It’s a whole new ball game for the defending Group 4 state tournament runner-up.
The Freehold Township High School boys’ basketball team has one lone starter returning from last season when the Patriots won the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional title and earned a berth in the Group 4 title game. Freehold Township’s bid to win the Group 4 state championship was thwarted when East Side High School of Newark posted a 69-44 victory in the finale.
Thee are a lot of new faces cracking the starting lineup and the rotation this winter at Freehold Township.
As of Jan. 12, the Patriots are out to a 5-4 start to the season and are focused on becoming more consistent as they gain more experience on the court.
“We’re a young team,” said Freehold Township coach Brian Golub. “We’re showing that by how we have played this season. We have to learn and get better.”
Junior Zach Orrico is the only starter back from the Group 4 finalist, but he’s a huge piece as a three-starter and the team’s point guard.
“He’s our veteran and he’s our leader,” Golub said of Orrico. “He helps us get under control on the court. He sets up the defense. He does all the little things that a leader does.”
Orrico leads a Freehold Township squad that is made of mostly juniors who are making the jump from the JV to the varsity level.
Joe Lardaro and Jayce Schapiro have both played well as first-year starters to begin the season for the Patriots.
Schapiro is leading the team in scoring to start out the winter, while Lardaro has been in a force in the paint for the Patriots, recording close to a double-double in each game.
Golub has been very pleased with how both players have performed this season, but said the two need work on being more consistent, which goes for the whole squad in general.
“Lack of consistency is common for a young team,” Golub said. “We need role players to step up and learn. The speed of the game has changed for most of our players going from junior varsity to varsity. They need to figure out the speed of the game.”
Senior Jason Golub, sophomore Bobby O’Brien and juniors Bryan Potter and Matt Cardone have all played a small role in Freehold Township starting out the season 5-4.
After splitting their first two games of the season, the Patriots got a nice three-game roll, outscoring their opponents, 197-131, to race to a 4-1 start to the season.
Freehold Township has won each of their five games by double digits.
It’s been a tough four-game stretch since for Freehold Township, going 1-3 and losing back-to-back games to Manalapan High School and Holmdel High School.
Winning or losing, however, is not the biggest thing to Golub as he just wants to see his squad continue to improve and get more consistent, so they can be the right place as a unit come postseason play.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about becoming a better team,” Golub said. “It’s working on team chemistry, figuring out the defense and competing on a regular basis.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports