Local boys hoops teams are off and running


With the holiday season upon us, there are several local high school boys basketball teams looking to get a head start on a championship season.

With a number of holiday tournaments getting under way last week, several teams are still in the mix for some holiday hardware.

The Shore Regional High School boys scored an impressive 49-43 win over Roselle on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Buc Classic at Red Bank Regional. Zack Hoffman led the way for the Blue Devils with 10 of his 18 points in the second half, as Shore improved to 1-2 on the year and earned a semifinal match-up with Pennsauken on Monday. Senior Rich Vivian added six points, five rebounds and two assists for the victorious Blue Devils, while Mike Roberts added four points, three rebounds and five assists.

Shore entered the year looking to build off a successful debut in the Shore Conference’s Class A North last season. Head coach Rich Sherman is back at the helm at Shore after taking a two-year hiatus, and has a solid core group of players to work with. Though Shore lost Mike Pillaro and David Roslin to graduation, the return of Hoffman, Vivian, Roberts and junior Mark Coleman should make Shore a tough team to beat once again. Coleman may be the key to the Blue Devils’success, because the 6-5 junior showed signs of being a real difference maker before missing the end of the season with an injury last winter.

Against Pennsauken on Monday, Shore was to face a team coming off a hard-fought 57-56 win over defending champion Monmouth Regional on Sunday.

Pennsauken’s Hubert Simmons made what proved to be the game-winning layup with 1:31 left. Monmouth Regional’s Loren Jackson made a layup with 1:16 left to cut Pennsauken’s lead to one, and Monmouth then got the ball back on a Pennsauken turnover with 47 seconds left. Monmouth guard Neil Thompson held the ball to set up for the last shot, then drove the lane and dished to Cameron Lee, who got off a shot that bounced off the rim and into Thompson’s arms. Unfortunately for Monmouth, his putback attempt was blocked as time expired.

Thompson was brilliant in defeat for the 1- 1 Golden Falcons, scoring 16 of his game-high 28 points in the first half to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Lee scored eight points, while Jackson tallied 11 points and two blocks and Brent Shelton had nine points and seven rebounds.

Thompson is the unmistakable leader of this team, as the Golden Falcons expect to compete with Freehold and Neptune once again for the B North title. While Monmouth must overcome the loss of three starters to graduation — Joe Willman (now at Bucknell), Anthony Gibson and Austin Whitehurst — Shelton and Thompson bring starting experience, while Jackson, a junior, has shown promise as a dominating frontcourt player. Lee also has varsity experience at the point guard position.

Monmouth will be back in action on Saturdaywhen they host Wall Township at 1 p.m.

Red Bank Regional also lost in the Buc Classic over the weekend, dropping a 75-43 affair to Bayonne. RBR’s Stephen Frost led the way in defeat, scoring 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half.

Frost was the leading scorer for the Bucs last year, averaging 18 points per game, and will once again be their top threat this year. The senior has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor; however, RBR will need to find more scoring options if they are to return to prominence this year.

The Bucs missed both the Shore Conference and state tournaments last year — a rarity for one of the Shore’s top programs.

Juniors Michael Puryear, Seph Williams and Lamar Hutchinson all have varsity experience for the Bucs but will need to emerge as more productive players if RBR is to challenge for the B North crown.

RBR will be back in action on Tuesday when they travel to Wall for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.

The Long Branch Green Wave got a win in the Huskie Classic in Matawan over the weekend, beating Manalapan, 65-60. Josh Wilson scored seven of his 17 points in the third quarter, and Nate Bolden added 14 points and nine rebounds as the Green Wave improved to 2-0 on the year and earned a semifinal game against Raritan on Monday.

With the return of head coach Joe Whalen this year, the Green Wave is hoping to contend for the B North title. Long Branch is an extremely athletic team this year, led by Wilson, Bolden and Karahn Morris — who at 6-5 will be a dangerous perimeter player this year with the addition of football stars Ezra Kelly and Devron Clark to the roster.

The Green Wave will be a tough match-up for anyone this year, especially as they develop chemistry as the season progresses. Long Branch will resume regular-season play on Monday when they travel to Freehold Borough for an important early divisional game. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m.

Ocean Township is another team in the B North picture that looks to contend for a title this winter. The Spartans lost 1,000-point scorer Scott Nelson to graduation, but return senior Ed Mejias, who scored in double digits a year ago and can score from anywhere, as well as seniors Logan Singleton and Kevin Pringle. Like Long Branch, Ocean hopes that a pair of standout football players — Brandon Robinson and Michael Acquarro — will make the Spartans a difficult team to match up with athletically.

Ocean has an important early season test looming on Saturday, when they travel to Neptune for an 11:30 a.m. affair. Second-year head coach John Terlecsky should get a good idea of how his team matches up with the division’s better teams by the end of that game.

Rumson-Fair Haven fell to Middletown South, 59-51, on Sunday in the Bayshore Holiday Tournament at St. John Vianney. Senior forward Kyle Cancillieri had 18 points and senior point guard Pat O’Connell added 14 as the Eagles held off the Bulldogs by going 19- for-20 from the foul line.

Senior center Jimmy Cranwell scored 11 points in the loss for Rumson, one of the A Central Division’s younger teams, having graduated nearly the entire team from a year ago. First-year head coach Chris Champeau has a clean slate to work with this year, and will look for his team to overcome its lack of experience with hard work and defensive intensity.

The Red Bank Catholic boys are playing in the Al Lobalbo Tournament at St. Mary’s in Elizabeth this week, before resuming their regular season play with a match-up with rival St. John Vianney on Saturday in Red Bank.

The Caseys have a new head coach (and RBC alum) in Devitt Gilroy, who has enjoyed success at the sub-varsity level and is looking to continue that success. RBC lost all-division players Dan Calandrillo and J.P. Mahon to graduation and will need to fill those two voids if they hope to contend for the A Central crown. Gilroy will look to senior Pete Guastrella to lead a Casey team that has a number of talented juniors on its roster, led by football star Andrew Casten.