Falcons gearing up for crucial stretch in C South Division play


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TINTON FALLS — After 10 games in the 2022-23 season, the Monmouth Regional High School boys basketball team (6-4) sits atop the Shore Conference C South Division standings with a 3-0 record in division play.

The Falcons will have a golden opportunity to extend their lead in the division with three of their next four games against C South opponents.

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On Jan. 10, the Falcons will be at home in Tinton Falls for a divisional battle against Shore Regional High School of West Long Branch.

On Jan. 12 the Falcons will travel to Toms River to play C South foe Donovan Catholic High School.

After the Falcons play Matawan Regional High School in a non-division contest on Jan. 13, they will host C South opponent Jackson Liberty High School of Jackson on Jan. 17. On Dec. 20, Monmouth Regional defeated Jackson Liberty, 55-46.

Sixth-year coach Jeff Sfraga said his players understand the mission at hand this week, especially against Shore Regional (7-0).

“I have a group of seniors who really want to win and know what is in front of them to win a division championship,” Sfraga said. “We are trying to keep ourselves on pace to win that division championship.”

Monmouth Regional has gotten off to a good start despite losing senior standout Tahaj Wiggins for five games with an elbow injury.

Wiggins returned to the court in a key divisional matchup against Ocean Township High School on Jan. 5. He came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down 11 rebounds in the Falcons’ 58-44 victory over the Spartans.

“He is a difference maker,” Sfraga said of Wiggins. “He is the one athlete who changes the way we play. He gave the team a bolt of energy against Ocean.”

The Falcons have seen sophomore James Curley and seniors Jake Bauer and T.J. Thomasson step up their production in the early going.

Curley is averaging just under 10 points per game and has knocked down a team-high 14 three-point field goals. Bauer leads the team in steals and assists at point guard and is scoring more than 10 points per game.

The Falcons are 3-0 when Thomasson scores more than 10 points in a game. The senior led team with 18 points against Ocean Township.

Freshman Jaylin Reeves, junior Dan Kikta, and seniors Shane McCauley, Kyle Desai and Caelin Szymanski have all contributed strong performances to help the Falcons start 6-4.

After defeating Ocean Township, Monmouth Regional went on the road to play Steinert High School on Jan. 7 in Hamilton Township.

Things looked bright early for the Falcons, who began the game on a 9-0 run and led 16-13 at halftime.

Monmouth Regional ended the third quarter on a 9-3 run to take a 27-20 lead into the fourth quarter and saw its lead grow to 33-24 with 5:00 to play after Szymanski and Curley hit three-pointers.

The Falcons looked to be on their way to their seventh win, but Steinert rallied with an 11-0 run to score a 35-33 victory.

Following the loss, Sfraga said he told his players the way they rebound from the setback will be a telling sign as to what type of team they will be this year

“Are we going to be a team that gets on a run here and has a chance to win a division championship or are we going to be a team that just fights to be .500 to make the playoffs (state sectional tournament)? We are not good enough to just show up. We have to bring our ‘A’ game every game if we want to win,” the coach said.

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