Nobody would argue that when it comes to basketball Monmouth County has it all over Ocean County.

The Shore Conference Tournament has been dominated by the county to the north with Lakewood in 2013 and Point Beach the year later the only Ocean County teams to win it in the last three decades.  Top 10 polls are dominated by Monmouth County schools year in and year out. Right now the Shore Sports Network rankings have nine teams from Monmouth in the rankings.

That’s what makes what Toms River North has done in recent years stand out and while often overlooked the Mariners have built an impressive resume under head coach Rory Caswell.  Thursday night they coasted to a 20-point victory over Toms River East which extended a remarkable streak.

On January 30, 2015 the Mariners lost to Southern Regional which is noteworthy because it’s the last time they lost to a division opponent.  Last night’s win over the Raiders was the 68th straight in Class A South play and like most of them it was in convincing fashion.

There is no reason to believe that streak is in jeopardy with 7 division games left to play although Southern is just a game back in the standings. The Mariners beat the Rams by 34 points in their first meeting ten days ago and they play in Manahawkin on February 6.

Jakari Spence
Jakari Spence (Townsquare Media NJ)

North is 13-2 overall this season and ranked 19th in the latest state poll with their only losses coming to 7th ranked Rutgers Prep and #8 Manasquan in the finals of the WOBM Christmas Classic.  They also appear on their way to earning the top seed in South Jersey Group 4 when the state tournament begins. That comes after the Shore Conference Tournament in which the Mariners hope to make a deep run.

The team features an impressive inside-outside duo of Najae Hallenbeck and Jakari Spence.  Hallenbeck is a 6’6 imposing presence in the middle and while most know think of him more as a football player he has put up impressive numbers this season and had 30 in last night’s victory.

Spence is a lightning quick guard who can slash to the basket or easily launch a 3-pointerhe scored 21 last night which is right around his season average.  Colin Baker, Mike Vansprang, Jake Kazanowsky and Jaiden Fraser round out the main contributors to a quality team.

Caswell is in his 9th season as head coach and in that time his teams have won 193 games and lost just 50.  They are by far the best Ocean County has to offer and only time will tell if they can shake up the boys from the north.


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