By Tim Morris
Every year, most of the Shore Conference A North Division boys basketball teams believe they can win the division title. The public schools are that balanced.
However, there is one team that always seems to emerge from the pack over the last decade: Freehold Township High School.
The Patriots play the most consistent ball every night. They avoid bad losses and more than hold their own against the other contenders. It’s led head coach Brian Golub’s team to multiple division crowns, including this year.
Freehold Township’s 67-54 victory over Manalapan High School Feb. 10 secured another division title for the Patriots, leaving them 10-2 in the division and 15-5 overall.
While this club has shown the same heart and desire as previous champions and depth off the bench, there are some things that stand out about this particular team to Golub, who racked up his 300th career win during the season.
“I guess what makes this team different is how far some of these kids have come over the course of a season,” he said. “We had two varsity-tested kids back: Nick Facendo and John Carroll. They have both been nothing short of awesome all year long.”
Carroll, although only 6 feet 3 inches tall, has been a rebounding machine. He’s grabbed 20 or more caroms four times this season.
“In my tenure, nobody has put up the rebound totals he has,” Golub said, adding “his motor is ridiculous.”
Carroll is a big part of the offense, averaging more than 12 points a game. He’s a double-double contributor every night.
Facendo, a point guard, is the glue who holds it all together on both ends of the floor.
“Nick Facendo has done everything asked of him plus some,” Golub said. “Most nights, [he is] guarding the other team’s best player, handling the ball under constant pressure and getting everybody involved in the game.”
Along with all that, the senior leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game.
For Freehold Township to contend this year, Facendo and Carroll had to be the players they have been, but to defend their championship required more.
“So for us to have a good season, [Facendo and Carroll’s play] had to happen,” Golub said. “But what really changed was the ability of Steve Staklinski, Ryan Zyskowski, Bobby Weise, Ryan Cardone, Tyle Von Nessen and Ja’Zeem Foster to adjust to their new roles and the speed of the varsity game.”
Staklinksi and Zyskowski have made the biggest advances. As the wing players up front, they have helped out in rebounding and scoring.
Von Nessen and Cardone are providing a physical presence in the paint and providing a lot of depth up front.
Weise, the team’s top 3-point shooter, has proven that he’s an all-around player and has added a second playmaker to the backcourt.
Foster is becoming a solid point guard, giving Golub flexibility with his rotation.
Stefan Williams and Brandon Hasner provide energy off the bench, further lengthening the team’s depth.
With the regular season now behind them, the Patriots will focus on the postseason beginning this week with the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament in March.
“I do hope we do something special down the road so I have other great memories as well,” Golub said.
For the state sectional playoffs, in Central Jersey Group IV, B North Division champion Colts Neck High School (15-3) is the No. 2 seed and will be at home Mar 1 against No. 15-seed West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in its first-round game.
All Central Jersey Group IV first round games are March 1.
Freehold Township is the No. 4 seed and gets a very familiar opponent, No. 13-seed Manalapan (8-11), in its first-round game. The Patriots won both of their regular-season games. Coaches are always leery of playing an opponent three times.
Marlboro High School (12-7) is the No. 10 seed and will travel to No. 7-seed Hightstown High School.
Hunterdon Central Regional High School (18-3), last year’s champion, is the No. 1 seed. South Brunswick High School (15-3) is the third seed.
Playing in the South Jersey Group IV section, Howell High School (8-14) is the 15th seed and will play at No. 2-seed Cherokee High School (17-4) March 1 in the first round.
Washington Township High School (17-3) is the No. 1 seed.
The Central Jersey Group IV and South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals are March 3, the semifinals are March 5 and the championship game take place March 7. All games are on the home floor of the highest-seeded team.