Colts Neck’s Daniels leads All-District boys basketball team


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If one play typified what Lloyd Daniels meant to the Colts Neck High School boys basketball team, it was the game-winning shot in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game.

Daniels wasn’t the one to make the shot, though. Instead, it was his pass to Brendan Clarke that set up Clarke’s game-winning buzzer-beater.

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All season long, Cougars head coach Lou Piccola praised Daniels’ unselfish play. On a team that lacked scoring, Daniels could easily have been a one-man show. But while carrying the offensive load each night, the senior power forward made sure that he got everyone involved in the Cougars offense building up trust. That trust was rewarded in the sectional finals against Freehold Township High School, where he had enough confidence in his teammate to let him take the last shot.

With Colts Neck trailing, 44-43, with 9.3 seconds left in the game, everyone in the packed Colts Neck gym knew who would get the ball for the final play. Freehold Township knew it, too, and was not going to let the best player on the floor beat it. The Patriots collapsed around Daniels after he received the ball on the inbound pass and drove toward the basket. With the play breaking down, Daniels could have tried to play hero and force up a low-percentage challenged shot. Instead, he looked for a teammate and made the pass to Clarke, who delivered the championship-winning basket.

Throughout the Cougars’ great 2015-16 season, Daniels made plays every night by making a big shot, directing the offense as the point forward, giving it his all on the defensive end or just plain leading. It was his unselfishness that allowed the Cougars to gel and reach their potential. He was never better than in the playoffs, where he averaged more than 20 points a game in the team’s five postseason contests.

The Shore basketball coaches named Daniels the Shore Conference B North Division Player of the Year and Second Team All-Shore.

Daniels and a strong team defensive effort every night (only three teams scored more than 50 points in a game against Colts Neck) made this past winter the greatest season in the program’s highly successful history. Colts Neck won the Holiday Tournament at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, the B North Division outright and the elusive Central Jersey, Group IV title.

The Cougars finished the season 23-5, and Piccola was named the B North Coach of the Year.

Had Clarke’s shot not gone through the hoop, it would have been Freehold Township celebrating its first state sectional championship. Head coach Brian Golub had another stellar season bringing along an inexperienced team that may have overachieved by winning 20 games, sharing the A North Division title and advancing to the Central Jersey, Group IV finals.

For an inexperienced Freehold Township (20-10) squad to be successful this year, two things had to happen for Golub: the team’s lone returning veterans, Nick Facendo and John Carroll, had to have big seasons as players and leaders, and the newcomers and inexperienced returnees had to improve their games. Facendo and Carroll surpassed expectations and the rest of the team went beyond them, making this a typical Freehold Township squad with a deep bench that played aggressively for 32 minutes.

Marlboro High School has been making steady progress under coach Mike Nausedas. Making the postseason tournaments has become a habit and now the Mustangs are genuine contenders in A North. The Mustangs finished just one game behind the co-champions, Freehold Township and Middletown High School North. The Mustangs won a game in both the Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey, Group IV playoffs and were 16-10 on the season.

Howell High School (11-16) reached the state playoffs in what was supposed to be a complete rebuilding year. At the halfway point of the season, the Rebels were one of the contenders in the A North. With the majority of its cast returning, look for Howell to make further progress in 2016-17.

With a roster that includes six sophomores, Manalapan High School (11-12) made the playoffs when the Braves figured to be a year away from the postseason.

Colts Neck’s Daniels heads the News Transcript’s 2016 All-Freehold Regional High School District Boys Basketball Team. Joining him on the First Team are Freehold Township’s Facendo and Carroll, Colts Neck’s Kyle Gordon and Marlboro’s P.J. Ringel.

Second Team honors go to Colts Neck’s Tom O’Reilly, Freehold Township’s Steve Staklinski, Howell’s Dan Cacciatore, Manalapan’s Matan Zucker and Marlboro’s Dan Weiss.

Daniels averaged 18 points with a season-high 30 against Manchester Township High School while directing the Cougars offense, and he was the team’s top 3-point shooter. He also led the Cougars in assists. There wasn’t anything he didn’t do for Colts Neck, as he gave Piccola and the Cougars one of the program’s best all-round seasons.

Facendo was the leading scorer (15 points per game) and playmaker for the Patriots, and he set the tone for a blue collar team that wore its work ethic on its sleeve.

Carroll was a double-double machine, pulling down more than 20 rebounds in a game on more than one occasion. He was the solid No. 2 scorer to Facendo.

Facendo and Carroll were First Team All-A North picks by the coaches.

Gordon gave the Cougars another scoring option during the season, and his real strength was on the defensive end. He spearheaded the Cougars’ season-long gritty defensive effort, playing the oppositions’ best player.

Ringel, the only non-senior on the First Team, was Marlboro’s go-getter. He averaged 15 points and led the team in assists. A fine two-way player, he averaged more than four steals. He made the A North First Team selected by the coaches.

Staklinski really came on as the season progressed and gave Freehold Township added rebounding and scoring inside.

O’Reilly was the Cougars’ second leading scorer throughout the season. The senior could be counted on to give the team a second scorer in double figures, as he averaged 10 points. He was also solid on the defensive end of the floor.

Sophomore Zucker is the future for Manalapan. He displayed great promise, averaging just under 14 points and 5.1 rebounds. He is the son of district and Manalapan all-time leading scorer Ed Zucker.

Weiss gave Marlboro a second scoring option, averaging better than 9 points.

Cacciatore, a junior, led Howell in rebounds, steals and assists, and he was second in scoring.

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