Playoff deadline has local teams scrambling to qualify

first_imgCHRIS KELLY Shealyn Taggert, 13, of the Middletown Youth Athletic Association, tries to shoot past a Howell defender during the Mid Monmouth Basketball League’s finals at Brookdale on Sunday. With the Feb. 8 deadline for qualifying for the state tournament rapidly approaching, local high school basketball teams are scrambling to assure themselves of a .500 record at the cutoff. On the boys’ side, there are only three local teams that have assured themselves of postseason berths — second-ranked Raritan, third-ranked CBA and Mater Dei. The Rockets are 10-3 and are the surprise of the Shore Conference this season. Raritan is getting solid play from everyone in its rotation, and is poised to make a run at both a Shore Conference Tournament and state sectional title. Mater Dei was 11-2 heading into Monday’s game against Henry Hudson, and has played well all year. CBA is picking up steam, as was evident during an impressive win over Freehold Township last week. The Colts are beginning to round into postseason form, and will be a tough out come playoff time. The Colts hosted a Middletown North team on Monday that has a playoff berth within its grasps, and needed to win just two of its next five games to lock up a postseason spot. The Lions face a good Manalapan team tomorrow, and will host Red Bank Regional on Saturday. Next week, they travel to Howell and Ocean. The Holmdel Hornets are another team that has the playoffs in sight, entering the week at 7-6. They faced St. John Vianney on Monday and will take on Red Bank Regional tomorrow. From there, they have only Raritan (Monday) left before the cutoff, meaning they had to win just one of their next three entering this week’s action. Holmdel is better than its record indicates, and has played well in the Shore’s toughest division, Class B North, which features four of the Shore’s top 10 teams. Middletown South entered this week’s play needing to win its next five games to earn a spot. The Eagles faced Raritan on Monday, and have games with No. 4 Monmouth, Howell, RBR and Ocean before the deadline. Matawan (4-8 following Saturday’s win over SJV), Keyport (3-9) and Vianney appear to be out of the playoff picture, though the Lancers could sneak in with an unlikely series of wins over Holmdel, Raritan (tomorrow), Colts Neck (Saturday), Monmouth (Monday) and Cathedral Prep (Feb. 8). On the girls’ side, St. John Vianney (9-1), Middletown North (9-4) and Holmdel (9-4) appear to be locks, while four local teams are still fighting for berths. Raritan was thought to be one of the Shore’s top teams heading into the season, but has struggled mightily to a 7-6 mark heading into the week. However, the Rockets are still capable of making some noise before the season comes to a close. On Monday, Raritan faced a Middletown South girls’ team that entered the game at 5-6 and was in need of four wins in its next six games to get to .500 at the cutoff. The Eagles have games with Monmouth (tomorrow), Howell (Saturday), Manalapan (Monday), Red Bank Regional (next Thursday) and Ocean (Feb. 8). The Keyport Red Raiders are also on the bubble at 6-7, as are the Mater Dei Seraphs at 5-7. Both teams need at least three wins over the next five games to qualify for the state tournament. — Doug McKenzielast_img read more