Guineys enjoying impressive freshman seasons at BC

Middletown’s Cate Guiney, last year’s high school distance runner of the year for New Jersey, and her twin sister Maggie continue to have impressive freshman seasons at Boston College.

At the recent Big East Championships held in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., Cate Guiney finished 10th in both the 3,000 meters (9:38.94) and the 5,000 (17:27.5).

Maggie finished just behind Cate in 11th place in the 5,000 (17:31.80).

Both races were won by Villanova’s Carrie Tollefson (9:28.36 for the 3K and 16:04.05 for the 5K).

Last year at Middletown South, Cate Guiney won All-Groups state championships in cross country and 3,200 meters in both indoor and outdoor track.

She also ran the anchor leg on the Eagles’ indoor distance medley relay national championship team.

Maggie Guiney also was one of the top cross country and distance runners in the state and she ran the opening leg on South’s DM national championship team.

Bayshore and Thorne win basketball titles

By Warren Rappleyea

Staff Writer

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t was a championship season for both the Bayshore boys and the Thorne girls in the Bayshore Middle School Basketball League.

Both teams won titles with impressive playoff performances.

The Bayshore boys won the league championship for the first time since 1991.

Coach Jerry Pflug’s team went 10-6 during the regular season before taking three straight playoff games to win the league title.

After losing twice to Sandburg Middle School, Old Bridge, Bayshore scored a first-round victory over their rivals 42-41. In the semifinal contest Bayshore upended the Beers Street School, Hazlet, and went on to down Union Avenue, also Hazlet, 48-39 in the championship game.

"We had a lot of close games this season and the playoffs were no different," said Pflug, whose team lost twice in overtime during the regular campaign. "We have the kind of team that sticks together and finds a way to get the job done."

Co-captains John Cino and Peter Milano, both eighth-graders, led the way.

Cino, a guard, led the team in scoring with an average of 12.6 points per game and he excelled defensively. Milano, the center, averaged 12 points and was a force on the boards.

Guard Paul Russo, a strong defender, and forwards Matt Ashe and Dominic Fone, a pair of solid rebounders, rounded out the starting five. Guard Kevin Sidoti and forward Andrew Novak were the first players off the bench.

Other members of the team are eighth-graders Matt Arnella, Shane Frick, Roy Gremminger, Stephen Lopez and David Thompson, as well as seventh-graders Donald Federico, Stephen Sansone and Mike Morris.

"It was tough for us meeting Sandburg in the first round because they had beaten us twice," said Pflug, who teaches physical education, health and computer science and coaches the boys soccer and baseball teams at the school as well. "But we were able to stay right with them and it was an exciting game to watch. Fortunately, we were able to get the win and things kind of took off from there."

The Thorne girls concluded an outstanding 17-2 campaign by winning the Bayshore title for the first time in school history.

In the title game the Middletown school met up with the Satz Middle School of Holmdel, the team that had handed the Thorne girls both of their losses.

With center Erica Gaudios pumping in 13 points, visiting Thorne reeled off a 25-18 victory. Forward Michelle Dean added five points, point guard Bryana O’Reilly contributed three points and Lauren Holzheimer and Lori Krol chipped in with two points apiece.

Previously Thorne had opened the playoffs with a 37-29 triumph over cross-town rival Thompson Middle School.

In the semifinals, Thorne edged Keyport 35-30. The team’s success resulted from balanced scoring, an ability to press and a gritty man-to-man defense.

"The girls deserve all the credit; they picked up our defensive schemes quickly and put them to use," veteran Coach Ken Farland said. "This is a great group of kids and they learned a lot this season."

Dean led the team in scoring with 160 points, and along with O’Reilly served as co-captain.

Other members of the team are: Taryn Connor, Danielle Keeter, Ashleigh Pecherski, Moira Stanley, Holly Clickner, Kristine Fearow, Kristine Meyer, Jessica Ricker, Melissa Scragg and Melissa Trezza.

Super Regions

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John Hockin of Middletown North handles an opponent at the Super Regions prior to last weekend’s New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling championships at the Meadowlands. Hockin finished third at 125 pounds in the state tournament.

JACKIE POLLACK



Caseys bounce Blue Eagles, 60-45, for title

RBC receives first-round bye, will play in TOC semifinal on Saturday

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JACKIE POLLACK
Lynne Zoltowski (above) battles with Immaculate Heart Academy’s Jenn Lee (21) and Taryn Scinto for a loose ball in the NJSIAA Parochial A championship game on Saturday in the Dunn Center in Elizabeth. Below the Caseys’ Kelli Talbot fights through Scinto and Mary Daloisio as she drives to the basket.

 

By lindsey siegle

Staff Writer

ELIZABETH — The Red Bank Catholic girls basketball team started their game against Immaculate Heart Academy, Westwood, with shooting woes, but they were certainly ready to rebound at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.



Read that Jessica DePalo was ready to rebound. The junior center grabbed 16 boards that helped her score 21 points and lead the Caseys to a 60-45 victory and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Parochial A championship.

"Jessie’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached," RBC Coach Joe Montano said. "She’s the first kid at practice and the last kid to leave. She just continues to work. She’s going to get offensive boards. She’s a great kid and she deserves everything that she gets. It’s nice that she gets that reward (championship game most valuable player); she deserves it."

DePalo may have been the most valuable player, but the Caseys’ strength as a team was what gave RBC the win against the Blue Eagles.

Early in the season the Caseys had the habit of getting off to a slow start. They were back at it again on Saturday.

The Caseys didn’t score their first field goal against Immaculate Heart Academy of Westwood until there was just 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.

The Blue Eagles scored the game’s first four points before some trips to the line cut their edge to 4-3.

Alisa Kresge found Brooke Tomovich for the basket that put the Caseys ahead 5-4; it was a lead they would not relinquish.

Tomovich’s basket came in the middle of a 10-0 run the Caseys put together to end the first period.

Kresge, a freshman, found Janine Cappadona for a three with 55 seconds left in the first and Tara McCaig finished the scoring in the period when she took a pass from the freshman in the post and converted the layup.

Cappadona and Kresge came off the bench to help get the RBC offense started.

"She does that," Montano said of Kresge. "Janine does that too. That was a big three by Janine; you know she’s going to miss some, but we want Janine to shoot the ball. Those two come off the bench, they get us going, they give us that boost."

And that boost was all the Caseys needed.

A 10-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter grew to 25-16 margin at the half as DePalo scored nine of her points and grabbed four rebounds to give her double digits for both (11 points 10 rebounds) for the first half.

Lynne Zoltowski scored the first basket of the second half to give RBC a double-digit lead and after Allison Hoerner scored the first basket of the second half for the Blue Eagles, DePalo scored six points in a 12-point run that gave RBC a 39-18 advantage.

Zoltowski (on a feed from Kelli Talbot) and Brooke Tomovich (from Erin Cusmano) hit threes for the other Casey baskets in the run.

The Blue Angels, who did have some success with their press, never got closer than 12 (54-42) in the fourth quarter.

"They had to do something," Montano noted. "They trapped us a little bit. They came in their man and did a little run-and-jump and they were prepared to get back in the ball game. They did a good job, they picked up some steals."

That effort was not enough as DePalo contributed six more points and the Caseys continued their solid work on the boards and on defense.

The final margin was set when Lindsey Woodfield hit a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left.

Notes…

Brooke Tomovich turned her right ankle grabbing a rebound late in the game. It was the same ankle she injured earlier in the year, but she walked off the court and is expected to be ready for the Caseys’ semifinal matchup on Saturday back at the Dunn Center against either Willingboro or Wildwood who play today at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Tournament of Champions.

Buzzer beater ends Colts’ season

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JACKIE POLLACK
Chris Delaney of Christian Brothers Academy, Middletown, puts a shot up against Seton Hall Prep in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Parochial A championship game on Saturday in the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.

 

By LINDSEY SIEGLE

Staff Writer

ELIZABETH — Tim Begley got mad, and then he got the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team even.

The junior from Freehold Township did just about everything a basketball player can do as he helped bring the Middletown school’s basketball team back to tie scores with Seton Hall Prep three different times in the fourth quarter of the Saturday’s New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Parochial A championship game.

Unfortunately, all of Begley’s heroics, and those of his teammates, were not enough as the Pirates’ Tyrone Barley sank a seven-footer as he was falling down and the buzzer was sounding to give Seton Hall a 53-51 win at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.

Begley grabbed six rebounds (three offensive), blocked two shots, scored 11 points, handed out an assist and made a steal in the final eight minutes as he brought the Colts back from a 39-33 deficit at the start of the final period.

The Pirates got the first score of the half when Mark Curry hit one of two free throws, but the Colts, sparked by a Begley three, went on a 7-0 run to tie the score at 40-40.

"I got fired up; Curry got me mad," Begley said of his fourth-quarter outburst. "He started talking a little bit. I wanted it more than he did."

And Begley and his Colts teammates nearly got it.

After Curry sank a basket to put the Pirates up 42-40, with 5:37 remaining, the Colts lost the ball on their next trip down the floor, but Begley got a steal to get the ball back for CBA.

He evened the score at 4:27 with a drive down the lane, but a pair of free throws by Barley and a three and a two by Seton Hall’s Robert Sullivan, the last with 3:14 on the clock, pushed the Pirates advantage back to 49-42.

Pat Lynch, who also had a very big fourth quarter, made what could have been the play of the game had the Colts managed to pull out the victory.

After a CBA miss, Curry grabbed the ball and turned to go up court, but Lynch held his ground and took a charge under his own basket.

The foul was Curry’s fifth and he departed the game with 2:57 remaining.

With the post presence for the Pirates thinned, Lynch worked inside for a basket, but Barley got the points right back for the Pirates.

With 1:43 remaining, Lynch found Mike Skrocki for a three to cut the lead to 51-47 and 24 seconds later Lynch hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to 51-48.

The Pirates misfired on their next trip down the floor and Skrocki, who finished with 12 points and eight boards, grabbed the rebound.

The Colts also missed their first shot at the hoop, but Begley was there to clean the glass and he got fouled sinking the put back with 1:06 remaining. The subsequent free throw tied the game at 51-51.

The Pirates had the ball and worked it around to Sullivan, who scored a career-high 21 points as time was winding down, but CBA closed his lane and he had to dish the ball to freshman Jamar Nutter on the perimeter.

Nutter’s shot was wildly off the mark, but Barley was able to corral the ball and heave it up. It went through the net as time expired with Barley flat on his back.

"We got what we wanted," CBA Coach Ed Wicelinski said. "We stopped 23 (Sullivan) from penetrating. We thought he was going to penetrate and try to kick down low. We didn’t want 33 (Barley) shooting the ball in that possession so you’re going to give something up. We have to protect the middle because they’re so quick; they kicked (the ball) out and that was the shot we were going to give. We just didn’t rebound."

Indeed, both Lynch and Chris Delaney got their hands on the ball but couldn’t control it.

"I’m just upset that we lost it at the end there," Begley said. "Five more minutes we’d have been fine. We had all the momentum in the world if we could have just grabbed that board. It was right there for us, it just got away."

CBA got off to a great start in the game, opening with a 10-2 run as Skrocki and Jason Krayl both hit threes. The Pirates were able to cut the margin to 12-8 by the end of the period.

The half ended with the Colts maintaining control as they stretched the lead to 25-18 with Krayl scoring seven of his 15 points in the quarter.

After a three from Krayl to open the second half, Seton Hall turned up its defense and went on 10-2 run to tie the game at 30-30 on a Curry put back with 3:59 left in the period.

After a Lynch three (off a feed from Krayl) 22 seconds later, the Pirates closed the quarter on a 9-0 run.

"I’ve told anybody who wanted to listen that one of the differences between them and us, I think, is that we play very good defense and they play very good defense and they have one more notch that they can go to and we can’t," Wicelinski said. "We’re playing full out all the time and that’s what happened in the second half. They were able to jump just that one more notch and it resulted in some bad passes, and I don’t think that was us I think that was their defense."

Blues fall a game short of national tournament

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f the Brookdale Community College men’s basketball team didn’t have an identity before this year, the Jersey Blues do now. They are one of the best teams in the Garden State Athletic Conference and a serious contender in Region 19.

This year, the Blues won the GSAC’s North Division regular season and playoff championships, and played for the Region 19 crown for the first time in school history. When Brookdale (21-11) lost to Gloucester (35-1), the No. 1 ranked team in the country, 74-66, in that final held at Salem Community College on Feb. 27, they were one game away from playing in the junior college national tournament.

"Our program has really elevated itself," said Paul Cisek, head coach. "Now, making the Final Four is what we expect.

"We accomplished a lot this year, but we expected a lot," he added. "Our goals were to win 20 games, which we did, and win the North Division championship."

The Blues opened up the GSAC playoffs at home in Middletown. Brookdale cranked its running game up early, racing out to a 26-9 lead and never looking back on the way to a 100-83 win over Passaic. Billy Gilligan (29) and Earl Agee (21) were the sharpest shooters, combining for 50 points.

That win put them in the Region 19 semifinals for the third straight year which was the North Division championship game against Union, the team the Blues shared the regular season title with. Brookdale again relied on Gilligan (20) and Agee (27) to prevail, 78-73. It was the school’s first North Division playoff title, and it put them in the GSAC final, which also is the Region 19 title game, for the first time in history. The team was one step away from the national tournament.

Their win was costly. Gilligan was whistled for his third technical foul of the season late in the game which meant an automatic one-game suspension. The high-scoring forward would not be eligible for the title game. Gilligan had reacted to a call that gave the ball to Union after it appeared that the ball had gone off a Union player.

Cisek thought the technical call could have gone either way, but did not think it was unwarranted.

"The technical was deserving, but I thought a warning would have been more deserving," he said. "I thought they should have taken the situation into account. It was a playoff game, and it was a close call that went against us. The whole team reacted to the call, but Billy was closest to the official and he got the T. It was unfortunate that he was in a situation where a call like that could have an impact."

Gilligan’s ineligibility did not cast a dark shadow over the Blues prior to the final. The Blues regrouped and went to Salem determined to bring home the Region title.

"They were ready to play," said Cisek. "They were disappointed, but they didn’t just roll over. They went and played hard.

"I can’t say that his absence cost us the game," he added. "We missed him certainly. We missed his scoring and rebounding. But there are too many variables in a basketball game."

One variable was the way the Blues approached the game. Earlier in the season, without Gilligan, the Blues had taken Gloucester to overtime at their place in a high-scoring game. In the rematch, Cisek wanted his team, which was averaging 86.5 ppg to play a more deliberate game.

"I didn’t want to run with them; they are more athletic than we are," Cisek explained. "They like to play an uptempo game and just come at you. I looked for us to do what we do best. We shoot the ball well so I wanted us to run our offense and look for the open shot. We play strong defense and we needed to come up with a great effort. We mixed our man-to-man with some 3-2 zone to mix things up.

"It came down to a game of spurts," he added. "They went on a late run in the first half to go up by 12 and then pushed it up to 18 in the second half. We turned it around and got to within three late in the game."

Gloucester would take a 38-26 lead at the break behind the play of Wykeen Kelly and William Chaney. With 7:43 remaining, Gloucester had a comfortable 58-40 lead. But the Blues would come roaring back. A 24-9 run would cut the lead to just three at 67-64 with 1:40 left in the game. Agee would hit for 12 and Rory Levine came off the bench to put in seven, including a pair of threes.

However, Gloucester was able to keep Brookdale at arm’s length by making six of eight free throws in the final 1:40 led by Kelly, who was 4-4.

"There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in the country," said Cisek. "They are a very solid team. I think it came down to their being a little more athletic than we were."

Agee would lead Brookdale with a game-high 26 and added 10 assists, while Kerry Betz backed him up with 23. Brookdale used its outside shooting to offset the inside play of Gloucester’s Jason Dunham (16 points and 13 rebounds). The Blues outshot Gloucester from three-point range 14-7 as Agee hit six and Betz five.

Gloucester had four players in double-figures led by Chaney’s 19.

Brookdale’s success is starting to have a positive impact on recruiting, noted Cisek. More and more of the better players in the Shore are beginning to take notice of the team.

"We’re starting to keep the kids from the area," he added.

Cisek will beat the bush recruiting as he has to replace the likes of Gilligan, Levine, Betz and Matt Raviaioli.

Agee, who blossomed into an exciting point guard, leads the freshman class that will be returning. Tom Tirrell, who made a good contribution down the stretch, also is back.

Now that the bar has been raised by the 1999-2000 Jersey Blues, the goal for future teams is to take that next step and get to the national tournament.

Lions’ season ends in CJ IV semifinal

Middletown North girls play Bears close before tough fourth quarter

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Jamie Fumundo of Middletown North High School looks to go back up with a shot after grabbing an offensive rebound as East Brunswick’s Erin Kelly plays defense in Friday’s Central Jersey Group IV tournament semifinal game in Middletown.

MIDDLETOWN — Coach Ed Jones was able to put his Middletown North High School girls basketball team’s season into perspective after Friday’s 70-46 loss to East Brunswick in the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group IV tournament.

"We came back with only one starter from last year; we only have three seniors on the team. We’re very, very young," Jones said of this year’s Shore Conference A North champions. "I’m very proud of the kids; we had one heck of a season."

A season that was closer to continuing than the score might indicate. The Lions stayed with the Bears through most of the first half, even taking a 23-22 lead midway through the second quarter when Jen Daly drove the lane for a basket before the Bears went on a 10-2 run to go into the locker room with a 35-25 halftime lead.

The Lions seemed to have regrouped at the break and cut the lead to 37-33 when Daly took a pass from Kelli Nadeau with about five minutes remaining in the period.

East Brunswick’s Jess Olszewski scored on a drive to the basket with three seconds left in the period to give the Bears a 48-40 lead.

The Lions were able to keep the margin at eight (52-44) through the first two minutes of the final quarter, but a tiring North squad was unable to withstand the relentless pressure, and East Brunswick started getting easy baskets off turnovers.

"That’s just another level of play," Jones said of East Brunswick. "That’s a program that’s been in the top 20 in the state year after year since Reggie (Carney, East Brunswick’s coach) has been there. We played with them for a little while; it’s just the experience they have playing at this level got to us more than anything else.

"We haven’t been to the semifinals in 10 years and they’re used to this time of year," Jones added. "You can see the difference in the experience level."

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Meaghan Connor of Middletown North High School goes around East Brunswick’s Melissa Dudra on her way to the basket in Friday’s Central Jersey Group IV tournament semifinal in Middletown.

The Lions’ experience level will take a large hit with the departure of Daly, the aforementioned lone starter from a year ago. She delivered a typically impressive performance in her final game, scoring 15 points and playing a big role in helping the Lions break the Bears’ press.

"Jen’s a very good ball player who brings a lot to the team," Jones noted. "We’re not going to be able to have one girl step up and give us what she did, but I have three or four girls together who can do that."

Daly was far from a one-woman show this season.

Against East Brunswick, fellow senior Jenn Smith was singled out by the coach for doing a good job on limiting Jess Olszewski’s opportunities. The East Brunswick senior is an all-state caliber player and the school’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,400 points.

While the loss of Smith and Daly, along with fellow senior Angela Lanose, is significant, the good news is that everybody else, including point guard Jamie Fumundo, returns.

"She played a very good game today, handling the ball against the press," Jones said. "She’s only a sophomore and hadn’t played point guard before this year. She had a real fine year and I think she’s going to be a very good ballplayer for the next two years."

Fumundo finished with seven points and five rebounds against the Bears.

Nadeau, another key underclassman, added six points and eight rebounds for the Lions, who finished the year 18-7.

White, Lonnay lead Rockets to best season ever

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Nick Torres of Raritan High School gets by Somerville’s Tom Malafronte for two of his 18 points on Friday night in a Central Jersey Group II tournament game. The Pioneers escaped Hazlet with a 55-53 victory.

Even with a loss against Somerville in the state tournament, the Raritan High School boys basketball team has a solid season to look back on.

"It was an excellent year," Coach Charles Buzzi said. "I know the kids are disappointed, but it was. This team had the most victories (18) in the history of the school. David White became just the fourth player in school history to score 1,000 points and George Lonnay broke the school assist record."

The Rockets did all that, and reached the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament as well, despite losing Matt Wisniewski to injury.

The abilities of White and Lonnay, who are both graduating, and sophomore standout Nick Torres had a lot to do with the Hazlet team’s success.

"He’s only 15 years old and he’s dedicated himself to basketball," Buzzi said. "He’s playing year-round and he’s only going to get bigger and better. He has to be one of the five best sophomores in the Shore Conference."

While White, Lonnay and Torres carried the load for the Rockets, Buzzi got important contributions from a number of other players.

The only thing disappointing to Buzzi about Charles Randall, a senior in his first year with the team, was that he did not come out sooner and will not be returning.

"He did a great job for us," the Coach said. "He averaged about seven points a game after he took over for Matt Wisniewski when he couldn’t play."

Randall played a big part in the Rockets’ dramatic comeback against Somerville in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey Group II semifinal last Wednesday.

The Rockets trailed 48-27 going into the fourth quarter and mounted a furious comeback as Torres scored 12 of his 18 points.

Randall’s ball-hawking ability led to a 53-53 tie with under a minute remaining. Pressuring Somerville’s Ray Bateman, Randall made a clean steal and was fouled while hitting the layup. His subsequent free throw knotted the game and he finished with nine points.

Bateman would later get to the line and sink a pair of free throws to give Somerville the victory as Raritan couldn’t take advantage of its final opportunities.

Randall was not the only player to emerge for the Rockets this season.

"John Kirby (a sophomore) played a couple of nice games when he got his chance to play, and Sean Collier (also a sophomore) really improved this year. He was great for us on the junior varsity and he saw some time with us on the varsity. I think he’s really going to surprise people next year."

The 6-8 Collier will give Torres a real ally in the post and Kirby has exhibited a solid touch from the perimeter that should keep teams from collapsing on the inside game.

With White’s graduation there is no doubt that Collier will have a bigger role.

Buzzi noted that White is part of the small contingent of multi-sport athletes who manage to excel in two arenas.

His ability on the football field has helped the Rockets gridiron program return to form as one of the best in the Shore, and reaching the 1,000-point plateau while playing with a team-first approach is a true testament to his abilities.

According to Buzzi, the senior never seemed to be looking for his own shot first and his hard work underneath left him just short of the school’s rebound record.

He is just the fourth Hazlet player to reach the 1,000-point mark.

While White was able to change with the seasons, there was no doubt where Lonnay’s interests lie. He is all about basketball and will not be easily replaced.

Buzzi said he never had to worry about any opponent’s press when Lonnay had the ball in his hands.

His passing was made more effective because teams had to respect his shooting ability both from the outside and on drives to the basket; he rarely made a mistake with the ball.

Opposing guards also were in for a workout when the Raritan senior was on the defensive end.

Replacing him will not be easy, but Buzzi said the senior’s brother could make the switch to the point and Frankie Emsley, a freshman who played the season with the junior varsity, also should be ready to run the Rockets’ offense next season.

North’s Hockin wins Region VI wrestling title

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John Walker of Middletown South High School has an early advantage over Ocean’s Tom Dirienzo at the Region VI wrestling tournament on Friday. Dirienzo managed to take the match 9-4 and went on to win the title at 119 pounds.

John Hockin is on his way to the Meadowlands, site of this year’s state wrestling championships.

What remains to be determined is how far the Middletown North High School wrestler will advance.

Hockin continued his winning ways on Saturday at Brick Memorial, capturing the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Region VI title to add to his District 22 crown.

Hockin (28-1) lived up to his No. 1 seeding by squeezing by Jackson’s District 21 champion and No. 2 seed Gregg Cohen, 3-2.

Hockin early earned a major decision over Manalapan’s Matt Hartigan, 14-0, in the quarterfinals and shut out Christian Brothers Academy’s Ken Kosza, 4-0, to set up his match with the 31-2 Cohen in the final. It was the battle of the two winningest wrestlers in the Shore at the 125-pounds, and it lived up to expectations with Hockin emerging victorious by a single point.

Hockin began his state championship quest last night at Red Bank Regional in the Super Region. As Region champion, he received a first-round bye. The senior enters the Super Region on a roll. He hasn’t lost a match since the finals of the Icebreaker Tournament back in December. That was 26 matches ago.

Zach Cunliffe was called the best freshman to ever wrestle at Howell High School by no less an authority than his head Coach John Gagliano, himself one of the Rebels’ all-time greats. From his first tournament win, the Neptune Classic back in December, to his District 21 championship, Cunliffe has proved his coach to be a superb prognosticator.

With his second-place finish at the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association Region VI Championships at Brick Memorial over the weekend, Cunliffe is going where no other Rebel freshman has before. He was in action at Red Bank Regional High School at the Super Region last night where he was one win away from the Meadowlands, the site of this year’s state wrestling championships and the goal of every high school wrestler.

Cunliffe’s 7-3 loss in the 103 final to top-seeded Marc Rosenfeld of Brick Memorial was just his second of the year and the first at 103 (he lost in a dual meet when he moved up in weight). With his two wins over the weekend, Cunliffe is now 29-2 in his freshman year and well on his way to what could be a memorable career.

Cunliffe was seeded No. 2 in his weight class and in his semifinal had to dispose of Manalapan’s Mike Cassiliano, 9-1, for the fifth time this year. The two had wrestled the previous week for the District 21 championship, won by the Rebel.

Cunliffe was not the only Freehold District wrestler to get through to Saturday’s final. Freehold Township’s Rob Morello didn’t let his lack of matches get in the way, advancing to the 130 final where he fell to Jack Deaver of Lacey, 9-5.

Morello, a transfer from Red Bank Catholic, missed the first 30 days of the wrestling season waiting for his eligibility. He had just 12 matches under his belt when the District championships began, and was a sort of forgotten wrestler seeded No. 3. But his win in the District final announced that he had never gone anywhere.

Despite his District win, Morello was only seeded sixth in his weight division. He went out and won by a major decision over No. 3 seed Andy Semprivivo of Pinelands, 10-1, in the quarterfinal. In the semifinals, he ran into No. 2 Charlie Wiggins of Christian Brothers Academy, who had beaten him during the regular season. The rematch went to Morello, 8-4.

One wrestler that Morello couldn’t get through was the top-seeded Deaver.

Morello said that his goal was to prove that he belonged and he has certainly achieved that, adding a second-place in the Region to his District 21 title. He is 13-5.

Third-place finishers at the Region VI tournament were winners as well, as they advanced to the Super Region, too.

Middletown South’s Brian Hennessy was the fifth seed at 130 but, his 2-1 win over No. 4, Pat Brady of Point Pleasant Boro, put him into the semifinals where he had a chance to move on. He would lose to Deaver in the semifinals by a major decision 14-3, but secured his trip to the Super Region by pinning Wiggins in the consolation. Hennessy is 22-4.

CBA’s Kosza is going to Red Bank via the third-place route as well. He slipped by Brick Memorial’s Dave Rogers, 6-5, to place third at 125. Kosza, who also had to wrestle in a preliminary match, beat Long Branch’s Dan Novay 15-7 to earn a major decision in the quarters before falling to Hockin in the semifinal. Kosza is 23-7.

Cassiliano rallied from his semifinal loss to Cunliffe to outscore Frank Pontoriero of Toms River East, 17-11, in the consolation. His teammate Alex Pal, the District 21 112 champion, also punched his ticket to Red Bank edging Brick’s Brian LoBue 13-11 in overtime for third place. Pal is 24-4 and Cassiliano is 21-7.

Lou Giordano extended his marvelous season by winning a rematch of the District 21 title tilt over Manalapan’s Derek Thompson. Giordano’s 4-2 win gave him the bronze medal and the trip to the Super Region. He was seeded No. 2 but lost his semifinal match to Point Pleasant Beach’s Jake Butler, the three seed, by a technical fall, 16-0. He came back to beat Thompson for the third time this year. Giordano improved to 25-4 with his consolation win.

Also going to Red Bank is Manalapan’s Jordan Nice, who did it the hard way. A District runner-up, he had to wrestle in a preliminary match on Feb. 29 just to get to the quarterfinals on Friday. Two more wins put him in third place and sent him to the Super Region.

In the semifinals, Nice ran into his District 21 nemesis, the undefeated Nick Vinciguerra. The Jaguar ended dreams Nice may have had of rolling to the Region title, pinning him in the semis. Nice then won by forfeit in the consolation match to extend his season. He’s 18-10.

Howell’s Dave Olson lost his third-place consolation match to a familiar foe, Phil Lewis of Jackson.

The week before, with the District 21 title on the line, Olson stunned Lewis with a reversal and near fall in the final 30 seconds to beat the returning champion, 7-5.

On Saturday, the stakes were for third place and the continuation of their seasons. Lewis gained his revenge with an 8-4 decision. Olson ended the season with a fine 27-4 record.

The Super Region will combine Regions V and VI. All Region champions will receive first-round byes while the second- and third-place finishers will square off in the preliminaries. That will be followed by the first round.

Everyone who gets to the first round will go to the Meadowlands where the state championships will be held on Friday and Saturday.