Marlboro defeats Jackson Memorial to reach SCT semifinals


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Nothing seems to be slowing down the Marlboro High School boys basketball team these days.

Even a slow start against Jackson Memorial High School of Jackson in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Feb. 20 at Middletown South High School in Middletown did not phase the Mustangs.

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No. 2 seed Marlboro washed away a 6-1 run by the Jaguars to open the game and outscored No. 7 seed Jackson Memorial 33-13 during the rest of the first half to take a 34-19 halftime lead.

From there, the Mustangs rolled to an 85-44 victory for their 14th straight win.

With the victory, Marlboro advanced to the tournament semifinals, where the Mustangs will meet Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft on Feb. 24 at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River.

No. 6 seed CBA defeated No. 3 seed Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, 46-41, in overtime in the quarterfinals to advance to the tournament semifinals.

No. 1 seed Red Bank Catholic High School will play No. 5 seed Manasquan High School in the second semifinal on Feb. 24.

“Our relentless effort on the boards and our ball pressure on defense was the key today,” Marlboro coach Michael Nausedas said after the Mustangs defeated the Jaguars. “They just could not stop us. We did a good job. It’s nice to get back to the semifinals and be closer to winning a championship.”

Seniors Zack Molod and Jonathan Spatola helped Marlboro overcome the slow start. Molod knocked home a three-point field goal when the Mustangs were trailing 6-1 and sent Marlboro off to the races.

Molod scored 10 points in the first quarter to help Marlboro take a 16-11 lead. He scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half, including three of his game-high four three-point field goals.

“When we get going with our energy, no one can stop us,” Molod said. “My teammates keep finding ways to get me the ball. It just gives me the confidence to keep going every single game.”

Spatola connected on three three-point field goals and finished with 16 points, while showing his versatility by dishing out 11 assists.


“Everyone on our team can score,” Spatola said. “I trust all my teammates and they trust me. If I find the open guy, I know he’s going to be able to score.”

One of Spatola’s assists came in the closing seconds of the third quarter. After Spatola grabbed a defensive rebound, he started a fast break.

Seeing that he only had :05 on the clock, Spatola looked up the court and saw A.J. Schwartz cutting to the basket. Spatola delivered a perfect bounce pass and Schwartz scored on a layup as Marlboro took a 57-37 lead into the fourth quarter.

“I knew I had only five seconds and needed to push it,” Spatola said. “I found A.J. and he was able to knock it in. We had guys off the bench give us good minutes.”

The Mustangs began the fourth quarter on a 16-0 run to put a stamp on their impressive victory in the tournament quarterfinals.

All five starters finished in double figures against Jackson Memorial. Senior Jack Seidler scored 18 points, Jay Ratner contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Vincent Spatola rounded out the starting five with 12 points.

Marlboro (21-2) connected on 11 three-point field goals in the victory over Jackson Memorial.

The Mustangs will face Shore Conference A North Division rival CBA in the semifinals. The teams split two games during the regular season. The Mustangs won the second meeting, 71-36, on Jan. 24.

After watching his team come up just short in two championship games during the past two seasons, Nausedas said his players are ready to face the Colts.

“This team has a little bit of a different chip on their shoulder and has a ‘can’t lose’ mentality. Even when they are down, they know they are not going to lose. They are not going to let anyone take anything away from them. It’s really special when you have skill and that mentality. It’s tough for someone to beat you,” Nausedas said.

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