as their sights are set on the whole ball of wax, the Tournament of Champions title. The timid freshmen who were just happy to be there in the Group III semifinals before they got blown out by Ocean City last year are now out to finish the season undefeated as sophomores as they gun for some payback.
Shakena Richardson was spectacular as usual with 24 points. Middletown South did a solid job with its zone, but they dared Neptune to hit perimeter shots and the Fliers buried eight threes. Pretty soon teams are going to have to just sell out and run another defender at Richardson constantly in order to get the ball out of her hands. In almost every big spot this season, I’ve seen Neptune spread the floor, isolate her at the top of the key and let her either get fouled, blow by her defender and score and get into the lane and set up a teammate for an easy bucket. If teams allow her to stand there alone, she will kill them.
However, the reason they don’t double-team Richardson constantly is because sophomore guard Syessence Davis has shown she will make them pay. She has become the glue of this team, passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and doing whatever else is necessary to win games. Davis is also lethal off the dribble and knows to immediately attack when Richardson passes her the ball out of a double team. Sophomore guard Morgan Thompson is also a game-changing weapon and a zone buster because teams almost have to concede open looks to her from behind the arc because they are so worried about the other weapons on Neptune.
Richardson was so good on Monday night that not only did she get an ovation from the Neptune fans, but the Middletown South fans were classy enough to also stand up and applaud her effort. Now it’s on to Ocean City on Wednesday, which will be down at Deptford High School. Just drive to the end of civilization and make a right, and you’re right there. I think I’m leaving right now for that game in order to make it by tip-off.
As for South, congrats to Danielle Pankey on a great career, which she ended strongly with 21 points. Also, I think sophomore Meghan McGuinness has been overlooked a little in the discussion of the loaded sophomore class in the Shore. She will be one to watch next season, although teams will now be ganging up to stop her now that Pankey has moved on. That means that the Eagles need sophomore post player Kerri Kinsella to come along and take some of the scoring burden off McGuinness. We’ll see.
As for the other games, the Shore is done on the boys and girls side in the Non-Public South B brackets. The St. Rose boys and girls both lost, the boys to Cardinal McCarrick and the girls to Sacred Heart. The boys would’ve only been delaying the inevitable beating from Trenton Catholic, which mauled Mater Dei on Monday night to end the Seraphs’ season. But that’s got to be disappointing for the girls, who had some good momentum coming out of the Shore Conference Tournament, but ran into a Sacred Heart team on the road that has been a real thorn in their side the past few years. There goes the dream of five Shore Conference representatives in the Tournament of Champions. Now we might have to only settle for a measly four.
Manchester’s girls battled Ocean City to the end before losing to a team that has aspirations of taking down undefeated Neptune and challenging what most likely will be Shabazz in the Group III final. Good state playoff run by the Hawks, and the end of a tremendous career for senior Camille Valmon, who had over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career.
The Manasquan boys blasted Middlesex behind junior guard Matt Vadas‘s 25 points, and I can’t say I’m surprised. The Greater Middlesex Conference has really left something to be desired in the Central Jersey brackets. Congrats to the Warriors, who won their first title since all-time leading scorer Tommy White was a senior in 2003 and the Warriors reached the Group III final before losing to Qa’rraan Calhoun, Marques Johnson and Raritan at Rutgers. Manasquan has really made a good late push this season and I think a big reason has been the play of senior guard Kyle Wehner, who had 13 points on Monday night after dropping in 20 in the semifinals. His increased scoring has made the difference, and junior forward Neal Sterling has also raised his play. Now Manasquan has a tall order in Camden in the Group II semis, as Camden has much more speed and wants to make it an all-out track meet. Manasquan likes to play fast as well, but doing so might play right into Camden’s hands, so we’ll see if the Warriors can adjust their style of play to make it difficult for their opponent.
Freehold Township‘s bid at school history ended with a loss to West Windsor South in the CJ IV final as they tried to win their first sectional championship. Talking to Bob Badders, who covered the game for us, he said the Patriots did everything right except knock down open looks. They played one of their best defensive games of the year and moved the ball well, but just couldn’t make a perimeter shot. Senior Matt Devine, a scoring machine who had put the team on his back in the state playoffs, finally ran out of gas with 7 points. I guess 6-8 center Austin Witter is the real deal for WWS, as he had a triple double with 16 points, 14 boards and a whopping 11 blocks, several of which he sent into the 20th row. Great postseason run by the Patriots, but I would think this one is going to bother them because this was not some kind of juggernaut West Windsor team that was a heavy favorite or anything.
As for Tuesday’s games, here is a quick breakdown:
Central Jersey Group III
Neptune vs. Princeton at Franklin H.S., 7 p.m.
Princeton is a high-scoring team and this game is going to be all about Neptune’s ball pressure on defense and defensive rebounding. Princeton has a 6-4 forward in Skye Ettin and a 6-8 center in A.J. Dowers, while Neptune’s tallest player is 6-3. That means they have to make it hard to get it into the post and hard for guards to get it across halfcourt. Princeton’s two guards, DaQuan Holman (the team’s leading scorer at 17 ppg) and Brian Dunlap have had strong tournaments, particularly Dunlap, who had a nice game in an upset win over Monmouth in the semifinals.
Neptune needs to use its depth to its advantage because Princeton relies heavily on its starting lineup, so getting some of those guys in foul trouble is important. You know Princeton is going to throw a zone at Neptune just like Middletown South did last year and just like CBA did in the SCT final this year. Franklin High School was a house of horrors for Neptune last season as far as perimeter shooting goes, with stats that are the equivalent of four-letter words around Neptune. They need to focus on staying aggressive and getting into the lane, and if they can just get a decent lead early on and force Princeton to man up against them, that is what they want.
I say Neptune gets it done. Don’t forget that Princeton hadn’t even won a playoff game since the early 1990s until this season, while Neptune is regularly in this game, so it has the experience advantage and the motivation not to have a repeat of last season.
Central Jersey Group I
Asbury Park vs. New Egypt at Franklin, 5 p.m.
This is size vs. speed. New Egypt has 6-8 Desmond Hubert and 6-7 Kevin Janowski patrolling the paint, and that’s where the Warriors get their points. Asbury needs to make those two run up and down the court, and senior Lamar Young needs to use his quickness to beat those two to offensive boards and beat them down the floor in transition. Asbury’s guards have to pressure New Egypt’s guards heavily to make it hard to get it past halfcourt and hard to lob it into the post. Essentially, they have to do the same thing Neptune has to do against Princeton.
New Egypt does not play really high-scoring games, so the Bishops want to push this one into the 70s if they can and see if the Warriors can keep up. A big key is going to be knocking down perimeter shots, so look for junior point guard Jamar Smalls and long-range bomber Ron Berardesco in that area.
This game will come down to rebounding and turnovers. Asbury has to get second chances on the offensive glass or it will not win, and it has to turn over New Egypt’s guards for some easy baskets. I think the Blue Bishops will get it done, especially because this is the third straight year of making that drive up to Franklin, and they want to have the ride home be fun for once.
Non-Public South A
CBA vs. Holy Spirit at Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.
This will not be an easy game for CBA as it tries to win its first Non-Public South A title since Dan Werner’s senior year in 2006. Senior guard B.J. Bailey, who is 6-4, is the one that CBA has to stop and he is a tough match-up because he can shoot over shorter defenders and put the ball on the floor against bigger defenders. However, with players like Travis Farrell, Jon Rohan and Brian Neller, CBA has guards who can match up with him. Holy Spirit’s forwards, Jate Chesul and Giovanny Perdomo are more finesse guys, so we’ll see if they can pull Pat Light and Matt McMullen outside of the paint to guard them by knocking down a few 15-footers.
CBA will do what it always does, try to pound the ball into Light early and establish the post to open things up for Neller and the other shooters. As always, if point guard Roy Mabrey gets off to a solid shooting start, CBA is almost a lock to win. He does a good job of breaking the ice in big games with a few early baskets to settle everyone in. I just think CBA is a little deeper and has played a better schedule than Holy Spirit, and it will pay off with a trip to the Ritacco Center. CBA by 6.
Non-Public South A
St. John Vianney vs. Holy Spirit, 5 p.m. at Jackson Liberty
While the Holy Spirit boys should give CBA a run, I don’t know if the girls can hang with SJV. This is a bad match-up for Holy Spirit because it is a guard-oriented team. The teams that hurt St. John Vianney are ones with size who can hurt them on the offensive glass, but Holy Spirit doesn’t have that. They have 1,000-point scorer Jesse Frazier, a senior guard, as their main threat, while SJV has 9 players who can score and has bulldog Jen Mulvey to stick on Frazier. I don’t see how Holy Spirit keeps up with them here and I feel like SJV is on the warpath after losing to Neptune in the SCT final.
Central Jersey Group IV
Colts Neck vs. Montgomery at North Brunswick, 7:30 p.m.
This could be another Shore Conference burial as Colts Neck is a heavy favorite against Montgomery. The Cougars are looking to win CJ IV for the first time and win their first sectional title since winning CJ I in 2001. The main threat to Colts Neck is 6-1 forward Laura Coletti. I know guard Marcia Voigt has scored nearly 1,400 career points, but players with size are who hurts Colts Neck because it is such a guard-oriented team.
That’s why the backcourt pressure by the Cougars will be key. If they can turn Montgomery’s guards over and pressure the ball from getting into the post, Montgomery is in trouble. I’m just basing this on simple logic. If Freehold Township can beat Montgomery and Colts Neck beat Freehold Township soundly on three occasions this year, this looks like a cakewalk for a team that just handled Trenton, which is better than Montgomery.
Central Jersey Group II
Rumson vs. Cranford at 7 p.m. at Bridgewater-Raritan
Rumson is gunning for its 10th straight CJ II title, which is insane by the way. I saw Cranford the other night when they beat Raritan and their point guard, Erin Snyder, is a nice player who is a good athlete with a solid mid-range jumper off the dribble and 3-point range. You don’t see one player usually beat RFH, which will most likely stick Kate Miller or maybe Ashley Cooper on Snyder. Cranford is riding the magic carpet right now as the 11th seed, so Rumson needs to crush their will and their momentum early in this game and not let them believe they can win it. The Bulldogs just need to knock down open looks from behind the arc, which Raritan was able to get with a high pick-and-roll in the semifinals. Cranford is also susceptible to being beaten on the offensive glass, so look for Amanda Yaccarino to make an impact in that area for RFH. I say the Bulldogs make it 10 in a row.
South Jersey Group IV
Southern vs. Washington Township at Williamstown at 8 p.m.
The Rams are the most improbable of the finalists as they stunned Eastern, 51-50, in the semifinals. Logic would say they can beat Washington Township because Eastern beat Wash. Twp. twice. It’s going to take big games by Kristen Sharkey and Avery Hodgson in the post for Southern to get this one done, and both are capable. Senior twins Shawna and Dana Wert are the ones to watch for the Minutemaids, who are a good defensive team that plays a lot of games in the 40s. This team beat Shabazz this season, so you know they are capable of beating anyone.
Southern’s lack of depth might finally catch up with them in this one, but maybe they still have the magic after the win over Eastern. I just think that they might have exhausted themselves to get that game and winning this one is just too tall of an order, so I have Washington Township taking this one. Hopefully the Rams join the long list of teams that have made me look like an idiot.