WEST LONG BRANCH
Lakewood boys basketball coach Randy Holmes was waiting for the right moment to reveal a piece of history.
Underneath his customary suit and tie attire for Saturday’s Shore Conference Tournament final at Monmouth University’s Multipurpose Activity Center was a t-shirt that he’s kept for a long time.
On that white t-shirt was a color photo that included him as a member of the 1991 Lakewood boys basketball team, the last Lakewood boys basketball team to win the SCT title.
But if senior guard Tyrice Beverette and junior forward Maurice Diawara didn’t have the all-around performances they had on Saturday afternoon leading No. 1 seed Lakewood to a 39-33 victory over No. 2 seed Point Beach, there would have been no reason for Holmes to break open his shirt like Superman to reveal that piece of history to the current players.
“This title is special to me as a coach. As a player, that was special too because I won two Shore Conference Tournament titles, one in 1989 and one in 1991,” Holmes said. “There is joy in being a leader of a group of young men and showing them the way and giving them the blueprint for a championship.”
A championship that took 22 years to bring back to the Ocean County school in just the third all-Ocean County SCT final.
Beverette finished with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals. With Lakewood leading, 36-33, with 15 seconds left, Beverette scored the team’s final three points. He made the first of two free throws with 13.5 left and then broke through the Point Beach defense for a layup with three seconds left.
“It was a dogfight. Throughout the whole year, we condition a lot and that was a key factor in the game,” Beverette said. “Our guys were a little fresher than their guys later in the game and that put us on top.”
Diawara contributed 10 points, joining Beverette as the two Lakewood players in double figures. He also had five rebounds and three assists and scored the first basket, a layup, of the fourth quarter that gave Lakewood a 30-24 lead.
“We had to get every 50-50 ball. All these balls had to be ours because our offense wasn’t clicking all the way,” Diawara said. “We had to do the little things to come out on top.”
At one Point Beach (22-3) led 12-8 in the second quarter but Lakewood (22-2) finished the second quarter on a 9-0 run and led 17-12 at halftime.
“Defensively, they were really good. They were really good the first time they played us and they were really good tonight,” Point Beach coach Nick Catania said. “27 percent shooting is a credit to them; they did a great job defensively.”
Saturday’s SCT title was Lakewood’s eighth overall and first since 1991. Overall, the Piners are 8-9 in 17 SCT final appearances and won previous titles in 1989, 1975, 1974, 1968, 1958 and 1944.
Point Beach made its fourth appearance in the SCT final and the Garnet Gulls have yet to win the SCT title.
“Our biggest goal (a state title) is still out there. I told the guys that I thought we gave a really good effort,” Catania said. “But there was a play where (junior guard) Matt Farrell stole the ball and Lakewood’s Jared Craddox sprints back and blocks the shot. That’s championship effort. That’s a good learning experience and that’s the type of effort that we need.”
Craddox, a senior forward, finished with eight points, four rebounds, two steals and that aforementioned block. Junior center Ben Watson added four points and 11 rebounds and senior forward Erick Davis added seven points.
Point Beach’s Farrell finished with 12 points and six rebounds while senior guard PJ Kineavy finished with nine points and junior center Dominique Uhl had five points and six rebounds.
“This moment feels great. There are no words to express how I feel right now. We worked so hard to try to get to this level,” Craddox said. “In previous years, we got close to this level. But this year we made up our minds in our senior year that we were going out on top.”
And giving coach Holmes a reason to display his proud piece of history when all the fans and media wanted a picture of this year’s SCT champions, the Lakewood boys basketball team.