By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
If the holiday tournament season proved anything, it is that graduation losses may not be hurting the Mater Dei and Notre Dame boys’ basketball teams all that much.
Both teams won their Christmas break events with three convincing victories, as Mater Dei of Middletown claimed the Albert E. Martin Buc Holiday Classic title and ND of Lawrenceville took the Score at the Shore Tournament crown.
Mater Dei, the defending Shore Conference Tournament champion, invaded Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver and rolled past Freehold Borough (74-30), Central Regional (61-37) and Sayreville (55-40).
“I think we played well,” said tournament Most Valuable Player Elijah Barnes. “There's definitely room for improvement because it is just the beginning of a long year. We have great depth and talent this year and I believe it will lead to something great.”
In the championship game on Dec. 30, Barnes came through with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. The senior, who is headed for Princeton University next year, had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks in the opening-round and semifinal games.
Point guard Kenny Jones, who had 11 points, four assists and four steals against Sayreville, came up with a huge play early in the fourth quarter. After the Blue Bombers had whittled a 22-9 second-quarter deficit to 34-33 at the start of the fourth, Jones came up with a steal and basket to ignite a 21-7 run over the final seven minutes.
It was the first true challenge the Seraphs had to answer this season.
“I think that showed we are poised and can weather any storm,” Barnes said. “We knew that we just needed to stay calm and execute.”
Jones had 18 points, four steals and three assists in the win over Freehold Borough, while Yasin Pretlow added 14 points and Adam Afifi grabbed seven rebounds. Against Central, Pretlow added 16 points as nine different players scored.
The Seraphs followed their tournament win with a 60-46 win over a tough Union Catholic team Jan. 1 to improve to 6-0, and will play state power Patrick School on Jan. 7.
Mater Dei is coming off a season in which it won the SCT and reached the South Jersey Non Public B semifinals. The confidence remains high, as do the goals.
“Anything less from what we did last year will be a failure,” Barnes said. “We had a great team and season last year and we expect the same with this year.”
One advantage that Barnes has this year, is he will not have to divide time worrying about his current teammates and where he will be playing next season. The senior decided on Princeton during the summer while attending an elite camp at Jadwin Gym.
“It just felt like home,” he said. “The location, the school, and the basketball all just seemed to fit perfectly. They were the first school to ever recruit me, so they were definitely frontrunners the entire way.”
Notre Dame traveled to Manahawkin and went 3-0 in winning the Score at the Shore Tournament at Southern Regional High School. The Irish outscored Hammonton, Mainland and Holy Spirit by a combined 236-141.
ND, which graduated four starters from last year’s Mercer County Tournament championship team, was led to the title by tournament MVP Manny Dixon. In the title game, a 78-47 victory over Holy Spirit, the St. Peter’s-bound senior had 13 points, five rebounds, six steals, four assists and two blocked shots. For the tournament, Dixon collected 53 points, 16 rebounds, 15 assists and 13 steals.
Cartier Bowman also had a big game against Holy Spirit with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore Isaiah Wong collected 20 points, five steals and four rebounds, and sophomore Travis Cumber had nine points, eight assists and six steals.
Bowman had 45 points and 23 rebounds in the three games, while Cumber tallied 36 points, 19 assists and 13 steals. Wong had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals against Hammonton. Notre Dame improved to 6-0 with the championship.
Another team who is still filling some holes but had a nice holiday is Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft, who went 2-0 in Jersey City’s Skyline Classic with victories over Kennedy Catholic of New York and St. Laurent of Canada.
Host Trenton Catholic Academy topped John Bartram of Philadelphia, 77-55, in its bracket of the Eastern States Christmas Invitational Tournament (ESCIT) Primetime Shootout before falling to Upper Room Christian of New York in its second game. True Alton had 14 points and Quashawn Lane added 11 in the win over Bartram.
Mike Conley scored 27 points in two games but Red Bank Catholic dropped both in the 92.7 WOBM Christmas Classic at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. The Caseys fell to Manasquan, 51-45, in the quarterfinals and lost to Wall, 39-38, in the consolation game.
Also participating in the WOBM Classic was St. Rose of Belmar, which topped Marlboro 56-54, in the quarterfinals before falling to Toms River North, 57-54, in the semifinals after failing to hold on to a lead. The Purple Roses dropped a 71-66 decision to Manasquan in the consolation game.
In beating Marlboro, Brendan Hueth scored 17 points while William Frost added 11. In the loss to Manasquan, Frost had 18, Jared Scheininger 15, Nick Paterno 14 and Hueth 10.
Donovan Catholic went 1-2 in the WOBM Classic, with Anthony Silverstone scoring 21 points in a 59-53 victory over Middletown South. Jared Small and Pete Schlendorf both had 10 points in the victory.
St. John Vianney picked up a consolation victory over Shore in the Buc Classic, while Holy Cross defeated Audubon in the first round of the Audubon Tournament as Kerin Wood had 14 points and Jordan Baxter tallied 11. [[In-content Ad]]