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Mustangs going into postseason playing their best ball

By Tim Morris

In his fourth year at the helm of the Marlboro High School boys basketball program, head coach Mike Nausedas’ team is playing the game as he envisioned it.

“We’re pressing and running,” he said. “Everyone is in on the defensive end. They’ve bought into playing defense.”

Along with a commitment on the defensive end, Nausedas has built depth that Marlboro hadn’t had before.

“I have a lot of guys,” he said. “I could play 11. I trust everyone.

“We can go to anybody on any given night.”

It’s a far cry from when Marlboro’s depth didn’t go far beyond its starting five. Now Marlboro is a deep, athletic team that doesn’t resemble teams of the past.

The Mustangs are a winning program headed to both the Shore Conference and Central Jersey Group IV tournaments for a third straight year.

In addition, with just one week remaining in the Shore Conference A North Division schedule, Marlboro is in an unfamiliar position. If things were to break right this week, Marlboro could end it as the public school co-champions. It’s a tall order — the Mustangs have to win three games (Middletown High School North Feb. 8, at Freehold High School Feb. 11 and at home to Freehold Township High School Feb. 12). But just being in that position is an indication of how far Marlboro has come.

“We’re very competitive,” Nausedas said. “The kids have taken us to a new level. They’ve given themselves an opportunity to share a division championship.”

Regardless of what transpires this week, Marlboro (11-6) is headed to the postseason playing its best basketball of the season.

After seeing his team play well in summer leagues, Nausedas was optimistic about the 2015-16 campaign.

“Going into the season coming off a great summer, I had high expectations,” he said. “We had some tough losses early in the WOBM [tournament] to Toms River North and Manchester.

“We’ve found ourselves. We had some problems being consistent, but we’ve been pretty consistent lately.”

Point guard P.J. Ringel is a big reason for the consistency.

“He’s our go-to guy,” Nausedas said. “He makes us go. He’s the floor leader and he’s just a competitor.”

The junior is averaging just under 15 points a game and leads the Shore in steals (59).

“He has great anticipation,” Nausedas said.

Until a season-ending injury, 6-foot-8 Matt Dean was giving the team a double-double. In a tribute to Marlboro’s depth, 6-foot-4 freshman Dylan Kaufman, Dean’s backup,  has stepped up and is giving the team an inside presence that was missing in Dean’s absence.

Nausedas first saw Kaufman’s potential during the summer and had him penciled in as a backup who would see some playing time but not this much as a starter.

“He’s a great surprise,” Nausedas said about the center.”He has a knack around the basket. We’re happy with his play.”

Ryan LaRocca, Dan Weiss and Michael Jastrzebski round out Marlboro’s starting five. Jastrzebski is Marlboro’s leading rebounder.

Besides how well the starting five are playing, the next best thing about them is that Jastrzebski is the lone senior in the group. That bodes well for Marlboro’s future.

Chris Carlone, Noah Niczales, Brian Levine, Elia Malara and Nicholas Valenti have all played their roles in the team’s success.

As Nausesdas noted, this is the biggest time of the season, as teams look ahead to the postseason tournaments. With his team finally finding its consistency, the Mustangs would like prolong their season into March.

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