Local Hoops Squads Exit Early in Shore Conference TourneyNow Seek Better Result in NJSIAA Sectionals
As far as basketball tournaments in New Jersey are concerned, the Shore Conference Tournament may be one of the most difficult to win. With 47 schools in the conference and the number of qualifying teams often numbering in the mid-20s, the sheer depth of the annual tourney makes it difficult for teams seeded below the eighth spot to go far beyond the first round.
And unfortunately, even the best among Southern Ocean County’s squads weren’t treated kindly as the SCT opened up on Tuesday, Feb. 14. In fact, they probably felt no love at all on Valentine’s Day, as the only three teams to qualify were bounced in preliminary-round contests.
In the boys’ tournament, 20th-seeded Barnegat took 13th-seeded Central Regional to overtime but eventually was bumped off, 51-47. The Bengals (14-9) led by 11 points, 37-26, heading into the fourth quarter, but the Golden Eagles fought back and managed to tie the contest, 45-45, by the end of regulation. Down by two, 49-47, with just under 20 seconds to go, the Bengals attempted to tie the game, but a pair of shots during their final possession bounced off the rim, and Central ended up with the ball with 2.8 seconds to go. A pair of foul shots sealed the Eagles’ victory.
In the girls’ tourney, 23rd-seeded Barnegat gave 10th-seeded Red Bank Regional a scare but also fell short, 47-45. The Bengals (14-9) were down by 7 points, 38-31, heading into the final quarter and stormed back to tie the game at 41-41. The Bucs regained the lead and had a four-point lead, 47-43, with 1:54 to go before a Shannon McCoy bucket cut the deficit to two. With under 30 seconds left, the Bengals had an opportunity to tie or take the lead but turned over the ball.
In the other girls’ game of the evening, 21st-seeded Southern Regional was knocked off by 12th-seeded Marlboro, 37-27. The Rams (13-11) and Mustangs were tied after the first quarter, 8-8, but a 17-3, second-quarter outburst pushed Marlboro ahead to stay. Marlboro led, 35-14, at the end of the third.
Fortunately, the Barnegat boys and girls, Southern girls and Pinelands Regional girls still have at least a few more games left to their seasons, including the NJSIAA state sectional tournaments, which were seeded last week. Two of them even received home contests to kick off their sectional runs.
On Monday, Feb. 27, the Barnegat boys and girls will play a double-header in their home gym after the boys were awarded the fourth seed and the girls were given the eighth seed in the South Jersey Group II tournament. The Barnegat girls will square off with ninth-seeded Overbrook at 5 p.m., while the boys will host 13th-seeded Cape May Tech at 7 p.m.
According to Barnegat Athletic Director John Germano, Feb. 27 will mark the first time in school history that both their basketball teams will play state-tournament home games in their own gym. Of course, if head coach Mike Puorro’s team wins, his squad will have an additional home game for the state tourney on March 1 – which would be another first-time deal for the Bengals – against either fifth-seeded Cinnaminson or 12th-seeded Lower Cape May.
A first-round victory for head coach Tammy Nicolini’s Barnegat girls would send them to a quarterfinals contest against top-seeded Middle Township on March 1.
As for the Pinelands girls, head coach Keith Lowe’s crew received the 16th seed for the South Jersey Group III tournament and will go on the road Tuesday, Feb. 28, to meet up with top-seeded Ocean City, which as of Feb. 13 was undefeated, at 18-0.
Meanwhile, head coach Tom Bucci’s Southern girls didn’t fare too badly in the seeding process for the South Jersey Group IV tourney, but the 11th-seeded Rams will go on the road on Feb. 27 when they meet up with sixth-seeded Clearview. The winner will take on either third-seeded Lenape or 14th-seeded Brick Memorial in the quarterfinals.
— David Biggy