For the third consecutive year, the Shore Conference has been the Group I representative in the boys basketball NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.
Asbury Park Press staff reporters Chris Rotolo, Josh Newman and Sherlon Christie will be reporting live from the boys basketball TOC quarterfinals tonight in Toms River as Point Pleasant Boro competes. Follow live updates and join the live discussion here: Live from the TOC quarterfinals. Plus, follow updates on Twitter: @sherlonapp and @Joshua_Newman
Asbury Park was the back-to-back representative in 2011 and 2012 but this year the new face in the TOC belongs to Point Beach as it won its first state title in school history on Sunday at Rutgers University with a 43-39 victory over Dayton.
The newly-crowned Garnet Gulls (28-3) are the No. 6 seed in the TOC and they’ll have a very tough opponent in two-defending Group IV state champion Atlantic City (29-1), the No. 3 seed. The Garnet Gulls will play the Vikings at 8 p.m. today in a TOC quarterfinal game at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
“It doesn’t matter who we play. We are going to go out there and play hard and play together,” Point Beach junior guard Matt Farrell said. “Coach (Nick) Catania will get a tape on them and he’ll create a nice game plan.”
It sounds easy enough but the TOC hasn’t been a fruitful place for the Shore Conference or the No. 6 seed for that matter. Here are the hard facts.
Overall in the 23-year history of the TOC, No. 6 seeds are 3-20 against No. 3 seeds in TOC quarterfinals games. Only the 1989 Eastern Regional team and the 2003 and 2004 Bloomfield Tech teams have pulled off the upset. And the Shore Conference as a whole is 5-for-11 in total TOC games with one game, a 1998 TOC quarterfinal, featuring two Shore Conference teams (Long Branch and Holmdel).
“Whoever we play has got to play us, too. We’re been confident this season playing the teams that we’ve already played,” Point Beach senior guard PJ Kineavy said. “So, we’ll be confident that we can play a good game and win on Wednesday.”
Point Beach becomes the ninth boys basketball team from the Shore Conference to qualify for the TOC with four schools Asbury Park (2011 and 2012), Neptune (2009 and 2002), Holmdel (1999 and 1998) and Long Branch (1998 and 1997) making two appearances each.
No Shore Conference boys basketball program has ever won the TOC and only one Shore Conference boys basketball program, the 2002 Neptune team, has ever made it to the final. Neptune lost that year to St. Anthony, 69-49.
“I can’t even put it into words that we are now playing in the TOC. It is all special for the school, for the town, for everybody,” Farrell said. “It is incredible. We are just going to go out there and play.”
And try to shake off the unlucky fortunes, for the most part, of the No. 6 seed in the TOC. The last TOC No. 6 seed that defeated a No. 3 seed was the 2004 Bloomfield Tech team that defeated Lenape, 71-58, in a TOC quarterfinal. It has been eight years since that upset but maybe Point Beach can become the fourth No. 6 seed to pull off the upset.
“We are a Group I school but we think we are very talented especially when we play together,” Farrell said. “We are going to come out and play hard and think that we have a chance to win.”
Farrell, Kineavy will be joined in Wednesday night’s starting lineup by junior forward Noah Yates, senior forward Riley Calzonetti and junior center Dominique Uhl. Calzonetti led the team in scoring in the state final on Sunday with 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. Meanwhile, Kineavy had nine points, Uhl had seven points and Yates had five points.
Last year, Atlantic City was the No. 4 seed and defeated No. 5 seed Ewing, 68-65, in overtime of the quarterfinal round game. The Vikings then lost to top-seeded St. Anthony, 72-42, in the semifinal round game. Defending TOC champion St. Anthony isn’t in the TOC this year after losing to Roselle Catholic, 48-44, in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state final on March 9.
Roselle Catholic is the No. 1 seed in the TOC and has a first round bye and will play at 8 p.m. Friday at Monmouth University against the winner of Wednesday’s 6 p.m. TOC quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Newark Eastside and No. 5 seed Newark Tech. The Point Beach/Atlantic City winner will play against No. 2 seed St. Joseph-Metuchen at 6 p.m. Friday at Monmouth University.
Atlantic City is led by starters junior guard Isiah Graves, junior forward Dennis White, senior guard Dayshawn Reynolds, senior center Jahleem Montague and senior center Gabriel Chandler.