Boys Basketball – Group 3 Semifinal Preview: Manasquan Looks to Break Through vs. Woodrow Wilson
At Brick Memorial High School
Manasquan (25-5) vs. Woodrow Wilson (20-6), 7 p.m. - Watch Live
If there is anyone who doubts scheduling difficult games leads to postseason success, look no further than the two teams playing at Brick Memorial in one half of the NJSIAA Group III semifinals.
Over the last two years, Manasquan loaded up its schedule with the expectation of having an all-state guard in Ben Roy and even when Roy was lost for the season with a torn ACL and the team was turned over to five new starters, the Warriors did not waver.
There have been some lumps – 20-plus-point losses to Rutgers Prep and Roselle Catholic and an early loss to St. John Vianney in a loaded WOBM Christmas Classic field – but Manasquan has come out smelling like roses: a 25-5 record heading into Thursday with a trip a fourth straight trip to the Shore Conference final and a third straight NJSIAA sectional championship.
Woodrow Wilson did not lose an all-state guard to an injury like Manasquan did, but the Tigers did undergo a makeover due to some transfers both in and out of the program following what was only a nine-game 2021 season. Top 2021 scorers Jamire Acery and Semaj Bethea both transferred, but senior Zoe Holman transferred in from Camden Academy Charter and is leading the team with 16.2 points per game.
Beyond Holman, Woodrow Wilson has a balanced, senior-driven lineup with guards Alijah Smith, James Proctor and Jacier Proctor. Sophomore Will Love is the Tigers’ tallest starter at 6-foot-3 and second-leading scorer at 10 points per game, but there is some size on the bench as well in the form of 6-6 senior Jairaye Velez.
Those seniors have battled a quality schedule as well, one that includes two games apiece vs. Camden and Camden Catholic, Group IV contender Egg Harbor and South Jersey Group IV winner Lenape. Wilson’s second meeting vs. Camden was competitive, 80-68, and the Tigers knocked off Lenape, 49-42, in that showdown.
Thursday marks a unique challenge for both teams, with Wilson having to deal with some size in 6-7 senior Matt Solomon, as well as four athletic, well-rounded scorers in sophomores Ryan Frauenheim and Alex Konov and freshmen Darius Adams and Griffin Linstra. Manasquan also has three players in Frauenheim, Adams and Linstra who can handle the ball and all five players find open teammates, so Wilson will be trying to disrupt a very potent attack.
Manasquan, meanwhile, will have to deal with a disruptive Wilson team that held top-seeded Moorestown to 27 points in the sectional semifinals. The Tigers cause turnovers on defense and on offense, they can get to the rim at will.
The x-factor, as is often the case in playoff basketball, is shot-making and with the way the Warriors have shot the ball, they figure to be in good shape Thursday. The unknown, however, is how Manasquan will shoot in a new gym after playing four straight games in its cozy confines. On the flip side, the Warriors exhibited some hot-shooting at both Middletown South and RWJBarnabas Health Arena in the Shore Conference Tournament, so they have shown their act travels – just as Wilson did with wins at Moorestown and Burlington Township to wrap up the sectional championship.
It has been a while for each program as far as making it to the Group III final. Manasquan has only been once: in 2004, when the Warriors lost to fellow Monmouth County squad Raritan. Woodrow Wilson, meanwhile, has won three state titles in five trips, but has not been to the group final since 1991 and hasn’t won it all since 1985.
The senior presence on Woodrow Wilson suggests the Tigers are the pick, but Manasquan has grown up quickly and their young players are already playing with the hunger and urgency of a group of seniors. Throw in Solomon’s size and athleticism as an actual senior and Wilson might have more matchup issues with Manasquan than the Warriors have dealing with Woodrow Wilson’s quickness and athleticism.
Manasquan has lost three straight Group semifinals dating back to 2009 and were robbed of a chance at winning one two years ago, when its anticipated game vs. Camden was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This might be Manasquan's best chance to break through since 2004 and whenever it finally happens, the Warriors are set up to keep doing it with the young talent that is in place.
The Pick: Manasquan, 49-44