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Falcons seeking consistency as 2022-23 basketball campaign begins

Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball player Jake Bauer passes the ball to a teammate during the team's season opener against Raritan on Dec. 15 in Hazlet. Raritan defeated Monmouth Regional 46-39.

TINTON FALLS — The 2021-22 season got off to a promising start for the Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball team which won five of its first eight games.

However, a stretch of inconsistent play midway through the season led to the Falcons finishing the campaign with a record of 11-13.

Sixth-year coach Jeff Sfraga said consistency will be key for his players in 2022-23 as they look to compete for the Shore Conference C South Division title.

“We have a chance to win a division championship if things come together,” said Sfraga. “It’s all about consistency. Last year there were a lot of peaks and valleys. I keep telling the guys we need to have a straight ascent to the top and that is what we are working on.”

Two key starters from 2021-22 are back, starting with senior forward Tahaj Wiggins. As a junior, Wiggins averaged 12 points per game. He led the Falcons with 181 rebounds and 94 blocked shots.

Sophomore shooting guard James Curley returns after seeing time in the starting lineup last season as a freshman. Curley drained 21 three-point field goals in 2021-22 and gives the Falcons a threat from the outside.

“We have a good one-two punch with Curley and Wiggins. Tahaj has the potential to be the player of the year in our division,” Sfraga said.

Junior Dan Kikta and seniors Jake Bauer and T.J. Thomassen are expected to complete the starting five. Both players came off the bench in 2021-22.

Bauer will handle the point guard duties, while Thomassen will provide the Falcons length at small forward and Kikta will be in the paint with Wiggins.

Freshman Jaylin Reeves and seniors Shane McCauley and Kyle Desai are expected to contribute valuable minutes off the bench.

The Falcons began the 2022-23 season with a road contest against Raritan High School in Hazlet on Dec. 15. The Falcons dug themselves into a hole by committing 12 turnovers in the first half and trailed 19-8 at halftime.

Curley tried to help the Falcons mount a comeback in the second half by scoring 15 of his team-high 16 points, but it was not enough as Raritan won 46-39.

After the loss, Sfraga said he was proud of the way his players fought back in the second half. He said they showed some “good things” against a very strong Raritan squad.

Monmouth Regional returned home and bounced back from the loss at Raritan by defeating Freehold High School of Freehold Borough, 60-44, on Dec. 17.

Bauer led the way with 17 points, while Wiggins posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Falcons’ victory over the Colonials. Curley scored 13 points against Freehold, giving him 29 points through two games.

Monmouth Regional will face Keyport High School on Dec. 19. The Falcons will start C South play on Dec. 20 against Jackson Liberty High School of Jackson and end the week at home on Dec. 22 against Lakewood High School.

“We play five games in seven days to start the season, so we have a lot of work to do. It’s a long season. We just have to keep working hard each day,” Sfraga said.

Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball player Tahaj Wiggins knocks down a free-throw attempt during a game against Raritan on Dec. 15 in Hazlet.
Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball player Shane McCauley dribbles into the paint during a game against Raritan on Dec. 15 in Hazlet.
Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball player Kyle Desai drains a three-pointer during a game against Raritan on Dec. 15 in Hazlet.
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