We are at that point of the winter high school sports season when there is a sharp divide between those teams and athletes seeking championships and those just finishing up with what’s on their schedule.

Basketball teams are trying to make their case or just qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament which will be seeded on Sunday. It’s always one of the featured attractions of the winter season and this year is no different with action to begin next Tuesday and run through the championship games on Saturday, February 29 at Monmouth University’s OceanFirst Bank Center.

On the boys side everyone is chasing Manasquan who is without question the top team in the Shore and the list of challengers includes Middletown South and Toms River North.  One of those teams that will be in the field is Lakewood and Tuesday night the Piners clinched at least a share of the Class “B South” title with a win over Manchester.  It’s the 11th division title in the last 12 seasons for Lakewood, who got 33 points and 14 rebounds from Ryan Savoy.

Basketball history was made Tuesday with Red Bank Catholic’s 41-40 overtime victory over Manasquan in a matchup of perennial girls powers.  The win was #654 for Casey’s coach Joe Montano who passes his good friend George Sourlis as the winningest coach in Shore Conference history, girls or boys.

Montano is in his 30th season at RBC and his career record of 654-171 includes six Shore Conference Tournament titles.  He’ll be chasing number seven starting next week and like everyone else will be chasing top-ranked St. John Vianney with other contenders including defending champion Manchester.

Let me make a quick turn to wrestling because tonight promises to be something special when Southern visits Toms River North in the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals.  The Mariners claimed the Class “A South” title because they edged the Rams in Manahawkin a month ago and the stakes are even bigger tonight.

The winner will likely visit top-seed Howell on Friday and while all three of those Shore Conference teams are among the top 11 in the state only one will advance to Sunday’s group championships at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena.

18 other Shore Conference wrestling teams having semifinal matches tonight.

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