By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
February 22, 2021
It took eight games for the Green Wave varsity boys basketball team to earn their first win of the 2021 season. It occurred Monday night in Tinton Falls against Monmouth Regional.
The Wave went into the game 0-7 and outscored 405-286. “We are hoping to get that first win tonight,” said Long Branch rookie head coach Darnell Tyler before the game. “We have been working very hard in turning around the attitudes and ability of this team. It is something that does not occur overnight.”
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Last season was the worst in Long Branch High School history, as they finished 1-21 overall and 0-14 in the Class A North division of the Shore Conference. The administration felt that a change in leadership was needed and Tyler, who is a security officer at the High School, was given the job to turn the program around. He is a basketball guy and was a key player on the 1997 and 1998 LBHS back-to-back state championship teams. Tyler also played ball at Manhattan College and in the semiprofessional Jersey Shore Basketball League.
The first quarter was blazing for the Wave as they outscored and out hustled the Falcons 20-5. It was the most impressive eight minutes of basketball Long Branch has played all year. They were accurate in passing, dominating the boards, aggressive on defense and making their shots.
Christian Rodriguez, 5’7” junior guard for Long Branch, was the Green Wave player leading the charge in those first eight minutes. He scored nine of his game-high 12 in the first quarter.
Senior guard Josiah Evans was the high scorer for Long Branch with 19 points in the victory over Monmouth. He started slow but was steady and consistent from the second quarter on. He also pulled down eight rebounds and one assist.
Monmouth Regional got their act together in the second quarter. The Falcons outscored Long Branch 18-9, but went into the halftime break down 29-23. AJ Po had six of his game-high 12 in that second quarter. The only Falcon to score in each of the four quarters was Kiran Desai, who was high man with 15 points.
The third quarter was tight as both teams went into the final eight minutes of play all even at 36 points. Long Branch outscored Monmouth Regional 15-11 in the fourth to take the 53-47 victory. Jeff Sfraga, who is in his fourth season as the Falcons head coach, could not figure out his squad. “We beat Rumson, one of the best teams in the Shore Conference, and then come here and allow a winless team to jump on us in that first quarter. If you give Long Branch any advantage they will use it, and they did against us,” Sfraga said .
Just a few days later the two teams played again, this time on the Green Wave home court. Long Branch again came away with a win, beating Monmouth Regional 58-52. Evans was high man with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Rodriguez added 17 and Gooding finished with 11 points. That win doubled what the Wave had all last season as they are now 2-7 on the season while the Falcons drop to 3-5.
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