Powerhouses in unfamiliar positions as SCT begins CBA, SJV enter conference tourney jerry woLkowitz Monmouth University-bound Chris Kenny, shown here in an earlier game against Freehold Township, and his CBA teammates will need step up their play if they hope to maintain their status as the Shore Conference’s top boys’ basketball team. The Colts will look to begin their defense of their Shore Conference Tournament title on Friday, when they face the winner of tonight’s St. Rose/RBC match-up. as No. 2 seeds By doug mckenzie Staff Writer There’s something different about this year’s Shore Conference basketball tournament. Usually around this time of year the argument is over which teams have the best shot at knocking off the top seeds, usually made up of squads from the local parochial schools who have established themselves as the elite programs of the Shore’s basketball scene. But this year the teams that are normally penciled into the No. 1 spots for the SCT when the season begins are finding themselves in unfamiliar positions. This year the Shore’s perennial top dogs have become underdogs as a pair of talented public school teams have played their way to the top spots in the brackets. On the boys’ side, the Colts of Christian Brothers Academy, Middletown, enter this year’s tournament as the No. 2 seed, despite the fact that they’ve won the last two, and six of the last nine, titles. However, this year it is the Neptune Scarlet Fliers, led by their dynamic backcourt duo of Taquan Dean and Terrance Todd, who have earned the top spot, primarily because they’ve already beaten the Colts twice this season. In their most recent meeting last Thursday in Neptune, it was the Terrance Todd show as the lightning-fast point guard torched CBA for 17 points in front of a raucous hometown crowd, leading his squad to a 57-47 win and the Class A North title. After defeating CBA for a second time, with both wins coming in convincing fashion, Neptune is the favorite to win the title, its first since 1998. Coaches always tell you that it’s difficult to beat a solid team three times in one season. CBA did it to the Fliers last year. Dean and company are looking to return the favor this time around, although they are being careful not to overlook anyone along the way. In order to get to the finals, Neptune will likely have to beat some quality teams. A solid Lakewood team got the No. 5 seed and will likely face fourth-seeded Monmouth Regional in the quarterfinal round. Monmouth is a very dangerous team at 16-3, and it raised eyebrows throughout the Shore when it nearly knocked off the state’s top-ranked team, St. Anthony’s of Jersey City, last month. The Golden Falcons have proven that they can play with anyone in the Shore and are among the leading candidates to pull off an upset of a top team. Another local team that could make some noise is Hazlet’s Raritan Rockets, who have earned the 13th seed and will face 20th-seeded Central Regional in tonight’s preliminary round. A win over Central will earn them a shot at Monmouth in the next round. The 12th-seeded Holmdel Hornets are another team that can be dangerous in SCT play. Holmdel, which faces No. 21 seed Rumson-Fair Haven tonight in its opening round game, is hoping for a shot at Lakewood. Both the Rockets (13-6) and the Hornets (13-7) are in the midst of successful years and are looking for solid showings in the SCT to propel them as they head into state tournament play. On the other side of the bracket, CBA will await the winner of tonight’s St. Rose/Red Bank Catholic game, while seventh-seeded Long Branch, an athletic team that could give CBA a scare, awaits the winner of the Red Bank Regional/Toms River North matchup. Sixth-seeded Middletown North will face the winner of tonight’s Jackson/ Mater Dei game in what could be an interesting second-round game. The Lions are having an excellent season, with four of their five losses coming to Neptune and CBA, and could be a candidate to knock off a top seed. They will meet CBA in the semifinals if they’re able to get by No. 3 seed Manasquan in the quarterfinals. The Lions won’t be looking past their first game, particularly if the 11th-seeded Seraphs get by Jackson. Mater Dei has quietly built a 14-4 record, and has raised some eyebrows with its solid play. When it’s all said and done, nobody would be surprised to see Neptune and CBA meet for a third time with the SCT title on the line. Neptune has been waiting since last season to avenge its SCT final loss to the Colts, and would undoubtedly be disappointed if the Colts were knocked off before the finals. Once in a while, CBA loses an SCT final, but it almost always makes it there. On the girls’ side of play, both St. John Vianney of Holmdel and Red Bank Catholic face a task similar to CBA’s. The two teams, who have become accustomed to battling with each other for the Shore’s top spot, are both battling for a chance to face the No. 1 squad, the Marlboro Mustangs. Marlboro earned the No. 1 seed by virtue of its two-point win over Vianney two weeks ago. However, the close outcome may have brought the high-flying Mustangs back to earth a little in the sense that, entering the game, they were expecting to have an easier time with the Lady Lancers. Vianney head coach Nick Russo’s squad put a scare into the ’Stangs and served notice that if and when these two teams meet again, Marlboro had best not take anything for granted. Marlboro will await the winner of tonight’s Jackson/Monmouth Regional preliminary round game, while Vianney awaits the winner of the Monsignor Donovan/Middletown South matchup. With Marlboro and Vianney securing the top two spots, Chrissy Fisher and the Rumson-Fair Haven Bulldogs crept into the No. 3 seed. Rumson is a very dangerous club and would like nothing more than to get another shot at Marlboro after getting blown out in its first meeting of the year. Rumson will face the winner of tonight’s Raritan/Point Boro game. Meanwhile, RBC earned the No. 4 seed and will face the winner of tonight’s Colts Neck/Shore game. The Caseys have come back to the pack this year with the graduation of both Jessica DePalo and Brooke Tomovich, but remain a dangerous club. With wins in their first two games, they will face the daunting task of knocking off Marlboro in the semifinals. Other local teams who will look to make some noise in SCT play include 11th-seeded Middletown North and seventh-seeded Freehold Township. The Lions will face sixth-seeded St. Rose of Belmar on Friday, while Township faces 10th-seeded Toms River East. The gap between the top three girls’ teams in the Shore and the rest of the pack is big. The Marlboro girls have been nearly unbeatable in Shore Conference play, and have Saturday’s loss to Our Lady of Lourdes, N.Y., fresh on their minds. They are not likely to slip up on their way to the finals. Vianney is also playing its best ball of the year and is eager to get another shot at the Mustangs. The Bulldogs are lying in the wings, waiting for their chance to pull off an upset. With the University of Maryland-bound Fisher in the paint, the Bulldogs are a certain candidate to do just that. Look for Marlboro and Vianney to make their seeds hold true once again. They are the two best girls’ teams in the Shore, and possibly the state. When they played that classic game two weeks ago, they gave the impression that they’d be meeting again. The SCT seems like the inevitable venue for that rematch. Don’t discount the possibility of an upset changing the entire scope of the tournament on either the boys’ or girls’ sides of the bracket. Anything can happen in SCT play, particularly this season, when something felt different from the very beginning.
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NORTH HILLS – A 17-year-old boy was in stable condition after he was shot in the armpit by two males for reasons that weren’t yet clear, police said. The drama began yesterday about 5 p.m. in the 16200 block of Nordhoff Street. Two males, described as Latino, approached the boy and shot him before taking off on foot, said Los Angeles Police Officer Kevin Mailberger, a department spokesman. The boy, who was hit in the armpit, was taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center where he was in stable condition. The gunmen were not arrested. Mailberger said he did not know whether the shooting was gang related.