Boys Basketball – Turner Steps In to Spark Point Boro to Shore Conference Tournament Win
PT. PLEASANT BORO -- Kevin Hynes got to school on Monday and found out one of he would be coaching his Point Pleasant Boro boys basketball team with one of his best players watching from the bench with his arm in a sling.
Senior Ryan Mellett suffered an arm injury while skiing over the weekend and heading into Tuesday's Shore Conference Tournament opening-round game against 18th-seeded Manalapan, Hynes wondered how he would replace a four-year starter averaging a double-double.
As it turned out, Hynes replaced a senior who has been putting up double-doubles since his sophomore year with a sophomore who put up his first double-double in his first chance to start.
Sophomore Thomas Turner nearly had a double-double by halftime, setting the tone for a 15-point, 15-rebound performance that sparked No. 15 Point Boro to a 55-51 win over Manalapan Tuesday night at the Memorial Middle School gym.
"I was very nervous coming in," Hynes said. "(Mellett) has basically averaged a double-double for the last three years and that's hard to replace, plus his leadership, plus toughness. You're going from a four-year starter, to a no-year starter. I know Thomas is tough, but he's just inexperienced, so it's trial by fire. It's nice to get a win like that.
"Our kids are tough. We don't pass every eye test, but they come out and they grind. They don't always listen to me, but they are tough and they play for each other."
Point Boro made its first four shots of the game and never gave up the lead, although Manalapan pulled within one point on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter. Turner did not make any of those first four shots, but he involved himself on the offensive glass, knocked down the first six free-throw attempts he put up, and had 11 points and nine rebounds by the end of the first half.
Senior Shane Ryan poured in 14 points for the game and his jumper in the final seconds of the second quarter sent Point Boro into the halftime locker room with a 27-18 lead on the Braves.
While Point Boro started out hot shooting the ball, Manalapan was ice-cold, with only junior Anthony Leger connecting from the field during the first quarter. Leger scored 10 of Manalapan's 11 points in the first quarter and after some early second-chance shot attempts following offensive rebounds, those dried up for Manalapan as well for the remainder of the first half and during the early part of the third quarter.
In addition to Turner's work on the glass, senior Danny Coughlan delivered a dominant rebounding performance as well with 13 rebounds to go with his eight points.
Coughlan also delivered Point Boro's biggest defensive play of the game, which came with 1:15 left to play. Manalapan cut an 11-point third-quarter deficit to one twice in the final three minutes thanks, in large part, to a breakout second half for senior Dylan Sullivan. After scoring just three points on a single three-pointer in the first half, Sullivan went off for 18 after intermission to notch a game-high 21 points.
"Those guys (Turner and Coughlan) stabilized the glass and Noah (Knauf) always chases the other team's best player around. (Leger) is very good and they are a dangerous team. I watched them a couple times and they had Freehold Township dead to rights and Freehold Township just kept coming and found a way. They were right there with Middletown South and they just keep shooting it and they are never out of a game."
As for the baskets that inched Manalapan closer, Leger, senior Jake Heitzner and junior Phil Pearlman landed the big blows. Pearlman's short jumper first cut the deficit to two at 40-38 with 6:25 left in the third and Heitzner made it 42-40 with a putback, plus a foul that set up a free throw that the senior then missed. Heitzer later came back with a nifty drive in which he maneuvered the ball while in the air and finished to cut a five-point Panthers lead to 47-44.
Manalapan first pulled within when Pearlman scored off a feed from Sullivan to make it 49-46, the Leger stole a pass and took it in to make it 49-48 with just under 2:30 left.
Coughlan then finished off a feed from fellow senior Noah Knauf to push the lead back to three, but Sullivan then earned a trip to the free-throw line, where he sank both attempts, cutting the Panthers lead back to one at 51-50.
Manalapan had two chances to take the lead and on the first, Coughlan blocked a strong take by Pearlman with 1:10 to go. The Braves missed another potential go-ahead shot on their next possession and Coughlan answered by hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 with 34 seconds left.
Sullivan made one out of two free throws after Manalapan missed two more three-point attempts and rebounded both, making the score 53-51 with 16.9 seconds left. Ryan then knocked down both ends of his 1-and-1 chance to inch the Point Boro lead back up to four, 55-51, where it remained.
Point Boro got solid contributions across its starting five with Mellett out. On top of the strong performances from Turner, Coughlan and Ryan, junior Jack Venturoso scored seven of his nine points in the first half and senior Noah Knuaf chipped in seven.
After surviving Manalapan without Mellett, Point Boro will now have to face No. 2 St. Rose for the third time this season after the two teams met twice as Shore Conference Class C North division rivals. St. Rose ran away with the second meeting in Belmar, but the first meeting between the two teams went down to the wire in Point Pleasant.
The Panthers actually led the then-unbeaten Purple Roses, 26-21, with under three minutes to go, but St. Rose pulled out a rugged, 30-28 road win.
Even with a hairline loss to St. Rose, a win over Ranney and losses only to teams seeded in the top 11 of the field -- twice to No. 1 Manasquan, twice to St. Rose, once to No. 11 Ranney and once at No. 7 Christian Brothers Academy -- Point Boro was stuck with the No. 15 seed in the SCT. Just one spot higher and the Panthers would have been able to avoid both Manasquan and St. Rose until the semifinal round, should Point Boro have made it that far.
"They took it as a slap in the face," Hynes said of the seeding. "How could they not? Year-in and year-out, they tell us we're not playing enough hard teams. This year, we have two losses to number one, two losses to number two, a loss at CBA and a loss to Ranney, who we finished a game better in our division. And I was okay with being behind Ranney -- they beat Immaculata, they got a Division I kid eligible halfway through the season -- but if they are 11, how are we four spots behind them?"
Since that first meeting, St. Rose has added three more transfers to its rotation, who all made a difference in the second division matchup between the teams. Now, it will be Point Boro that is missing a key player, but that won't keep the Panthers from giving a powerhouse team their best shot -- something they have done all year.
"Our guys are always fired up to play," Hynes said. "We always say, 'We're three square-miles and 800 kids. That's what Point Boro is and that's in all sports. These are kids that grow up together and they take pride in that. I have known them since they were five, six, seven years old and we're not just developing players here. It's a whole culture and this group is bought-in and they love a challenge, so we're going to challenge them and we'll see what happens."